Occasionally I will be asked, “Mike, what is your life verse?” Depending on when you knew me in my life, my answer might change. My approach might not seem very consistent with the idea of a life verse, but as our lives change, I believe our verses can change. However, if you are a one Bible verse or passage for life type of person, then that is great too. In some ways, I admire you. For now, though, I have one verse that defines my current walk with Christ: Philippians 3:13-14. Paul writes,
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
This passage was pressed on my heart by the Holy Spirit about five years ago. I had just ended a string of two difficult pastorates—ministry assignments where both the congregation and myself made plenty of mistakes. Still, the separation from either group was not amicable.
Knowing that I could only control and correct my mistakes, I entered a dark period of too much reflection. Some might call my process “the sin of self-reflection” as I began to obsess over my mistakes and becoming a better Christian. My approach was not mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy at all. Something needed to change. Enter Philippians 3:13-14.
These verses began to encourage me with the simple phrase, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” In other words, let the past be the past; it is time to look forward to what God has in store for the future.
Letting go so well is easier said than done, especially for a chronic self-reflector like myself. Fortunately, this passage has slowly worked on me over the years. As a result, I better let go of the past and reach ahead, but do so with the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” in mind. Making all things about Jesus was something I’ve known for years. Still, the subtle distractions of life can cause us to slowly regress and make everything about us, which I confess I did. Our main goal as Christians should be to strive forward in Christ. But wait….
If I’m focused again on learning, isn’t that me returning to “the sin of self-reflection?” Fortunately, no, but as you guessed, there is a balance between learning from our mistakes and pressing ahead. It’s a balance that is made possible by the Holy Spirit.
I am always willing to learn from my past mistakes, but obsessing to discover every lesson is not healthy. Not only do I beat myself up emotionally, but I force the maturity process to work faster than reality. Gratefully, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I learn what He teaches me as I journey through life.
Now I relax better and mature more naturally through reading, worshiping, and progressing through life in general. The Holy Spirit can take these new experiences and teach me what I need to learn. Things I would not and could not force to learn without further clarity since the events occurred. As a result, I’m able to “forget what is behind” until the Holy Spirit reminds me, but to only “press on towards the goal” by learning what is truly relevant at the needed time.
Due to this Holy Spirit balance, I have retained this passage as my current life verse. After five years of reflecting and applying these scriptures, I realize that I have not “laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do.” Though I fail, I daily try to remind myself that we all are ever learning and growing, and will continue to learn. It is essential then to give yourself, and others grace not to be perfect. I am letting others grow in the Holy Spirit as He leads each of us to grow in Him through the love of Jesus Christ, who is our prize, than the condemnation of our guilt.