Hope happens when we can set goals, have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue those goals, and believe in our own abilities to act. Brené Brown.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:13-15)
Have you noticed that we’ve been moving through Philippians, passage by passage? If not, it doesn’t matter. We’re here, and today is a big day! It’s time for Paul’s famous statement on perseverance. He’s using his own discipleship experience as an example—trying to explain WHY there is no person who is so mature that they have ‘arrived’. There is always more traveling to do.
Our teacher is gently warning against the tendency toward religious entitlement—the assumption that if we believe the right things and do the correct practices, we can have the blessed life without waiting and longing and straining for Resurrection itself.
Paul is clear. He has not reached the goal, and neither has anyone else.
We need Paul’s kind of Resurrection HOPE: We have not arrived, and we must keep pressing forward towards the goal. A true athlete knows that the race isn’t over until the end has been reached. To see oneself in front of the pack, and therefore having arrived at the finish, is crazy. (Some of us can’t even to relate to that kind of misplaced confidence, because we’re painfully aware of how much work God is still doing in us!)
What then is the goal (or the finish line)?
Paul calls the goal: the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And some people take that to mean simply ‘heaven’ or life after death. But if we look ahead in Philippians, we see that Paul doesn’t talk about going to heaven. He speaks instead of the Spirit of Christ transforming the world and all who live here. For Paul, living in ‘heaven’ isn’t the goal we are straining for; rather, it’s living as our transformed selves in a whole new world. So, the ‘upward call’ seems to be Resurrection itself—or whole-life, whole-earth, new-birth and transformation. (This is not to say that the afterlife doesn’t matter. I’m saying Paul was not straining to get there.)
Straining forward toward whole life transformation, means living in the present with our hope set on Resurrection. (See also Colossians 3:1-4.)
And none of this means living in a joyless, earthly struggle. Paul says he is eager to ‘overtake’ Resurrection because Christ Jesus has ‘overtaken’ him. There is no English word to capture the double meaning of ‘overtaken’ here. Paul is saying two HUGE things at once, which cannot exist apart from one another: He still has work to do to catch up and reach his goal (overtake); and at the same time, the Spirit of Christ has created a supernatural drive and zeal within him, which powers him forward (overtaken by Christ).
Brené Brown addresses the topics of hope and perseverance in Chapter 9 of Rising Strong in the section about Rumbling with Failure. Her research aligns with this passage in Philippians. I encourage us to read both passages and envision how rumbling with failure is a necessary part of transformation in individuals, families and society.
LORD God, give me Resurrection Hope, and teach me how to persevere.