I am my own worst critic. It is true. For most of us, we too can say this about ourselves. I have a tendency to get down on myself when I do not do what I know I should have done. I sit down and look over the events of the day before and then find myself beating my head against the wall for my lack of ambition, motivation, and just all out laziness. I have a goal that is before me, a prize so to speak. I have set out to do it, yet each day passes and I have found myself focusing on everything else but it. Oh, wretched woman that I am! Once again, I was up this morning, complaining and whining to the Lord for my lack of what I did not accomplish yesterday. As I was throwing my little fit, a scripture passage was brought to my attention by the Lord, He does not desire me to look back; He only wants me to look forward.
“ Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
Paul writes to the Philippians and encourages them to keep pressing on. He too has not reached the finish line, racing towards the goal that God has laid before him, and he knows this. But Paul does not look back, he continues to look forward. This hit home to my heart this morning, since I was focused on yesterday and not today. Today is a new day, given to us by God to walk and to work for His good pleasure. Yesterday is gone, you cannot go back and change it, and we all know that tomorrow never comes. Today is the day we have been given. Today we have another chance, another hope to work for the prize that God has given us. What I did not do yesterday, what I did not get done yesterday is gone; I cannot go back and get it back.
Paul says that he has not “apprehended”. The word “apprehended” means to lay hold of as to possess. Paul says he knows he still has a long way to go, but he is determined not to give up, he is determined to keep running. Too many times we give up and get down on ourselves when we fail to do what we know we are to be doing. A day goes by and the thoughts of what we did not do plague our thoughts the next morning. But that day is gone, it is no longer. None of us have attained, none of us have apprehended. Instead of looking back on what we did not do, let us look forward to what He is asking us to do today. We each only get one day at a time. We are not given time from God on a weekly basis, we are only given today. We have to focus on living today for Christ, living to the best of our abilities for Him, today and only today.
Another word that stuck out at me was the word “forgetting”. Paul says that he forgets those things which are behind him. He no longer concentrates on yesterday, he no longer looks back over his life at all his failures, missteps, sins, or disobedience because God has already forgotten them, so he should too. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that “His mercy is new each morning”, His faithfulness, His love, His mercy, His grace, it is all fresh and new for us each and every day. It does not say weekly, but daily. We need to learn to stop living in the past, or in the future and learn to live for today, for today is the day we have been given to live for Christ. There is no guarantee for tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes.
Paul says also that he presses on. Paul was one to use the Olympics in his writings as an example to his readers. The word “press on” is a word that a runner in the Olympics would understand. It means to go until it hurts, to work oneself through the pain. No matter what was happening that day, no matter how much it hurt, Paul said he just kept on running. He was intent upon earnestly pursuing the goal that was laid before him. He had a mission from God and he was willing to do whatever it took to get to the finish line. What happened to him yesterday was gone, there was no point even thinking about it at all, it was gone and God had given him mercy anew to keep on keeping on.
Paul was so intent upon pursuing the goal and the mission that God had given him that it was the principle thing he set his mind upon. He engrossed himself with it, all his thoughts, desires, time, efforts, affections and labor was set to press on and press through to the finish line. “Paul shows us that we cannot allow our minds to be diverted from it (our goal, our mission from God) by anything”, not even our past failures. (Barnes Notes on the Bible) Who we were yesterday is not who God desires us to be today.
Jesus said that no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. (Luke 9:62) When we focus on what we did not do yesterday, we cannot focus on what God has for us today. Are we willing to go the distance, to strain ourselves to reach the goal, the mission that God has laid before us? If you are, then we cannot look back. We cannot look over our shoulder, we cannot allow yesterday to come into today. Today we are to live for Christ; today we are given new mercy, new hope, and new grace to run the race before us. What is past is past, we cannot go back. So let us press forward today to live for Christ, to live and to work for the finish line, which is Christ Jesus our Lord. He holds the prize; He is the prize, let us run for Him, today. Amen and Amen.