Loss. Devastation. Ruined. Hopeless. These are words we don’t use in our everyday conversations. We save these words to describe the moments, situations, and circumstances when there are no other words – when pain and heartache make us feel like we will break in a million pieces.
As I watched the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy and the damage left in her wake, I heard reporter after reporter use these words. Several said they had moments during the storm when they felt the same sense of hopelessness they experienced on 9/11. Yet when the storm ended and morning dawned, they knew everything would be okay. Even though the damage was great, the spirit of everyone wasn't crushed; there was a sense of resiliency among those affected by the storm.
In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul talks about how we can overcome moments like these. He says we should forget the past and press on to what lies ahead. He then writes verse fourteen, which is one of the most quoted verses in the book of Philippians. It says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul knew the only way to survive and overcome storms, problems, and past sins is to take our focus off them and put it on Christ. When he says to forget what lies behind, he is not saying to literally forget everything that has happened to you. The original Greek language indicates that it’s like taking off a heavy backpack so that you can run freely and without restraint. The phrase “press on” means “to pursue or chase.” So when Paul says to press on toward the prize of Christ, he’s saying to chase after Christ with all that we have. When we focus all of our attention on Christ – on His salvation, His love, His grace, His mercy – we are able to persevere and press on through the pain, suffering, and brokenness of this world. It is only when we do this, that we are filled with hope and joy.
Unfortunately, we live in a broken world. There will always be problems, sickness, suffering, and storms. Because of this, it’s easy to live each day discouraged and void of all hope and joy; it requires effort to focus on God rather than on our problems. But when we do, not only will we be filled with hope, but we will also be a testimony to those around us who desperately need to know the hope of Christ.
We have a prize waiting for us. It’s time to stop wasting our energy focusing on our problems. It’s time to press on.
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)
© November 1, 2012