Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time”? I have found this phrase to be particularly accurate when it comes to the area of spiritual progress. What I have discovered is that I will not grow spiritually unless I take specific aim at spiritual progress.
So here we are, two weeks into a new year and I’m determined that this year will be different. I refuse to coast, because I recognize that my drift is not toward Christ-likeness. I realize that if I am to grow in the likeness of my Saviour, I will need to aim for that. I will need to wrestle, fight, and pray for that amid the challenges of everyday life.
I take my cue here from the example of the apostle Paul, who explained to the Philippians,
One thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind, I strain toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13, 14).
What is Paul aiming at here? I think that Paul is saying that while he has indeed gained Christ, he has not yet gained all that Christ intends for him. In other words, Paul is not Christ-like yet. Realizing this, Paul presses on toward it. His “goal” is Christ-likeness and, in heaven, the “prize” will be Christ-likeness. In the meantime, Paul’s going after it with great intentionality.
Notice the singularity of Paul’s pursuit: “one thing I do”. This is his supreme priority. It’s his main thing.
I suspect that this is the fork in the road for many of us. We’re perhaps fond of the idea of growing in our likeness of Jesus Christ, but we’re not sure if we’re ready to make Him the main thing. For many, that seems too radical, too extreme. But clearly this is what Paul is commending.
One of the things I appreciate in Paul’s exhortation is the language of struggle. Making progress in Christ-likeness is not easy. It requires focus. It requires singular determination. It requires “strain”.
It’s possible that “strain” is the last thing you want to add to your sufficiently hectic life. But what if the result of this particular “strain” was your ability to more meaningfully navigate the challenges of life was enhanced?
Paul got it. Paul understood that he was not yet what he ought to be. He understood that he wasn’t yet what Christ had redeemed him to be (3:12). He also knew that the “prize” was worthy of the “strain”. To this end, Paul ran with purpose toward the goal set out for him.
With the onset of this new year, I’m viewing this as an opportunity to reboot my spiritual focus. I’m no longer willing to run in a hundred different directions with the faint hope of being productive. This year I want to run in a particular direction—I want to run with purpose toward Christ-likeness.