Philippians 3:13 is a wonderful text for the beginning of a new year: “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.”
Paul acknowledged he had not arrived spiritually. But, on the other hand, reality did not deter him from running the race.
Paul declared, “But one thing I do.” He was a man of single focus. Paul had one aim and one ambition. Paul’s focus reminds me of an Olympic runner. He or she has only one goal in mind as the gun goes off: to cross the finish line and receive the prize.
Paul stated, “Forgetting what lies behind.” “Forgetting’ is a participle in the present tense. As Paul ran his race, he refused to look behind. He did not suffer from “rear-view mirror syndrome.” Warren Wiersbe once said, “You do not move ahead by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror.”
Too many times Christians are hindered in running their race because they lose focus of the one thing and they look behind at things that occurred in the past. Adrian Rogers once said, “Satan binds us to the past, but JESUS frees you for the future. Satan would like to keep you in the past.”
“Forgetting” for the athlete means running the race and forgetting the opponents he is leading in the race. When a runner begins to think about the runners behind him/her, the pounding of their feet, the ruuner might get distracted and slow his/her pace.
2022 is now history. Paul reminds us to put the year behind us. What we accomplished. Injustices we encountered. onflicts we experienced. Sins we committed. Griefs we observed. “Forgetting what lies behind.”
Then Paul exhorts us, “…and straining forward to what lies ahead.” In the original language, Koine Greek, “straining forward” is the merging of 3 words into 1: Epi (“to”) + ek (“out”) + teinomenos (“stretch further”) = “to stretch out further.” Or, to over-extend oneself.
Here is the picture. You are running your race. It is neck-and-neck. You are nearing the finish line – the goal. You expend every ounce of energy as you stretch out to the maimum every nerve and muscle in your body.
What is the apostle Paul saying? We must forget everything behind us – anything that would impede our progress. We must give everything we have. Every fiber of our being. Every bit of strength we can draw from a breath of air.
What a powerful commitment for 2023! We give JESUS our all! We “strain forward” in seeking to serve JESUS and fulfill GOD’s plan for our lives.