Forgetting What Lies Behind
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he likens the Christian life to a life-long foot race where the prize at the end is “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” “Beloved,” he writes, “I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 13-14)
In order to succeed you need to get out and run every day. I had a friend who ran regularly and I asked him what the hardest part of running was. He said, “Lacing up the shoes.” In discipleship, as in exercise and life itself, quiet determination to press ahead even when we don’t feel like it is a key to growth and faithfulness.
Paul had in mind the ancient Isthian Games, much like the Olympics, where the winner would win a crown made of pine branches. Unlike the crown of righteousness we will receive in eternity, the pine crown will wither and die. For us the voyage and the goal is to become more and more like Jesus Christ as we let him live his life through us.
This is not a call to stoic determination, of keeping a stiff upper lip, or of bearing pain bravely. It is a call to rest in the work Jesus has already done and is doing in you. God is not so much concerned about what you do (which is important!) as God is with who you are and what you are becoming. We are to “forget what lies behind” and “press on toward the goal.” Life is a journey with a destination in view.
A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets by Paderewski, Poland’s famous concert pianist and prime minister. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway on the stage. Soon the mother found a friend to talk to and the boy slipped away.
The kluge lights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the little boy up on the bench innocently plunking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. “Don’t quit. Keep playing,” he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right hand reached around to the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.” And as we do, God augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. This year, may we be wholehearted and single minded as we cooperate with God’s work within us, through us and around us.
Happy New Year!