Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Ghost, helped lay the foundation for the New Testament church as well as the individual believer through his letters. Often pastors, preachers, teachers, etc. will go directly to Paul's writings because God allows Paul to deal with a wide spectrum of issues facing the New Testament believer.
Philippians chapter 3 is one of those chapters in which Paul breaks down the Christian life in such a practical and personal manner that helps even us who are a couple thousand years removed from the inspiration of this passage of Scripture. The popular verses in this chapter read: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Verses 13-14) I like many have heard quite a few sermons and lessons on this passage. Some of which sadly miss the goal of the whole chapter. We often like to picture the "mark" as some earthly possession or status we could obtain, but let's look deeper into this chapter.
Paul starts the chapter off warning of "evil workers" and "concision". Paul, again through inspiration of the Holy Ghost, is not warning of such people and situations for the Christian to become shut off and rude, but to stress what the Christian is to be consumed with. Paul and many of the other human writers God used warn many times of so many things that can take our focus away from God, His Spirit, and His Word. Peter experienced this firsthand. There he is, walking on water. Walking on water! Sometimes I read that passage and forget how amazing this miracle is. Christ is allowing Peter to do a miracle that only He would do. All because of Peter's faith. That is a whole other amazing thing in itself. We see, however, Peter sinking. Why? Did Peter completely lose his faith? No, because Christ tells him he had it. Did Peter sin while on the water? According to Scripture there really wasn't time to. Why did Peter sink? The answer is in Christ's statement to Peter. "Oh ye of little faith. Wherefore didst thou doubt?" In other words, you had it Peter! Why did you stop? Focus is everything. Peter sank because he removed his focus off of the Master, and placed it on the problem. Paul is not warning us early in this chapter about evil workers and concision to teach us how to avoid them completely, because we can't. He's warning us because we need to stay focused on what is most important - the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul talks about his time before knowing Christ. He says that he was pretty confident in his work. He had followed every Jewish custom, adhered to the Law, and persecuted the church thinking that was what Jehovah wanted. Then comes verse 7 : "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." Read that again. That is a powerful statement! For someone as proud as Saul was to admit now as Paul that all he did before was loss to what he knows is truly important, is pretty big. That day on the road to Damascus changed more than Paul's eternity, it also changed his perspective. He made the 180 spin from old man to new man. The sad fact of the matter is, most of us modern day believers still get caught up with that old man. The old man isn't just sin, it's life pre-salvation - pre-Christ! We like to automatically think of the old man as just simply a sinful part of me that I said no to a long time ago, but it is literally us without Christ. Paul says this in verses 8-12: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Simply put, I can do absolutely nothing right without Christ!
Before we start into a new year with the same outlook, before we immediately get down on ourselves because we have already failed in some area, before we try to measure up to what we think godliness is, we need to follow what the Scriptures say here - press toward the mark! Not the mark of a denomination, movement, political party, or any other extra biblical checklist we may use, but the mark of the high calling of God through Christ Jesus. We give Him our faith in salvation, so why don't we give Him our faith in life? God has called us to reach the world, to magnify Him, and to grow in our relationship with Him through the faith in our Saviour and the power of His Holy Spirit. We as modern day believers, especially American believers, have not seen such persecution as the apostles and many others did in their lifetime, which means we have no excuse to throw in the towel now.
Church, let's not lose focus because the wind is heavy. Let's not lose focus because the waves are high. Let's not lose focus because we may be standing alone. For, it is in those moments God does His best work!