Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.
The Apostle Paul describes the christian life in terms of a “struggle” something that we “strive” for and “work” at, but what is the goal? What is it that we are reaching out for?
It’s obvious, for Paul, that when his life is over he will receive a reward, this can be boiled down in his statement in Phil 1:21 “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
That is, while he is still alive, he will be about “fruitful labor” that will benefit Christ and His kingdom, and his reward is the resurrection from the dead. Yes, that is Paul’s reward… but what is Paul striving for?
Living a godly life? Understanding God more? Social justice in the world? All good things, but not the thing that Paul is reaching out to grasp, these are not the things that Paul tells us to strive for…
So then, my brothers, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.
Paul’s joy of successful ministry, his “crown” of the “prize” that he is working hard to attain, was people.
We are to be about the Gospel. Far too often we read Paul’s passages as a means of quiet introspection and they are meant to be an encouragement to see people hear the Gospel. Certainly, we do need to grow in godliness, but to think that you are growing in godliness and not growing in proclamation in the Gospel would be a gross misunderstanding of the God who left heaven in order to seek people and save people.
If you don’t think in this way, as Paul said in Phil 3:15, I pray that you will. Christian maturity leads to greater Gospel witness. The person who knows the Bible backwards and forwards, and perhaps even attends church every Sunday and Wednesday, yet never shares the message of Jesus with their neighbor, might just need to repent and become a Christian.
Do you have a “joy” in the faith? Is it because of what God has done for you, or because of what He’s doing through you?
God has saved us for a mission, that mission won’t end until the end. Let’s go do it! For Jesus and for the Gospel (cf. Mark 10:28-31)