Full Speed Ahead
Preparing for the Second Sunday in Lent, Three Days Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 27
Old Testament: Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18
Epistle: Philippians 3:2-12
God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own (Philippians 3:12).
In a race, whether it is a hundred yard dash or a cross country trek, the one thing the runner never does is look back. Winning the race depends upon looking forward, of setting one's sight on the path ahead. The finish line cannot be viewed from behind, but only as one moves forward and focuses on what is in front. It is impossible for an athlete to run at her top speed if she continues to look over her shoulder while running.
St. Paul writes to the Philippians about his past prior to his conversion. He certainly had just cause to brag about his past and rest on his laurels. He was accomplished, educated, and worked hard. He was also well respected by people who admired his zealous pursuit of keeping the law of Moses. But then he met the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road and compared to his new-found faith, his past was now, as far as Paul was concerned, garbage—fit for the manure pile. “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (4:7-8).
What was now important for the apostle was the journey ahead. Knowing Christ and being in service to him was now the goal—resurrection was in the future—as well as suffering. John Wesley notes the sanctification-like character of this passage.
Yea, I still account both all these and all things else to be mere loss, compared to the inward, experimental knowledge of Christ, as my Lord, as my prophet, priest, and king, as teaching me wisdom, atoning for my sins, and reigning in my heart. To refer this to justification only, is miserably to pervert the whole scope of the words. They manifestly relate to sanctification also; yea, to that chiefly. For whom I have actually suffered the loss of all things - Which the world loves, esteems, or admires; of which I am so far from repenting, that I still account them but dung - The discourse rises. Loss is sustained with patience, but dung is cast away with abhorrence. The Greek word signifies any, the vilest refuse of things, the dross of metals, the dregs of liquors, the excrements of animals, the most worthless scraps of meat, the basest offals, fit only for dogs. That I may gain Christ - He that loses all things, not excepting himself, gains Christ, and is gained by Christ. And still there is more; which even St. Paul speaks of his having not yet gained.
For Christians, there is one priority in life—to know Christ and to make Christ known. The race is on and we must run the race of discipleship with patience and diligence; for we cross the finish line only upon our deaths. We must throw off anything from the past that slows us down or takes us off the path. We must move full speed ahead toward the perfection God wants of us.
Like Paul we must be singularly focused on knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow we may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Anything else is just rubbish.