Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from December 11-17 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor intern at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thought for Today
Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
When I was in high school and college, I enjoyed playing poker with my friends. Although I would not recommend it, as it can become an unhealthy addiction, I did learn some valuable life lessons during those years. In poker, when you have good cards and are statistically favored to win, but someone ends up beating you because of luck, it’s called a “bad beat.” When someone gets a bad beat and end up focusing so much on it, not being able to concentrate on what is coming up, they end up making bad decisions, because they are either overly aggressive or overly passive in the future hands that they play. I remember learning early on that it is so important to forget the bad beats and not be so distraught over it, so that the way you play your future hands are not affected by it. That’s one of the aspects that separate skilled players from unskilled players—the ability to forget about the bad beats and keep pressing forward.
Paul continues his exhortation to the Philippian believers that they need not worry that they are not perfect in their pursuit of becoming like Jesus, but that they simply need to continue forward towards the end goal—the prize that is found in Christ Jesus. Paul admits that he himself is still struggling and wrestling towards the finish line, and that he does his best not to dwell on his shortcomings but to keep his eyes fixed on the finish line.
Though it is important to reflect, debrief, and address our shortcomings and our sinful pasts, it is important that we learn to loosely hold those in tension, as we run hard towards the finish line. Maybe today you are paralyzed by your sinfulness and are unable to forgive yourself of your shortcomings. Maybe you are overly critical of yourself and have lost hope in the possibility of breakthrough. Let today’s passage be a reminder to you that you need not hold onto all of that baggage so tightly that it distracts you from running this race. Don’t let those things become a hindrance from pursuing Jesus whole-heartedly. Forget about those bad beats and keep pressing forward!
Prayer: Father, in [list the things that you have a hard time letting go], help me not to dwell on it, but rather to press forward with my eyes on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I know that You are still in the process of refining me. Thank You for continuing Your work in me. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 3
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 20:22-24 (ESV): And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Question to Consider
- What was the big deal about going to Jerusalem?
- What does the apostle Paul value the most?
- Has God called you towards a certain direction or course? What is your response, and how have you positioned yourself to respond in obedience?
- Paul knew that there were many in Jerusalem that wanted to harm him and even kill him, but he was still set on going, being constrained by the Holy Spirit.
- Paul has set his mind and his heart on the ministry that the Lord has given to him. Thus, he counts everything else as meaningless in comparison to this task.
- Reflection question.
This passage not only pertains to our past disappointments or shortcomings, but it can also apply to our past accomplishments. Even though we have accomplished things in the past, don’t let that be something that prevents you from continuing forward with focus and determination. We find that many of the leaders in the Bible actually did not finish well. For example, Solomon, though he was gifted with tremendous wisdom, ended up as one of the most disobedient kings of Israel. Tonight, remind yourself that your one focus and one end goal is to love God with all of your life and to set your eyes on that as you press forward in this life.