In many ways life feels like everything has changed, but in others it feels like nothing has changed. We are fast approaching the two-year mark since the world began to feel the effects of what we now call the Covid-19 pandemic. Regardless of our political, religious or even personal views of the pandemic, we’ve all been affected in some way, some of us more than others. Yet, despite all of this, we are blessed to live in a country with natural borders, and – for the most part – we as a nation have not been as impacted as other nations have.
I don’t know about many of you, but for me it has been a roller coaster of various ups and downs, twists and turns through this time of the pandemic. In many ways, this roller coaster is not over, simply because that is the nature of life. So, the question I have had rattling in my mind is …”how are we? What is our current state of mind, body and spirit?” and “How do we stay strapped into this car without getting flung out?” Well, let’s turn to Philippians to hear what the Apostle Paul says.
Philippi was an interesting city in that it was a Roman colony. That meant men who had served faithfully in the Roman military would be sent to a colony (such as Philippi) to retire or sort of have a ‘normal life’. They were proud Roman citizens and found their identity in that. That is why, at the beginning of Philippians 3, Paul lists his credentials – or all of the things that hold value in the Jewish world. He basically says that he obeyed the law and obeyed all the rituals and ceremonies.
Then in Chapter 3, verse 7, he says, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (NIV). All of those credentials he had, all the ceremonies and rituals he performed, meant nothing once Paul came to know Jesus Christ. They had no value to him anymore. To hear Paul say this would have rocked some in the church at Philippi, because they found identity in their Roman citizenship – they found identity in their past.
Now you might be thinking, “…what does this have to do with me?” or “…what does this have to do with the pandemic and the current state of things in this crazy world?” Well, let’s think about this for a minute. Paul has just said that for his whole life he was working towards one goal – being a good Jewish man, observing the Law. But then he met Christ, and all that changed – to the point where he says in Verse 8 that he considers his entire past rubbish in light of Christ and what He has to offer.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8 (NIV)
Basically, Paul is saying his whole life up to the point of meeting and knowing Jesus Christ is of little value in light of a life in Christ. That is huge! Everything Paul knew changed in a moment. His world was flipped upside down. So, what does he do?
In Philippians 3, verse 13, Paul says he has not “apprehended but one thing.” Meaning he has not grasped, or laid hold of, or even accomplished anything except for one thing. That one thing is forgetting and reaching.
“…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV).
Forgetting? – you might be thinking, “well yeah of course Paul has that down he is a man, and men forget!”. Yes, he is a man – but that is not the type of forgetting that I am referring too. Biblical forgetfulness, if we can put it that way, means something entirely different. It does not mean to misplace something like your car keys, and not remember where they are. It has to do with how we are impacted or affected by things. Warren Wiersbe says it best, “To ‘forget’ in the Bible means to ‘no longer to be influenced by or affected by.’”
So, when Paul says he is forgetting, it is not so much about misplacing something – rather it is about not being impacted by those past things. He does not allow those things to have influence or control over his life. And remember, he just gave his credentials, so he is talking about his whole life up to the point of knowing Jesus. He is saying that he is not affected or influenced by his past life, because he is forgetting it and reaching forward.
Reaching forward – again, this could be seen as an easy one, and to some extent it is, you press on, you reach for that which Christ has for you. Paul qualifies it by saying he reaches for the things that are ahead, that is the goal of the upward call of Christ. By that, I think he simply means living your life for Christ – whatever that may look like in your context.
Now, a note about forgetting and reaching forward. This is a balancing act, literally. He is saying, “…now that we are in Christ, we need to let the past be the past. Do not let it affect you, and press on towards the things that Christ has for you.” However, you cannot reach forward until you have let go of the past. That’s easy to say right, but not so easy to do. There are plenty of examples where people get things out of balance.
Some people forget so much that they forget why they are doing what they are doing. Others press forward too hard – so hard that they end up running other people over. Again, Warren Wiersbe put it this way: “Some Christians are so busy ‘dying to self’ that they never come back to life again to run the race! And others are so sure they can make it on their own that they never stop to read the Word, pray, or ask for the power of the Lord.” So, the question for us today is, “…have we forgotten too much or have we pressed on too hard? And, “…is that balance of forgetting and reaching forward correct in our life?
You might be thinking, “…what does this have to do with the pandemic?” or “…what does this have to do with our current state of affairs?” As I said at the beginning, things have changed, and yet still feel the same. We are not limited by how many people can meet in public places, we do not have to wear face masks at the store. It is not until we turn on the world news that we see how affected the rest of the world is.
The unsettling change of this present time has caused many of us to be in a state of flux and anxiousness. I know for myself, I am at a place that I have been calling, ‘anxiously at peace.’ Meaning, I am at peace with what is happening, but I would like to know what God has for us in this time of unsettling. To find that balance we need to ask ourselves, “…have we forgotten enough? Or are we being influenced by the past too much?” These things can move us or impact us, and we don’t even realise it. Let us not take our eyes off of the goal – which is the upward call of Christ.
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By Jake Wilmoth
About the author
Jake Wilmoth was a teacher a Calvary Chapel Bible Institute for 11 years and he has always had a heart for the church. He and his wife Tecla love helping people in the Waikato community – either through food of building projects.
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