Retaining by Advancing

For Paul there was no standing still. If he wasn’t moving forward, then he knew he was going backward. If he put it in neutral he knew that was just reverse with an N on it. Coasting was to be in danger of crashing. Status quo’ing would result in soon quitting. Good enough was gonna get worse. Autopilot was just another term for atrophy. At least that’s how Paul seemed to think. And, it seems, how he thought we should think as well.

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.

(Philippians 3:13b-16 ESV)

Holding true to what we’ve attained. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Living up to what we already know (CSB). Having gotten on the right track (MSG), staying in the right lane. Having made some progress (NLT), not letting it slip away. What we’ve attained, we need to retain.

At first it might sound like a hold your position sort of posture. But in the context, isn’t Paul saying that retaining is accomplished by advancing? That we hold true by straining forward? That we keep whatever ground we’ve taken by pressing on toward the goal? That’s what Paul seems to be thinkin’. And, he says, we should be thinkin’ it too.

Let those of us who are mature think this way.

Retaining by advancing is just smart thinking for those with spiritual understanding.

Makes sense that if you know you’re going to wake up every morning in enemy territory, then whatever spoils of victory you’ve accumulated to date are in danger of being taken back unless you engage afresh in the conflict. Every morning we awake we know the desires of the flesh in us are going to wage war against the Spirit of God in us (Gal. 5:16-17). Every day we venture out into the world we know there will be a battle for the mind. And to be sure, to walk another day down the pilgrim’s pathway is to be aware that there’s an adversary prowling around like a roaring lion “seeking someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8).

And so we need to forget about what lies behind and strain forward to what lies a head. To press on to the goal for the prize of the upward call. We need to remember that, in order to hold on to what we’ve attained, we need to keep advancing.

Oh, that we’d be protected from a good enough, or far enough, or know enough, or have done enough attitude when it comes to seeking first the kingdom. That we wouldn’t rest on where we’ve been. Because to do so, is to end up where we never thought we’d go.

Pressing on isn’t complex. Keep engaging the living word. Keep conversing with the living God. Keep abiding in the living Savior. Keep in community with other living stones (1Pet. 2:5) joined together and growing into a holy temple (Eph. 2:21). Not complex, but requires intentional effort. Straining forward effort. Pressing on effort. God enabled effort.

No such thing as a neutral gear in the Christian life. It’s either put’ er in drive or we’ll end up going in reverse.

We hold on to what we have, by His grace, only as we seek to advance, for His glory.


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1 Response to Retaining by Advancing

  1. Brent Allan says:

    Amen Pete. ‘‘Tis true. Good reminder for me this morning. No sittin’ on my haunches, or planting a stake and calling it good enough. Thanks.

    Sent from my phone, please excuse my brevity


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