The Upper Room Devotion for Wednesday, May 10, 2023, was written by Phillip Clark of Rhode Island.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Philippians 3:12-21 NRSV
A sign in front of a church caught my eye one day. It said, “Don’t stumble on something behind you.” Stumble on something behind me? We usually stumble on things in front of us. But the sign reminded me that we can get derailed by focusing too much on the past, which prevents us from living our lives fully as God intends.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote that our faith journey is like running a race. Finishing requires that we not look back with regret for what we did that we are ashamed of or what we didn’t do that we should have done. Had Paul been fixated on his past – a past in which he persecuted Christians – it is unlikely that he could have spread the good news of Christ to so many new churches. Paul had to press forward with his new life, a life made all the more meaningful because of his commitment to the Lord. We too can avoid stumbling on our past if we keep our eyes on “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
It’s easy to look back and long for who we use to be or the life we use to have. However, as Phillip’s reflection reminds us, looking back keeps us from focusing on how God is moving in our present and preparing us for a hope-filled future. As we continue through our day, let us keep our eyes and hearts open to God presence in our midst.
Dear God, help us remember that our real purpose and meaning comes from you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
- Phillip Clark