“This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
I often tell clergy who are thinking about accepting a call in the Diocese of Tennessee that a willingness to stretch themselves for the sake of the Gospel will stand them in good stead. Jesus doesn’t mind when we break into a sweat in his service. There are times when we must muster our energies and marshal our forces in a good cause, and the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the good cause par excellence. It’s martial imagery, I’ll grant you, but we come by it apostolically (1 Tim. 6:12).
Certainly service as a deputy at the General Convention is a case in point of how Christians are called to stretch themselves. Early committee meetings, legislative sessions, hearings, worship, and what not, late into the evening make for long days. It’s easy to flag as the work progresses.
My own conviction is that St. Paul here in Philippians is not exhorting the church to greater exertions for the sake of the mission. Rather, he’s reminding us that the goal is not more apostolic work or the completion of our ministries or (God forbid) our agendas, but rather union with Christ Jesus himself. The things that lie behind that we should forget are the challenges of the mission, the trials of our particular calling. We should stretch forward to what lies ahead: the fellowship with God to which we are called.
- Bishop John