I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Lately I've been thinking about my life. I have a 16-year-old son, and I work in a university environment around college students. Those people essentially have their whole lives ahead of them, nothing but open doors. But now that I'm well into my 40s, there are certain doors that are forever closed for me. I will never, for example, be an NFL linebacker. Not that there was ever any chance of that happening, of course! But at this point my age alone means I am forever excluded from that club. Additionally, I'm not going to ever be a member of anybody's boy's choir. By law I cannot enlist in the military. And I will not be winning any gold medals in the Olympics.
Okay, so maybe most of that is pretty silly stuff, and those aren't really things I aspired to anyway. But looking back, there are things I wish I had accomplished at certain times of my life that I just never got around to. Some of them, maybe I'll never get the chance to again. Some of them are things I thought I was called by God to do. What do you do when you feel you had a call on your life, you had the opportunity to fill it, and you failed to complete something that may have been God's plan for you? (You don't have to be in your 40s to feel that way, by the way.)
Once upon a time, Paul (then called Saul) was pretty confident that he was smack in the middle of God's will for him. In some ways, maybe he was; although later he was persecuting Christians, before that he had completed a thorough religious education, and was an expert at all things Jewish. Even later as a Christian, he seems to have been quite proud of those accomplishments. Paul didn't have my problem: he had completed the things he wanted to do with his life.
But in the passage above, Paul tells us that as far as he is concerned, all of that is worthless garbage. He threw it all away and set a new goal for himself: to get to truly know Jesus; to know Him so well that he could experience what Jesus experienced through His death and resurrection. He had obtained his goals, but now he had a different goal: to fully experience the life provided by Jesus! So Paul decided to completely turn his back on his past, treat it like it had never existed, and run as hard as he could toward something much more important.
Now. If Paul can treat his successes like that, doesn't it stand to reason that I can treat my failures like that? If Paul can say "All of that stuff in the past is in the past. What is in the present is Jesus!" then can't I say the same thing? It doesn't matter whether you or I were valedictorian or grade-school drop-out... millionaire or on welfare... lifelong Christian or got saved five minutes ago. Our successes are in the past, and our failures are in the past. What matters now is that there is a greater prize to reach for! There is a more important race to run. Let's head that way starting right now, shall we?