"...Reaching forward to those things which are ahead..." Phil. 3:13
Where are you headed? What are you reaching for? Can you really know what is out there? What if, when you get there, you are not where you thought you would be?
Here we are, in the first week of a new year. Life can be so complicated, confusing, and overwhelming. How often are we stopped in our tracks, dissatisfied, without direction, or just headed in the wrong direction?
Direction is a key component to life, both having one, and reaching for it.
Without it, we lose motivation. Even with it, if not the right one, we become frustrated, disappointed, and disillusioned.
God has created us to be people of direction. It is in our God-given DNA. We cannot exist without it. Where there is no direction, there is no hope. Where there is no hope, there is no life. You have probably heard the scripture quote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Prov. 29:18)
To get on track with finding direction, let's break down the theme verse: "...Reaching forward to those things which are ahead..." (Phil. 3:13) into two parts, beginning with the second.
Those things which are ahead
Paul, who wrote this, is not just talking about a career here, or how many children you should have, or whatever it is that you think will make you happy. In the next sentence in his letter, he says...
"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Those words are almost too lofty to grasp. So let me simplify: "I press on toward the reward of the greatest calling in life and that is to follow Christ Jesus and fulfill all that He has for me, both in my relationship with Him and in whatever it is He wants me to be and do."
You see, you were not created to primarily pursue your own purposes or to satisfy your own personal needs. The purpose for your existence did not begin with you. Therefore the fulfillment of purpose cannot end with you. Your purpose in life is much greater than yourself. That is not to say that your desires are not important. God has given you the power of desire. The key is keeping your greater focus on Him, allowing those desires to be channeled in the right direction.
I know it almost sounds contradictory. In order to experience the life you were created for, you must keep your primary focus not on the circumstances of life, but with the one who gave you life and gave His life for you; the one who leads you to the Father of Life. The more you focus on Him, the more He will show you the right and practical directions of everyday life.
God is not just interested in what it is that you give your life to, but how you give it and for what purpose you give it. He is ultimately after, not what you do, but who you are, and who He is in and through your life.
So ask yourself the right questions.
Do I have the kind of relationship with God where I can know His purposes and sense His direction in my life?
Do I know what it means to be at peace with Him and to be fulfilled in Him?
Do I know what it feels like for God to find His pleasure in me?
Now that last one is a question rarely asked. Remember the movie, Chariots of Fire? Eric Lidell, a missionary, was trying to explain to his sister why running in a competition was more important to him than getting on with his missionary plans, at that particular time. He said to her, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." In the end, Eric's involvement in the Olympics and his decision to obey God against the grain of his culture gave him more opportunity to be a witness for Christ than any given missionary journey.
So take the time to discover fresh vision and direction for your life. Reconnect with the One who knows that direction and knows how to get you on track with it.
Now for the first part of that verse:
Reaching forward to those things...
You can never afford to stop reaching forward. Try riding a bicycle without pushing the pedals. You're okay while coasting downhill, but once you begin the upward climb, you're not going anywhere.
You have to keep reaching.
You might say that I am set for life. I am the pastor of a church that I began nine years ago. God has been with me. He has been leading me. I am surrounded by wonderful people. I have no complaints. But if I do not keep reaching forward in my life, I will coast along and eventually either go backward, or fall and get hurt, and so will the people around me.
I am not satisfied with the adventures of the past. And neither should you be. This year I am seeking to take bold steps to lift the direction of my life to whatever God has for me. There are desires not met, visions not fulfilled. There is a place in the core of my being that will not be satisfied until I meet the expectation of God's pleasure fulfilled in me.
I would challenge you to do the same. Reach forward. You were made to do so. You do not necessarily have to change your job or your relationships to push the refresh button on your sense of direction. It may be that you simply need fresh motivation to stay on track with where you are.
Or maybe you are in for major change. Will you be open and ready?
What if, when you reach forward, you find that God is calling you to things bigger or more challenging than what you expected? In fact, the word "reach" in scripture can be translated as "stretch." Here's the thing. God's plans are always bigger and more challenging than what we believe we are capable of. He's God. His plans are never within the reach of our perception. In fact, this is a principle of how He grows our lives. In order to increase, we must stretch out beyond what we think we are capable in order to grow into what He has for us.
Begin by diving into His presence and asking the right questions. Be open to His voice, His leading. He is faithful to lead your life. But you must be faithful to reach!
Reach forward to things ahead. And prepare yourself to go further and higher than you've ever been before.
See you down the road!