A Discouraging Week; An Encouraging Verse

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

-Philippians 3:12

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This week discouraged me. In the wake of the shooting in Orlando, a lot of strong opinions were thrown around, mostly about who and/or what is “the problem.” In one way or another, I’ve read: “IS is the problem; police are the problem; Islam is the problem; Christianity is the problem; religion is the problem; homophobes are the problem; the LGBT community is the problem; assault rifles are the problem; gun-control activists are the problem; gun-rights activists are the problem; President Obama is the problem; Donald Trump is the problem; Hilary Clinton is the problem; Eric Metaxas is the problem; prayer is the problem; the media is the problem.” Also, anyone who says any of these things is the problem is the problem.

My problem is: I end up partially convinced by most of these arguments, and at this point, I’m ultimately convinced that we have a lot of problems. That makes me feel discouraged. That makes me not want to try. If this week was devastating for you, I don’t mean to tell you what to do, least of all “cheer up.” However, if “discouraging” is a better description of your week, because of where you are or what your life is like, perhaps Philippians 3:12 can encourage your spirit as it encouraged mine.

After describing how exciting, rewarding, and satisfying the Christian life can be, Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” These three short clauses speak three truths I need today:

  1. We’re far from perfect (and that’s no surprise to God)
  2. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep reaching for godliness
  3. Nor does it change the fact that God has reached out for us and made us His own

Much of what we read pushes us to either hubris or despair. Some voices say, “You can chin up, because you’re not the problem, ____ is the problem.” That’s mistaken and encourages us to trample over others. Some voices say, “There’s no hope, because you have too many problems.” That’s mistaken and discourages us from doing anything at all.

Christ says, “I’ve gone down and defeated the root of problem, and I’m ready, willing, and able to restore you and others through you.” That lifts my spirit but also gives me good reason to focus on not trampling over others; it inspires me to do more but reminds me that I can only do it in Christ.

Not that I have already obtained all this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it 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 in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

-Philippians 2:12-16

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