April 5, 2014 — prize

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read: Philippians 3:7-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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.

More thoughts for meditation

Look at your hand. Pick up a book or some other object. You take hold of it by wrapping your fingers around it firmly and lifting. You grab the object and hold on. Now imagine taking hold of someone’s hand. You grip their hand and they grip your hand back. This is the image Paul wants us to have of living with and for Christ. We hold and we are held. The new life made possible for us through Christ’s death and resurrection is a life of giving and receiving. It’s not that we pick up a book or a set of beliefs or some principles to live by. It is a life of holding on and being held onto by God Himself.

Paul is eager for us to know that the past does not have a hold on us. We are more than our worst behavior. We can focus our attention on what is coming and what we are becoming — on getting over the finish line. Paul is intent on getting the prize of life with Jesus, a life that goes on eternally. He’s thrown away his old strategies for getting the good life (the ways he might grab a book) and is concentrating on his relationship with God in Jesus (holding onto relating and being held by Someone who relates back). He isn’t depending on his old skill set of identifying the important rules to follow and then being better at following them than anybody else. He’s taken a new direction and he wants us to do the same. He challenges his readers to put their trust in God and the way Jesus has opened up to us through suffering. Our prize is the same as Paul’s: we can hold God and God will hold us through all suffering, even through death into life.

Suggestions for action

We don’t think about death much in our culture. We’re pretty insulated from it. However, unconsciously many of our fears relate back to the unacknowledged dread we have about death. At the base of them, aren’t our fears about our careers related to being unsure we will have what we need to survive? We have conflict with others and if we reflect deeply on those conflicts we see they are rooted in fear that we will not have what we need relationally. Take a few minutes to consider what’s bugging you today. Is it related to a fear of death? Does it connect somewhere within you with a dread that you will be abandoned and suffer in ways that destroy you? Take hold of God’s hand and seek to know that God takes hold of yours. The prize awaiting us is this: knowing Christ and His power to suffering meaningfully and to bring resurrection, the complete defeat of death into our experience. Place your dread in God’s hands. Press on for the prize.

Pray: O God, help me hold onto You and know that I am held.

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