“I do not account of myself to have laid hold; but one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, I pursue toward the goal” (Philippians 3:12-14a).
A recent reading of this set of verses led to some inner searching during some personal morning time with the Lord. There seem to be three major ideas brought forth by the apostle Paul, who wrote these verses in his letter to the church in Philippi. First, Paul says he hasn’t “laid hold” yet, but he does one thing. Second, he tells us what the “one thing” is that he does (namely, forgetting/stretching). Lastly, he says why he does this “one thing.”
One brother asked in particular about the section mentioning “forgetting” and “stretching forward.” The construction of the verse here puts “forgetting the things behind” at apposition to “stretching forward to what is before.” Forgetting may seem simple, but with some experience, we realize that “forgetting” is not always easy to do. Most of us desire to “forget” our failures and defeats, the many times when we did not magnify the Lord in our thoughts or actions. Do we want to recall our shortcomings, when they seemed to be a source of shame or pain?
But to forget the things behind entails more than just the failings or shortcomings; it includes even our victories and perhaps spiritual successes. Do we want to recall how glorious it was to preach the gospel and lead some to Christ? Do we want to enjoy how the Lord used us, in our speaking or serving? What the Lord has done in us and through us is enjoyable and memorable, but we cannot let these “things behind” keep us from contacting and enjoying the Lord afresh, to “stretch forward.”
Perhaps we would be tempted to feel as if we “know how to preach the gospel” were we to remain in old experiences from the past. Perhaps we’d miss out on a new, current experience by relating only to old testimonies and hanging on to past times. Maybe we’d even groan over reading through those very verses again: “I do not account of myself…”
The speaking of the Lord through His Word rings loudly, each time we open in spirit. Touching this very word afresh may cause you to see something in your own being: Am I one that is willing to forget the things behind? Am I stretching forward? Am I pursuing toward the goal? What a revelation, through this Word, as the Lord reveals (through Paul’s word) that our pursuing toward the goal and our gaining of the prize of the high calling is related to “forgetting” and “stretching.” If we don’t forget – it is hard to stretch forward.
May we be open to the Lord’s speaking through the Word, in particular, such a phrase from Philippians, which teaches us an important lesson regarding the Christian life: if we are to pursue, we need to “forget.” [guest post: bro. David B]