In the first part of this article, we considered why we sometimes need to forget the past, when it holds us back from doing more in the future. Let’s take a look at Paul’s words to the believers in Philippi, again:
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:13-14 NLT
Here’s a second thing that I see in this passage: The Future is worth looking towards. That is, there are still greater things that await us, as we look To the Future.
For one thing, Paul looked forward to an ultimate blessing in Heaven. That will be better than any of us can imagine. (Go ahead, try to picture for a moment how great Heaven might be. Got the image in your mind? Nope, being in the presence of God will be even better than that!)
And, we see that there is a “prize” awaiting Paul. While Heaven will be far greater than those “26.2” stickers awarded to those who finish a marathon, the idea of something waiting for us if we can make it to the finish line can be extremely motivating. (I’m certainly glad that Jesus didn’t all call us to be actual runners of a physical marathon, though!)
In the same way, knowing that something good is waiting for us is true even outside of foot races. Whether it’s a hot meal when we get home on a cold day (even if it will come from the microwave), or a loved one expecting us at the end of a long trip, there is a reason to finish the journey…even if only to get through it and move on to what comes afterwards.
For what it’s worth, I also believe that our rewards in Heaven won’t just be “participation ribbons”, where each of us receives some sort of heavenly condominium that looks like everyone else’s. Instead, I suspect that God will have specific blessings prepared for each believer who gets home, and being in His glory will supersede any joy that we can find on earth.
However, the remainder of God’s plan for us doesn’t start when our broken bodies finally die, and our spirit moves into a new, imperishable body. There is a role into which each of us can step, while we yet follow Jesus on this earth. You might not become a superstar in the eyes of the global Christian community (although you might – that’s up to God), but you can make a difference. Whether you are young, old, or in-between, the days that God leaves you here on earth aren’t an accident or a mistake. Take it from Paul (and many other believers, including myself), some of those days may be long, cold, and/or painful. Still, days lived for Jesus Christ are not wasted, no matter how long it may take before their purpose becomes clear.
As a matter of perspective, I’m not expecting any of us to look so far ahead that we miss out on the immediate future. God’s long-term plans for us started before we were born, and continue to – and through – today. At the risk of sounding like an inspirational fridge magnet: Today is the first day of the future, where we can invest in God’s plan for us.
Finishing strong takes a lot of work, and – let’s be honest – we’re going to get weary sometimes, as our bodies wear out and the effects of persecution take their toll on our hearts. Living for Jesus is a worthwhile investment, though, and I encourage you to embrace that. Fuel up with the strength that comes from God, strap on the right equipment (perhaps the armor of God, even?), and take on the challenges of today in Jesus’ name. To the Future!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.