Day 9

Reaching Forward to God’s Goal

from the Philippians reading plan


Philippians 3:12-16, Romans 8:28-30, 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, Colossians 3:1-4

BY Guest Writer

There’s a quote attributed to Maya Angelou that somehow gives comfort to my inner critic: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I’m not sure if these are actual words written by Dr. Angelou or if it’s one of those quotes that has been passed around so much on Instagram nobody knows the true source. But wherever it comes from, I like it. Something in it resonates with me, an echo of much-needed grace.

I’d like to think this is a message someone in the church at Phillippi needed to hear when Paul’s letter came to town. In Philippians, Paul isn’t writing to correct an issue or fight a dangerous teaching. Instead, he’s sent an extended thank-you letter, a note of encouragement, and a rally to keep going.

Metaphors about running races and winning prizes aren’t all that unusual in Paul’s writing, but if we look a bit more closely, we’ll find the words of a gentle, loving coach here. His letter to the Philippians includes a heartfelt thank you for their support, and the reminder that there is still so much work to do for the kingdom (Philippians 1:21–24). He points to Jesus’s obedience unto literal death as the ultimate example of humility (Philippians 2:8), a stark contradiction to his own list of credentials for “confidence in the flesh,” which is enough to make any zealous striver or recovering perfectionist wither. It’s also a false confidence Paul now recognizes as utterly empty (Philippians 3:4–6). His priorities have changed.

Yes, there is work. There is effort. There is a goal to pursue, a race to run, a job to do (Philippians 3:12–13). But look for the grace between the words: there is no striving in his words. Paul calls this way of thinking a mark of maturity—the realization that all we need is God. This is not the anxious striving to appease an angry Father. This is not fearfully walking on eggshells. Instead, Paul appeals to his readers’ identity as “citizens of heaven,” and encourages them to “live up to whatever truth we have [already] attained” (Philippians 1:27; 3:16).

And so, there is the tension: to work hard for God’s purposes, but trust that Christ has taken hold of us. To embrace our identity as kingdom citizens, while knowing we won’t live this life perfectly, nor could we ever earn our way back into a right relationship with God. To be content where we are while seeking to grow, and trusting that when the time is right, the Holy Spirit will reveal truth and nudge us in the direction that will lead us to look more like Jesus. “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,” we learn to pursue the ultimate prize: Christ Jesus Himself (Philippians 3:13–14).

We grow. We learn. We know better. We do better. Until the day we step into the kingdom and the breeze on our faces feels like home.

Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, writer, a spiritual director in training, and a contributing writer at The Rabbit Room. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts, with her husband Chris. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores and good coffee. You can find more of her writing at jenroseyokel.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jen_rose.

Post Comments (39)

39 thoughts on "Reaching Forward to God’s Goal"

  1. Olivia Ramirez says:

    Awesome!

  2. Pamela Moretz says:

    “Learn all you can, can all you learn and open the can when you need it.”

    We each have a catch phrase if we strive for the goals God has set before us. The most important thing that I’ve learned in the hard knocks of life is … that we have been given 120 years to get it right. (Ge. 6:3) and how we use our years determines the final resting place. Of course I want everyone to experience JESUS and join believers in heavens resting place, but it’s going to take using our personal God honoring story to convince others they can go too. Be prepared for the eye opener that … they may not want to hear your story, but give em’ love and JESUS anyway!

    The Apostle Paul has some stories to tell and that’s how he gets permission to encourages us to … “Win the lost at any cost”. I have learned that it just may cost everything on earth in order to get replacement insurance as citizen/residents of heaven. It’s not just the heavenly breeze of this glorious place that’s will be the ultimate experience as it is getting to finally get to touch His face … now that’s worth the trip!

  3. Gia says:

    Today’s message was very comforting knowing that the perfectionist mentality is one that is not God ordained. His graces for each day are exactly what we need to fulfill his purposes as we learn to put our trust in him moment by moment and breath by breath.

  4. Andrea Atwood says:

    God is highlighting grace to me these days. A performer and achiever by nature, my striving has found its way into my walk with Christ. I can be really good at this Christian thing. But that’s not why I fell in love with Jesus. I fell in love with him when I was really bad at life. When I had failed at everything. That is the sweet grace I can taste when I remember the early days. Knowing better and doing better while remembering it was always his grace is my meditation today.

  5. Sheri Ness says:

    I use to be a runner. I ran a lot. Marathons. Then I was diagnosed with a disease that left me with nerve damage and chronic fatigue. Running didn’t fit. I no longer self-describe as a runner.

    But in this passage, I need to remember that God has secured my identity. I am his child. Christ is in me and it’s his presence in me that qualifies me to run – spiritually speaking. God sees me as a runner. He has given me a new heart, in Christ, and with that new heart comes the desire, the longing to run. It burns up from somewhere deep inside – an insatiable urge to breathe deep and press in for the long distance.

    I’m Sheri. My Father sees me as a runner. He has given me everything I need to trust him for this race and to press on.

  6. Jennie says:

    I’m a competitive athlete, and so this Philippians reading and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about racing, training, and medals really struck me. I often train myself for races in earthly pursuits, but what a wonderful idea Paul has to race for a heavenly prize! I recently started She Reads Truth, and these verses have been among the most resonating with me so far.

  7. Susan Crosby says:

    God shows up always and by His grace we can to❤️

  8. Ashley Thomas says:

    When I was still a teenager, my mom gave me the book “Don’t Look Back- You’re Not Going That Way” by Mary Engelbreit. It’s a short, simple book, but the the message is powerful. In life, we cannot put our focus on what was, only what will be. I put my focus on God in Heaven. I put my trust in Him. His truth doesn’t change or fade away as time passes, rather, it grows in me.

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