Chapter 3:12-17 (ESV) - 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. 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, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Question to consider: Why does Paul want us to keep our eyes on those who are standing firm in their faith in the midst of suffering?
Rather than cling to his impressive pedigree to earn his place in heaven, Paul clung to Christ Himself and decided that the other stuff really wasn’t worth very much. It was not his righteousness but that of Christ which had eternal value. Even though the Holy Spirit was conforming him to the image of Christ, he still fell short and would continue to fall short until the day he went to be with Christ. But he pressed on. He continued to strive against temptation. He continued to confess his sin, receive Christ’s absolution, and then strive to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. It is the walk of a Christian - the pilgrim’s progress.
Though it may be tiresome to wrestle against the things of this world, we take comfort in the fact that Christ Jesus has made us His own. Like Paul, we press on as sojourners along Christ’s holy highway against all kinds of difficulties, trials and tribulations knowing that God will use them for His good purposes, and those in our path will see His glory. At the end of the journey is the prize, a resurrected and imperishable body that will no longer experience sin and death.
Paul wasn’t asking the Philippians to imitate him in what he had achieved but in his striving to achieve it. Peter had a similar exhortation when he gave advice to his readers about their encounters with the devil, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:9) Knowing that others are suffering and standing firm in their faith in the midst of it helps us to persevere.
Dear heavenly father, please help strengthen our weak hands, and make firm our feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Give us brothers and sisters in Christ who can help us remain firm in the faith until you return. Amen.