‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead’ ~ Philippians 3:13
Paul stated this after a discourse of putting ‘no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3). Paul came to the realization that perfection is not a thing to be obtained, but a thing we set our eyes to. Jesus says, ‘the Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). Paul realizing that he has not yet taken hold of perfection while in the flesh continues to say; ‘I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). Only in forgetting what is behind, can one press on towards perfection. King Solomon admonishes, ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you’ (Proverbs 4:25). Because by forgetting what is behind and looking on ahead, we see perfection. We see the Perfect One.
‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2). By looking straight ahead, we get to see the Perfect One who perfects our faith even while we are in our weak flesh. Jesus, our Perfection, also looked straight ahead and ‘for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame’ (v2). Forgetting all His glory and miracles, and the current suffering, Jesus looked on ahead and saw the joy set before Him- the greater glory that would not only be His, but to all those who believe in Him. And so Paul in beseeching us to forget what lies behind urges that ‘All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have attained’ (Philippians 3:15-16).
King Solomon puts it bluntly and admonishes, ‘Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions’ (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Yet many of us look back on the good ole days pondering on its glories, simplicity, and joys. When Lot came to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, he saw that the land ‘was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar’ (Genesis 13:10). But ‘the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord’ (v13). When God’s angels were about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, they urged Lot and his family to, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away! (19:v17). Amidst the moving forward, ‘Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt’ (v26). Perhaps, she looked back to behold the City’s greenery and glories once more.
To date, Jesus tells us, ‘Remember Lot’s wife!’ (Luke 17:32). He was speaking in the context of His second coming saying that just as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, so ‘It will just be like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed’ (v30). The day the two Cities were destroyed came suddenly and with such urgency. There was no time to think or do anything, not even looking back. In the day of the coming of the Lord, the only requirement would be, ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city’ (Revelation 22:14). A garment can only be made clean if it is washed daily. No one thinks of how their garment was clean yesterday, but only considers what it looks like now. In the same way, ‘Always be clothed in white, and always anoint you head with oil’ (Ecclesiastes 9:8). In other words, only those who ‘have clothed yourselves with Christ’ (Galatians 3:27) and have oil (Holy Spirit) in their lamps (Spirit) like the ‘five wise virgins’ (Matthew 25), and like our Lord and Saviour Jesus whom ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (Acts 10:37).
Our salvation is not a one-time affair. It is a continuous state of being and of relying on God’s daily mercies. It is not a yesterday I was, or tomorrow I will be affair. ‘As long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness’ (Hebrews 3:13) because ‘God again set a certain day, calling it Today’ (4:v7). The only day of entering into God’s rest, and His salvation is today so that ‘Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts’ (Psalm 95:8). If we daily look on ahead to Christ, forgetting our mistakes or past glories, then we will eventually achieve perfection when our bodies die, and spirits rise. Paul reminds us, ‘We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end of the confidence we had at first’ (Hebrews 3:14). The great men and women of faith were commended because ‘they were longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them’ (11:v16).
Those who forget what is behind and strain ahead in their faith like the ones who went before will realize ‘that the world was not worthy of them’ (v18). A Christian who serves a God that says, ‘Behold, I make all things new!’ (Revelation 21:5) should they themselves ensure that they daily enrich their spiritual life. For ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Their yesterday state should be forgotten and their focus adjusted to the newness of each day. And so, each day, one should, ‘Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses’ (1 Timothy 6:12). A Christian should not be ‘of those who draw back unto perdition, but of those who believe and are saved’ (Hebrews 10:39). When Jesus comes back, He will not seek to find out what your state was yesterday, but how it is like when He Himself finds it. So He asks, ‘Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). Will He find faith in you?
‘The end of a matter is better than its beginning’ ~ Ecclesiastes 6:8