Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Thomas Edison is known for his inventions – among them the incandescent light bulb. He is said to have tried more than 1000 combinations of gases, electrical currents, filament wire, and whatever else went into his efforts. Of his efforts at various inventions he is quoted as saying:
- I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
- Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
These two quotes illustrate part of what Paul is conveying in this message to the Philippian church. As God’s people we are constantly straining forward, ever trying to attain a level of godliness, sanctification, and perfection – even though we will never achieve it this side of eternity. Such failure, however, doesn’t stop us from trying. Rather we continue to strain toward the goal of God’s call toward the higher things of Christ.
The process of growing in Christian virtues, becoming mature in our faith is not jazzy, or necessarily exciting. It is more often dressed in overalls and looks like work. To serve your neighbors by taking in their newspaper when they are on vacation, to slow down and let a lonely coworker catch up with you on the way to lunch, to do your job well day in and day out: all these are overalls-kinds of efforts. They are the stuff which expresses love to our neighbor and thus serves Christ.
Hopefully somewhere along the line you will have an opportunity to give credit where it is due: all this is from God. These acts of simple love flow from the hearts of those who care less about their own credit than the needs of their neighbors. We all have at least somewhat of a past to live down. Better we seek to strain forward in the everyday grind of serving our neighbor.
Combine that with faithful worship and prayer, and we will surely best hold on to what we have obtained through Christ. That’s reason for praising him on Sunday and putting on our overalls on Monday and going to work. Who knows what opportunities we may come across.