“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul knew the kind of man he was becoming.
He knew where he had come from. He knew the former zeal he had for the law. He knew all about his old reliance on rules and traditions and deeds to make himself right with God. He accepted the fact that he was formerly against God, persecuting and killing those who served the true God.
Paul was intimate with the details of who he used to be.
But he didn’t let that define the man he would become.
He didn’t allow his past sins to stop him. He didn’t let his old thought life hinder him. He wasn’t going to continue letting his old self dictate who he was.
Paul recognized that every action he took, every command from God he obeyed, every time he stepped out in faith, every thing he did was shaping the person he would become.
Both good and bad.
So Paul did the one thing many of us hesitate to do.
Paul took the time to work on his character.
He allowed God to point out the areas of sin in his life. He wrestled with destructive thoughts in his life. He pushed and pulled and faced the shame of his old self. He made amends with those he hurt.
Paul focused less on what he was doing for God and more on who he was becoming in God.
That’s not an easy path to take.
It’s easier to do stuff for God. We can put a value on what we do. How many messages we’ve given, how many people we “won” to Christ, how often we’ve evangelized, how many people are in our ministry, how many times we’ve volunteered. It’s easy to figure out what you’ve done for Him.
But who we are becoming? There’s no quantitative value to show how far we’ve come. It’s all about looking inward, dealing with areas of nagging sin, working on character flaws, dredging up the dirt and muck in our lives and dealing with the things we’d rather keep buried.
Who really enjoys finding their flaws and trying to fix them?
If we want to do big things for God, if we want to make a lasting impact in the lives of those around us, we need to develop our character.
Those nagging sins and character flaws we think aren’t a big deal, have the potential to bring a lot of hardship and pain into our lives.
- “Just looking” at that guy or girl will eventually lead to you wanting more.
- Telling little white lies to get what you want will lead to bigger, and more hurtful lies.
- Finding value in popularity or job status will lead you to use others.
- Pretending to be someone you’re not will eventually blow up in your face…or cause you to lose yourself in the lie.
- Spending more time watching TV than with God or your family will eventually cause you to be disconnected and alone.
Every decision you make today – how you spend your time, how you respond to hurts and pain, who you hang out with, how you respond to criticism – all will set the pace of who you will be in 10, 20, 30…even 50 years from now.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as we prepare ourselves to experience resurrection, may you remember that what you do is not more important than who you are. May you have courage to do the hard work of shaping your character. And may you, as you prepare yourself to experience the risen Christ, find that you are changing who you are becoming for the better.