Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Imprisoned with little to no hope of release, separated from his friends by distance and time, and unable to see with confidence when this condition might end, Paul isn’t even remotely daunted but instead strains forward to embrace a freedom few can even imagine let alone grasp.
Because Paul knows that he has been claimed by God. That his life is caught up in Chirst. That he has been called by the God who created light from darkness and raises the dead to new life.
Paul, that is, has seen the end of the story – and it is a good end – and therefore can work and struggle and plan and laugh and endure the present challenges with courage.
It comes down finally, I think, to vision. Or, really, to the eyes. Paul keeps his eyes fastened on the goal placed in front of him, the heavenly call of God to proclaim the gospel of Christ. All else becomes secondary.
Paul is not the only Christian to experience the kind of confidence that comes from keeping your eyes on the heavenly prize. Do you remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the eve of his assination? They reflect the same courage as that of the Apostle:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
And here’s the thing: this kind of courage…is available to any of us.
Prayer: Dear God, keep us steadfast in your promises so that whether we are experiencing joy or sorrow in the present our confidence in you and hope for the future remains strong. In Jesus’ name, Amen.