“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b,14
The Apostle Paul was in no doubt, but what are we straining towards? What are our goals? Ambition may be more often associated with youth, but at all stages of life we tend to make assumptions about the direction our lives will take. We see our lives progressing in certain ways and have expectations, even if unspoken, about our futures.
Hard-earned relaxation in retirement can become our objective, the promise of independence from the demands of work and the means with which to enjoy that freedom. Yet for many these things turn out to have been a mirage, failing to materialise, replaced instead by the burden of increasing ill health, pain and disability. Increasing dependence on others, practically, financially and emotionally can precipitate bitterness, frustration and depression.
On the other hand, our expectations of later life may be all too firmly founded on predictions of adversity, filling our mid and later lives with anxiety and despondency, robbing them of any joy. If our trust is in our pension fund or if our purpose in life depends on our hearing, eyesight, memory or physical capability then, as the fragility of these things becomes evident, we may think we see only too clearly what old age holds in store.
So often the things towards which we strain, the things on which we fix our hopes, are not the glory of things above but earthly distractions. Just as Mo Farah’s mind was dominated by the finishing line, not the expectations of the watching world or the pack breathing down his neck on the final bend, so too let us not take our eyes off the goal as we reach the closing stages of the race. And where does the endurance come from that enables us to finish well, however long the race may be? Paul was not in any doubt about that either.
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12,13