‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14 KJV).
I find it essential to periodically re-evaluate my life to keep a fresh perspective in life and ministry. Given that I am no longer in full-time ministry I have ventured outside many predetermined thought patterns and discovered for myself major paradigm shifts in my thinking. This has been a great exercise!
The key questions raised from latest re-evaluation focused me, to look for what was important to God in spiritual leaders and how God measured success in their lives. The findings were revealing, the perspective life-changing. What was important and valued was their ultimate testimony. It took me on a journey, well actually more than one, all at the same time, that revealed where God actively worked in their lives.
The first journey is inward. It was their redemptive journey of transformation, conforming their character into Christ’s likeness. This was their interior design, God’s work in them. ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10 CEV).
The second journey is outward. It was God’s missiological journey through them to other people. Their unique life purpose and destiny. As we consider our life design – gifts, life message, calling, and vision, God uniquely uses us to fulfil His eternal purposes, through us. ‘We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you’ (2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).
The third and most important journey is upward to God – it was their journey of knowing God. The Christian life is described as “the high calling,” ‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14 KJV).
In this context the prize is the full and complete gaining of Christ, for whose sake everything else Paul had counted loss. The high calling is specific and stands alone, there is presented a ‘prize’ to those (in Him) who attain. Being as it is ‘in Christ Jesus’, it cannot be obtained outside of Christ, His nature and mind. Paul is referring to God’s act of calling to salvation, the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s greatest rewards was to know God, and to be in perfect fellowship with, the one who had apprehended him on the Damascus road. This is the prize Paul wants his readers also to grasp. As mentioned in my last blog, Paul is passionate about this Person, his call was first and dominantly to a Person, and then to a mission. He had a Heavenward calling to a Person who had given him an earthly mission.
The other two journeys are only understood from participation in our upward journey. The closer we are to God, the more aware we are of our immense reliance on God’s Spirit to shape and renew us, form us, and infuse us so that we are entirely God’s. This participation has a beginning—but it does not have an ending.
Through my own experience, God has removed my dependence on my reputation, accomplishments, position and title. I now have no visible ministry to people. God had to strip all that away if He were going to use me for His glory. But I have gained so much. I live my life now from the perspective of my one desire of knowing God and drawing closer and closer to God every day. I can pray as David did:
‘I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his House, finding the sweet loveliness of his face; filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that He takes pleasure in my every prayer. In His shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me, for he hides me there in his holiness. He has smuggled me into his secret place Where I’m kept safe and secure’ (Psalm 27:5-6 TPT)
Very few of us have had an encounter with Jesus as Paul did on the Damascus road, or have received such a clear call to ministry. Paul recognised that Jesus had taken hold of him for a purpose, a purpose he was committed and determined to pursue. We also, as believers, have been taken hold of by Jesus Christ, and we have a purpose. God’s purpose for us starts when we ‘count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege … of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8 AMP).