Straining Forward with Joy
Speaker: Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series: Philippians
Philippians 3:1-21 (ESV)
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Why would someone tell a suffering community that they should rejoice? (v1)
1. Paul has learned about holding on to what prohibits rejoicing
“confidence in the flesh” (vv3-4)
“whatever gain I had” (vv5-7) “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things” (v8)
“not having a righteousness of my own… but that which comes through faith in Christ” (v9)
2. Paul has found what will help us strain forward, with rejoicing
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God” (v14)
hope in the resurrection (vv10-11, 21)
earthly things (v19) vs. citizenship in heaven, awaiting a savior (v20), his power (v21)
Questions for Reflection
What conditions are necessary for you to have joy? What sorts of things do you assume need to be in place, or what can’t be present, for you to have joy? What “earthly things” do you set your heart on?
What is the relationship between confidence and rejoicing? Are they connected?
When do you feel confident? In what contexts? For what reasons? What sources of confidence do you have? Why (or when) do you lack confidence?
What are appropriate ways to frame loss, if things that are sources of strength or identity are taken from you? How should you think, and what ways of thinking are harmful?
Does growth and progress in Christianity require loss? Why or why not?
What are the differences between self righteousness and the righteousness from God that comes through faith?
Paul mentions numerous things he takes hold of – what, of what he names, are things you find desirable? Reflect on each of these: the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, being found in Christ, having a righteousness that depends on faith, knowing the power of his resurrection, becoming like Jesus in his death, Jesus having made you his own, the prize of the upward call of God, having citizenship in heaven, awaiting a savior, trusting your “lowly” body will be transformed to be like his “glorious” body.
In moments of actual difficulty, what can you do to exercise faith and keep pressing on?
Is rejoicing something you can decide to do? How can you proactively seek to have joy?
Prayer of Confession
God of hope and grace, thank you for calling us. We are in great need of your help. Our hopes are so firmly set on certain things that we won’t firmly take hold of what you offer us. We lack faith to hold on to you, and instead hold onto what hinders our joy and growth. As we grieve the loss of many things, help us set our eyes on what you have promised. Forgive us. We wait for your salvation. Deepen our understanding so that in Christ we have confidence and joyful anticipation. Amen.