Happy New Year! It feels like I haven’t blogged in forever. Whilst I don’t intend to return to weekly blog posts, I am aiming to blog more regularly than of late. The most important lesson I learned in 2020 is undoubtedly that I need to see myself the way that God sees me. This lesson has been applicable in so many areas and I only wish that I’d realised it sooner.
“I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me. I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven. All of us who have grown to be spiritually mature should think this way too. And if there is any of this that you don’t agree with, God will make it clear to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15, ERV)
“I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal.”
The ultimate goal is to be Christlike in every way. To imitate Him in every thought and action. Paul acknowledges that he hasn’t reached the standard that God expects of him. However, the ‘not yet’ confirms that it’s something he aspires to and is hoping to attain. The first step in your endeavour to be more Christlike should be recognising where you fall short.
Failing to recognise your flaws allows them to go unchecked.
It can be so easy to coast through life unaware of, or happy with, areas where you’re missing the mark. No matter how insignificant or trivial they might seem to you, if you know that you’re not exactly where God wants you to be, that should be motivation to keep striving. Introspection is great, but it’s not enough. Many will be blessed by the obedience which complements your introspection.
“But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine.”
Of all the motivational quotes I’ve heard, one that resonates with me the most (perhaps because of my love for children), is that babies don’t stop trying to learn how to walk just because they keep falling over. Can you imagine if you’d decided at the age of one that walking just wasn’t for you? I’m sure your life would be very different. I appreciate that the journey of becoming more like Christ can seem far more complicated than learning to walk. Perhaps you’ve ‘fallen over’ so many times that you just don’t want to try anymore, or maybe you’re indifferent to the benefits of reaching this goal because life seems fine without it.
Christ cannot ask amiss – He has asked so that you may have.
If Christ didn’t care whether or not you became like Him, He wouldn’t have prayed for unity amongst believers (John 17:20-22) and for Him to be in you (John 17:23). His heart’s desire is for a community of believers that are collectively seeking to be like Him and for the world to see the difference that that makes. Paul wasn’t continuing to reach for something that is unattainable and neither are you. Allow the thought of answering Christ’s prayer (which we already know is God’s will) to be extra motivation to keep reaching until you do, eventually, reach this goal.
“I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.”
So perhaps you’ve paused to recognise your flaws and you’ve decided that you’re going to keep reaching for the goal of Christlikeness. However, as the days go by, you’re plagued by the thought of all the times you’ve previously failed and so you decide that maybe you were being too ambitious. Or maybe you try to put the past behind you, but a more recent setback makes you question if you were being too optimistic. I’ve been in both situations and failure hits hard. However, it’s in those moments that you have to choose to reset rather than remain where you are.
A Christlike version of you is something that He Himself saw as possible.
One could argue that accepting the past as the norm and abandoning your efforts to reach the ultimate goal, is an indication that you believe Christ was wrong. I love that verse 15 ends with the promise that if you’re tempted to settle for less, God will make it clear to you why you shouldn’t (assuming you want Him to). Whilst you can’t erase the memories of your past, you can choose to give them less prominence. By choosing to reset you’re refusing to linger in the thoughts of the past and all the times where you missed the mark. You’re choosing, instead, to focus on what can be rather than what has been.
- Reflection – the passage is clear in that a) spiritually mature individuals should have the same attitude as Paul with respect to reaching the ultimate goal, and b) that God can help you if you don’t have this attitude. Therefore, if you feel like there are other goals which matter to you more than this particular goal, you should reflect on why that is and bring that to God in prayer.
- Introspection – recognising your flaws is crucial for you and those around you. Take some time to write down areas that you think you need to work on to be more Christlike and also ask those around you for their opinion too.
- Goal setting – reaching the ultimate goal is actually made up of lots of little goals which need to be practical. Perhaps your introspection helped you to recognise that you’re not as Christlike in area X as you could be. What are you going to do to help you improve so that over time you see more of Christ in you?
- Consistency – have a read of The Mundanity of Excellence as a reminder of the importance of combining desire with diligence. Christlikeness isn’t something you can afford to put on the back burner.
- Accountability – share your goals with at least one person. Having people to support you is so beneficial. As is surrounding yourself with likeminded people.
- Resilience – the past/trials/setbacks are useful. Remember to focus on what you can learn from failure rather than letting the failure define you.
When you’re trying to reach the ultimate goal, believing that God knows you can makes the world of difference. Half of the battle is surrendering the idea that you can’t be Christlike. He thinks you can, so what do you have to lose by trying?