Moving Forward – ala Philippians 3:13-14

by Erwin Goedicke

13. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

—-Philippians 3:13-14

Two of the things I’m looking forward to as I hand over the role of Stated Clerk are spending more time on my bicycle and more time on the golf course. 

A cliché retirement, I know.  But hear me out. 

Both of those pastimes remind me of our Presbytery theme for the year, “Moving Forward.”  You literally cannot pedal a bicycle backward.  The only way to go is forward.  Or fall down.  And in golf, even if you hit a dribbler off the tee, you’ll hear someone say (sometimes kindly, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek), “Well, at least you’ve advanced the ball!”   Both in cycling and in golf, as in life, the only real option is moving forward.  

Moving forward is not just a catchy theme; it’s the central plot in the Biblical story.  From the first chapter of Genesis, when God gives us the mandate to cultivate creation, to Exodus, where the people of God move forward by stages toward the Promised Land, to the promise of the prophets, Do not remember the former things … I am about to do a new thing, to the coming of Jesus, who started a movement with the invitation, Follow me,all the way to book of Revelation, with it’s vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth.  History, according to Bible is not an endless circle of life; it is a continuous journey into God’s desired future.  And as Christians this forward movement is written into our very identity: So if anyone is in Christ, thereis a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

To be a follower of Christ is to be continuously moving forward; but not just in any direction.  When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he put it like this: 

This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

      I press on toward the goal…

Paul doesn’t express that goal in terms of accomplishment—cities to visit, churches to plant, letters to write, disciples to grow, testimony to give, emperors to convert—but the prize that comes with the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  That upward call might include his mission; it might include our mission: new worshipping communities, new members, church growth, capital campaigns, expanding outreach, raising up new leaders, reestablishing relationship with family members, becoming involved in the community, getting our house in order…  But the focus is not on some set of S.M.A.R.T. goals.  The focus is on the person of Christ.  Gaining Christ, being found in Christ, knowing Christ, living in the reality of the resurrection power of Christ. 

The Christian life is a constant pressing on, a continuous moving forward into Christ

I have a friend, who is with the Lord now, who lived in Virginia.  We were part of a covenant group of ministers who would meet once a year.  And invariably, some time during our several days together, Dave would say, “You know what they say…” and we would chime in, sometimes in unison, “No Dave, what do they say?”  And he would answer with perfect timing, “Wherever you go, there you are.” 

That’s the truth of it, isn’t it?  Wherever we are, that’s where we are. And it’s from wherever we are that we have to move forward.  Not from where we once were.  Not from where we wish we were.  Not from where we think we ought to be.  But from where we are now.  And it almost doesn’t matter how we got here.  What matters is pressing on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.   Sometimes that will feel like pedaling uphill into a headwind or hacking your way down a 500-yard fairway 30 yards at a time, but either way, let’s keep moving forward.