“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13–14

Part of the package of salvation is the gift of eternal life. Eternal signifies both the quantity and the quality of life every believer is granted through Jesus Christ. To consider the quantity of eternal life is mind-boggling. Nothing in our experience to this point in life compares. All around and within us decays. The only exception are those things which are coupled with God’s grace. The eternal life we receive is our spiritually quickened life that goes on from here out into eternity.

The quality of eternal life is expressive of something different in that it is life eternal in action from this day out into eternity. The life God plants in His spiritually newborn believer is eternal in character and practical in nature. It is the exertion of the principle of being spiritually alive, the evidence that eternal life resides within you. Paul’s statements in Philippians 3:12ff are his explanation of the quality and character of his present eternal life in Christ. The same character Paul displays is the character every believer is to cultivate with eternity in view.

Paul’s general theme in verses 12–16 is sanctification. Verses 12 through 14 teach that sanctification is pursued by being motivated, being focused, and being determined and disciplined.

Verse 12 states, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.” Paul writes that he has eternal life in quantity. But he also has been fine tuning the quality of the eternal life he has been given by God.

He states that he has more work to be done. He has not yet attained (to receive, take and get) and he is not perfected (complete, meaning to carry through). Yet, he is motivated to press on swiftly so that he can lay hold of (to tackle, to seize down) the purpose for which he was grasped by Christ. He is supremely motivated to fulfill his God-given purpose!

Paul stays focused on the task that lies ahead of him. On one hand, it is interesting that he wrote these words from prison and his situation was severely truncated by chains and loss of freedom of movement. On the other hand, today is his to live for Christ!

In verse 13, we find out that he is not hobbled by his past. There will be no reaching back to failures, regrets, baggage, sins, unbelief, or previous wasted time and breath. Many Christians find their “Achilles’ heel” is their past. They never quite get over their shame. It shuts them down, impedes, and destroys their spiritual effectiveness and resolve. It nags them in conscience and drains the natural vitality of youth-filled eternal life. When you know your sins are confessed, forsaken and forgiven you must yield to (and accept) the working of God’s grace. Get focused on sanctified living. This is Paul’s focus.

Paul did not ignore his failures (reckon is a precise term based on facts rather than suppositions), but rather he viewed them as milestones that displayed his unfinished race and maturing in Christ (apprehended means to completely grasp). Part of his reckoning process was his focusing process. “One thing I do” is a powerful declaration from Paul. His focus was away from those things behind him (forget means to neglect, there is no backward lean with Paul). His focus was toward those things ahead (reaching means to be stretched forward completely and lean forward even more). There is the imagery of a sprinter in the words of Paul. He was running his race of life as if his energies and his body were bent forward to cross the finish line before God in glory. He lived with the focus of a spiritual athlete. His “one thing” was to press evermore forward.

Verse 14 is full of determination and discipline. In the runner’s world, every time a foot hits the ground a stride is being produced, power is expended, and forward motion is initiated. With both feet acting in concert the runner pursues the finish line. Paul stated that he was “bearing down” toward the “distant goal.” Remember, Paul was not a young man at this time. He was not resting on his past victories any more than he was indulging his previous wounds. He still saw the goal as distant, whether it was a few years, a few months, a few days, or a few hours. Sometimes it is the end of the race that matters most. It is then when grit and determination may be most severely tested.

There are many passages which encourage building eternal life character like Paul displayed. One character habit is self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24ff). Another is self-effacing (Acts 20:24). There are traits of courage (Revelation 2:10), perseverance (Hebrews 12:1), and submission to the Father (2 Timothy 2:5). This is the eternal life way to victory firmly planted in daily living (2 Timothy 4:7f).

Paul ended his encouragement to press on with this precious thought: Never lose sight of the One who hands out the awards. There is a prize received at the upward (high, above) call of God in Christ Jesus. Trust and obey.