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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13,14
Every once in a while, my wife and I take time to seriously and thoughtfully review what we are accomplishing and what we are not accomplishing in our lives and our ministry. We do our best to be very honest with ourselves and each other about these questions.
Taking this kind of look at ourselves and our work is not always pleasant. Sometimes we find areas of glaring failure or areas where we know the Lord expected more of us. But in order for us to see the truth about our lives the way God sees it, He requires us to lay down our pride and be honest with ourselves. In the end, we’re always glad we did the review because it helps us repent for the times we failed, rejoice over what God helped us to accomplish, and make sure we’re on the right course where we will be the most focused and effective.
When other people say,“Wow, you accomplish so much!” we are always glad that they can see fruit in our lives. However, the most important question to us is not what other people think, but what the Lord thinks of us and our accomplishments. Maybe it’s true that we accomplished a lot compared to what others have done. But how we compare to other people and ministries is not the measuring stick we are to use to determine how we are doing.
In Second Corinthians 10:12 (AMP), the apostle Paul wrote that when people “…measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they…behave unwisely.” This means our measuring stick should never be how we measure up to other human beings. Compared to them, we may have done well, but the real issue is how we “measure up” to the goals the Lord gave us. When we stand before Jesus, He isn’t going to judge us by how we did in comparison to others. He will judge us for how we did with the assignments He gave us to do.
Therefore, you should ask yourself on a regular basis:
- Am I accomplishing the goals the Lord has given me?
- Can I stand before Him with a heart free of condemnation, knowing that I gave my very best effort, work, and faith to achieve His will?
- What, if any, changes do I need to make in my life, schedule, commitment, and financial resources to do what the Lord has told me to do?
Learning to be honest about ourselves, our work, our successes, and our failures is vitally important. We learn from our past mistakes. We ask the Lord to forgive us for our failures. Then we turn our eyes to the present — and we begin to make the necessary corrections in order to start doing better!
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he had a lot of time to think, so he sat in that prison and reflected on his life and achievements. He thought about what he had done, what he hadn’t done, and what he still needed to do. I’m sure that, like all of us, Paul was tempted to look at his life in comparison to others. And compared to others, he had done a great deal!
- He had preached all around the Mediterranean Sea.
- He had preached in the imperial palace.
- He had started churches all over Asia Minor.
- He had written most of the New Testament.
- He was one of the greatest apostles of his generation.
Paul could have rightfully told himself, I’ve done more than most men will ever dream of doing! I’ve done more than anyone else I know! But rather than revel in his own accomplishments, Paul used that time in prison to truthfully assess his life. Then he wrote these famous words: “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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).
Notice that Paul said, “I count not myself to have apprehended.…” The words “count not” give us insight into the way Paul looked at his life. Paul borrowed these words from the bookkeeping profession. It is the Greek word logidzomai, which originally meant to mathematically count, calculate, or tabulate or to make a conclusion. This word was primarily used in the bookkeeping world to portray the idea of a balance sheet or a profit-and-loss statement that a bookkeeper prepared at the end of the month or year.
You might “think” your business is doing quite well, but when the bookkeeper adds up all the numbers and hands you the profit-and-loss statement to read, that’s the moment you find out how well your business is really doing. You don’t have to guess anymore about your situation, because “the numbers” tell the real story.
Why did Paul use this word as he wrote verse 13? It is obvious that Paul had been seriously reviewing his life. Rather than “guess” about how well he had done, Paul carefully reviewed the original goals God had given him. It is almost as if Paul had written God’s plan for his life on one side of the page and what he had actually accomplished on the other side of the page. After looking at the original goal and truthfully assessing how much of that goal he had accomplished, he wrote, “I count not myself to have apprehended….”
Although Paul had accomplished a great deal in his ministry, he knew he hadn’t done everything he was supposed to do. That is one reason he knew it was not time for him to die. His prison situation was dreadful, and the legal prognosis didn’t look good. But Paul knew it wasn’t time for him to leave yet because he still had so much work to do. (He referred to this work in Philippians 1:22-26.)
I’m sure Paul was thankful for everything he had seen and all that God had already accomplished through him. This is why Paul went on to say, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). But I want you to stop and think about what Paul was choosing to forget and put behind him!
Some say Paul was forgetting his past life of sin, but he had put that behind him long ago. Now he was putting his past successes and accomplishments behind him. Do you know why he had to do this? Because stopping at past victories is what keeps most people from moving into future victories. They become so fixated on what they have done that they lose sight of what they need to do — and that keeps them from moving forward to possess new territory in God’s plan for their lives!
Think of it like this: Many big corporations lost the cutting edge they once held because they spent most of their energy gloating about how big and how good they were. While they were gloating, some smaller company with dedicated people and a huge vision snuck up from behind and surpassed that larger corporation! Before the larger company knew what was happening, they had lost the leading edge they once held and were no longer the leader. They had spent so much time focusing on the past that someone else passed them by!
Paul knew he had done more than most men, and it was all right for him to cherish those memories. But dwelling on his past accomplishments wasn’t going to get him out of jail or back in the swing of what he needed to be doing. There were still huge parts of his vision that were unfinished. Even though the past had been great and he was thankful to God for every victory he had experienced, it was now time for him to begin reaching forth unto those things which were before him (Philippians 3:13).
You need to rejoice over all that God has already done in your life; however, you must still focus on what you haven’t seen yet! Thinking of the past victories will encourage and remind you of God’s faithfulness, but eventually you have to leave the past behind and turn your eyes to the present and the future. You can’t go forward while constantly looking backward.
- Yesterday’s victories were for yesterday.
- Yesterday’s good reports were for yesterday.
- Yesterday’s accomplishments were for yesterday.
Your future is important, so treat it that way. Look at your life, and seriously appraise your status. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, and be willing to accept what He says to you. Thank God for every victory, but keep your eyes fixed on the future so you can keep marching forward to fulfill every detail of the vision God has put into your heart!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so very thankful to You for all the progress I’ve already seen in my life. But today I am turning my eyes to the future because I know You have so much for me to do. I don’t want to miss anything You have designed for me, so I am choosing to turn my attention to the vision and to run my race with all my might! Help me remove anything that would hinder my race so I can press forward toward the prize of the high calling of God for my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I boldly confess that I am focused, concentrated, and determined to run my race! God has called me and anointed me; therefore, I can do exactly what He has asked me to do. I have no excuse for failure or any reason to slow down or quit, for God’s Spirit in me is ready to empower me to run this race all the way to the finish. Doing it halfway will never do, so I am committed to seeing this all the way through!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. How long has it been since you assessed your situation to determine the progress you are making in your life, church, or business? How frequently do you take time to review your situation so you can gauge your progress?
2. Are you stuck in a rut, or are you still moving forward with the same speed and the same passion that once possessed you? Does the vision still burn in your heart?
3. What alterations do you need to make in your church, business, organization, or ministry in order to get back on track and to start moving forward again?