To be perfectly honest with you, 2016 has been a difficult year. I have felt physical, spiritual, and emotional strain beyond what I could have anticipated experiencing these past twelve months. While in moments of perceived isolation in these trials, I know that there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who have felt similar and monumentally greater pains.

As I stand on the brink of 2017, I remind myself – and all those who experienced a difficult year in 2016 – of the words of Paul to the church at Philippi.

“But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way,” – Philippians 3:13b-15a

Paul speaks of ‘forgetting what lies behind.’

I. What Lies Behind?

Ia. Personal Achievements

Paul says, “If anyone else thinks he has a reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more.” (v. 4)

He was:

  • Circumcised on the eighth day (v. 5)
  • Of the people of Israel, (v. 5)
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin, (v. 5)
  • A Hebrew of Hebrews (v. 5)
  • A Pharisee (v. 5)
  • Zealous Persecutor of the Church (v. 6)
  • Blameless in regards to the law. (v. 6)

The gospel had broken Paul in such a way that he considered his lengthy resume of fleshly qualifications to be worth nothing. In perspective of the riches experienced in knowing Christ, his greatest achievements could never compare.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.(v. 7-8)

1b. Physical and Material Loss

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. (v. 8-13a)

Setting aside the difficulties and personal issues which populated his life thus far, Paul says that he will strain or move forward to what lies ahead. The things he lost were so insignificant to him that he considered them “rubbish.” The Greek word we translate as “rubbish” can also be defined as – waste that is thrown to dogs, filthy scraps of garbage (table-scraps, dung, muck, sweepings); refuse, what is good-for-nothing except to be discarded.

Paul had a laser-focus on the promises that were his through the Gospel and rested in the knowledge of what lied ahead – for him and for all believers.

What Lies Ahead:

  • A heavenly citizenship (v. 20)
  • Union with the Christ in eternity (v. 20)
  • The glorification of our bodies (v. 21)
  • Eternal exaltation of the Son (v. 21)

Because of his current standing before God and the anticipation of a glorious future lying ahead, Paul was willing to endure his past and present sufferings, to exercise humility in regards to his achievements, and to continue the course laid out before him.

As we stand on the precipice of 2017, I believe we can do the same.

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