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Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Paul, Philippians 3:13-14

In the previous four posts, we considered these “one thing” passages: one thing I know; one thing is needful; one thing you lack; and one thing I ask. Today, I want to consider Paul’s statement, “one thing I do.” As we begin a new year, perhaps this can help us to focus on the one thing we know, need, lack, and ask!

Last night, tens (maybe hundreds) of millions in Time Square or via TV watched the magic “ball” drop to signal the passage of the clock to midnight. The clock reaches midnight every night of the year, but last night was different. It was the end of one year and beginning of another.

Somehow, people think a new year makes all things new. It doesn’t. A year ago, people were looking forward to a new president’s inauguration to make everything new – but it didn’t.

What do we need to make things radically better?

One of the greatest needs of most people today is to have a sense of purpose and direction for their lives.

Paul had found what so many of us still lack. Though he was in prison when he wrote the words at the head of this page, he focused his heart on “one thing.” His passionate desire to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, to share in the sufferings of Jesus, and to become like him found one thing as their focus: to strain toward winning the prize for which God called him heavenward.

  • God’s call to us is never-ending. He does not simply call us once and leave us to our own devices. He keeps calling us heavenward.
  • When He first touches our hearts with His love shown in the gospel story, He calls us out of a life of sin – that we might move toward heaven. He calls us higher.
  • When we begin to grow in Christ and to struggle with that growth, He is still at our side to call us higher – toward heaven.
  • When we mature in Jesus and are stalwart disciples who are walking in His light, He continues to whisper in our ear, “Come on up, still higher – and nearer to heaven.”
  • Then, when death comes our loving Father comes with it to bring us rejoicing toward our ultimate destination: our home with Him in His own glorious, heavenly presence.

Sometimes I wonder: even in heaven and around His throne, will He still be calling us deeper and deeper into His heart? If so – and I suspect that it is – He will continue to call us heavenward. The heavenward call is to where God is and to the place glowing with His glory and goodness.

Paul’s heart was in synch with God’s call. God’s call gave him his single purpose to live. All he wanted from life was to keep moving closer to heaven and to all those who dwell there. Every thought and imagination of his heart had been brought captive to the will of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4).

Divided loyalties, however, make for divided living. They make us like the man who rushed out of the house, leapt on his horse, and rode off in all directions at once. I wonder if he ever arrived at where he was going – if he even had any idea of just where that was.

David prayed:

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. – Psalm 86:11 [emphasis added – JS]

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. – Matthew 6:22 (KJV)

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. – The same verse (NIV)

The word for single or good is haplous. Thayer says this word refers to something that is “simple, single, (in which there is nothing complicated or confused); without folds, whole; of the eye, good, fulfilling its office, sound” [Emphasis added, JS] Does that sound like your life? Nor mine, either!

When we live with “one thing” as our focus, life is less complicated and confused. We know what we want and where we are going.

This heavenward focus actually draws all of the other “one things” into itself:

  • The one thing we know is the fact of God’s activity in our lives as we encounter Him.
  • The one thing we need is to simplify our lives to follow Him.
  • The one thing we lack is actually to give up all to follow Him.
  • The one thing we ask is to live with God and gaze on His beauty.

Paul himself summarized the one thing he did this way:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)

How did he press on toward heaven? It was by seeking to know Christ, not merely through the knowledge of the head, but of the heart. He wanted to experience Christ in his life. He wanted to share the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the very likeness of Jesus in his own death and subsequent newness of life. This is what it meant for Paul to be pressing on the upward way that leads ever heavenward.

He said he had not attained this yet – but he realized that this is what God had called him to seek.

The very seeking of these things brought him nearer his goal – that is, nearer to heaven by being nearer to Jesus. To seek these things will bring us nearer to heaven as well – and that is the call God gives to all of us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you hear Him calling you heavenward?

Here is an example of good resolutions for the new year. If we would all make similar resolutions – and follow through – we would all be better off this time next year.


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