Philippians 3:16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
The section ahead of this is so glorious that this perhaps gets overlooked much of the time. From verse 7 through 14 Paul expresses his own level of spiritual maturity in words that have inspired and challenged believers in all the centuries since he wrote them. In verse 15 he essentially says, “That’s what maturity looks like, and God’s going to lead you there, too.” Then we have this verse. The thing is, we all have a tendency to make progress spiritually and then slide back. It’s so naturally we hardly even notice it. We go to a conference and are really inspired, and then a week after we get home, if that long, we are like we never went in the first place. Paul is here saying essentially the same thing James said so famously: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) It is sadly common to run into people we thought were on fire for the Lord and find they are in nowhere near that condition. We are to pray for such people and encourage them, but even more, we are to be on our guard that we don’t fall into such traps ourselves. As Jesus pointed out, our first responsibility is for our own faithfulness. (Matthew 7:3-5) That’s exactly what Paul is saying here.
This is something I’ve really got to be careful about. I was raised with huge spiritual advantages, immersed in faith and the Bible and all of that, but I haven’t always lived so you would know it. I’ve been pretty good at putting on a front, but behind the facade, I’ve been a real mess at times. As a pastor I am called to encourage others and admonish them when they get off track, but I’ve got to be very careful I don’t get off track myself. Just in the past couple of days the Lord has been pointing out to me how I have lost my edge in some areas, and has indicated some ways I need to change. I need such things as much as anyone else! It means very little if I achieve some level of spiritual maturity and then back off from it. I need to remember Paul’s words to the Galatians: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Paul had to write about this sort of thing so much because that’s how we are as human beings, but he also knew that God is going to get us through, (Philippians 1:9) and I need to remember that too. After all, that’s what I’m preaching on this coming Sunday!
Father, thank You for Your patience with us all. Help me indeed live up to where You have already brought me, not slipping back, or even sideways, but continuing to press on into more of You, to take hold of that for which You have already taken hold of me, (Philippians 3:12) for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!