Strain reminds me of an uncomfortable situation when I’m on my bed and cannot reach something, so I lie flat on my stomach and strain to reach whatever is just beyond my arm-span.
While this may not be a great example of what Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes as “to stretch to maximum extension” and more of my laziness, when Paul wrote the book of Philippians he would have completely understood my reference.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it (righteousness) my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God is Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us…our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” [Philippians 3:12-4:1]
I absolutely love that Paul begins this section clarifying that he is no better than his audience. Sometimes I am nervous people (you know ALL those people in the world carefully picking apart my blogs word by word) will think I am some “high and mighty” Christian, when if fact I am very much the opposite. I am learning, and have learned I need the gospel as much as everyone else. I am no better.
The next choice word I adore is strain. This infers his audience, and especially himself, have been through a whole lot in their lives. He wants to bring hope. Push a little further guys. You can do it. Don’t turn around and look at the past. Transformation is coming.
The first million times – or so – I read these verses, I was thinking, “Wow, Paul, you are so incredibly encouraging! Thanks, pal!” Somewhere in my encouragement session my view was changed. This isn’t Paul; this is yet another example of the Lord’s pursuit of His people. God knows that final stretch is difficult, uncomfortable, and maybe painful. He knows everyone needed a little pick-me-up and reminder of the goodness to come.
My junior year of college begins tomorrow at 9:30am. I have my books, I have my planner and I’m ready….not. Instead, I’m thinking – seriously? Another two years of classes even BEFORE grad school? I need to strain and extend to the max. Giving up isn’t an option now, so tonight I was able to get a little kick in the butt. And with that, I was comforted. God didn’t just think, “Eh, she’ll be fine.” No, He said “Just keep trucking along, you’re doing great! You’re still in progress!”
Feeling comforted, I am able to rest my head with my backpack filled and my clothes laid out. I am ready.