Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? No, me neither. These days just getting enough done to stay afloat seems achievement enough, doesn’t it?
And then up bounces Paul, with his boundless zeal and endless enthusiasm for growth and development!
It is exhausting, but it is also somehow inspiring. ‘Self care’ is all very well, and God does command us to find rhythms of rest in our lives, but there comes a point when we start to think, ‘There must be more than this.’ And there is.
Paul reminds us that alongside the seen reality, there is a deeper, higher, richer one. We will never find true contentment until we lift our eyes and recalibrate our lives around the eternal purposes of God instead of our own, very limited, temporal ones.
Paul’s goal was not simply to survive his imprisonment; he wanted to know Christ and live out Christ’s righteousness. He wanted to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and win the prize God had prepared for him, even if that meant sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
A couple of weeks ago on Twitter I saw someone comment that in the 21st century we tend to write about how Christ is present with us in our sufferings, but early Christians were more concerned, like Paul, with how they could enter into Christ’s suffering. We want to be protected from pain and difficulty; they knew that true joy is found through becoming more and more like Christ, however hard the road.
What might that look like on your frontline this year? How can you pursue righteousness when you’re trying to pay attention to that Zoom call and keep your children on task, while trying to stop the cat sitting on your lunch? How can you experience the power of Christ’s resurrection when you’re facing complaints or abuse from customers, or sitting alone at home wondering if you’ll ever find a job?
Paul’s advice is, ‘copy me; learn from others who have gone before’ (see 3:17) – try reading or listening to classic Christian biographies or the writings of early believers. Find ways to remind yourself of the fact that ‘our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform [us]’ (3:20-21). It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
Jennie Pollock is a writer and editor who lives, works, and worships in central London. She blogs at jenniepollock.com and tweets as @missjenniep. Her first book, If Only: Finding joyful contentment in the face of lack and longing, is out now.