Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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. (verses 12-14)
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
That old hymn has been with me ever since I was a kid. It comes to mind now. As Paul runs the race, pressing forward, he chooses to forget what lies behind, not leaning on any of it, but instead leaning fully into Jesus – to “wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
For Paul, what lay behind was all the accomplishment and status he had achieved in his prior life, including his exemplary heritage (“of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews,” Philippians 3:5) and his absolute devotion to the strictures of Pharisaism. All this together gave him many “reasons to put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:4). These were the things he had previously leaned upon, the “sweetest frames”that propped up his life – he had trusted they would be strong enough to see him securely into the Kingdom of God.
But now he puts all of it behind, putting it out of mind, counting it all a loss – so much“garbage” – in order to be found in Christ alone. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
Even now, in his new life in Christ, he might well have been tempted to rest on his laurels, rather than on Christ himself. And oh, did Paul have laurels! He had been used so powerfully in the mission of the gospel, seeing multitudes come to faith in Jesus, churches planted, nations impacted. He truly knew the reality of “the power of (Christ’s) resurrection and participation in his sufferings.” He might have been tempted to lean on all of it.
But humbly, and realistically, he acknowledges he hasn’t yet obtained the fullness that flows from knowing Christ, he hasn’t yet taken hold of the prize – I have “not already been made perfect,” he says. Oh, he knows that “he who began a good work in (him) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Yes – the end of the story is sure! But he’s still on the journey. He hasn’t yet arrived. Nor is he the one who will complete the work – no, all of that is in the Lord’s hands.
So, he presses on, eager “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” That statement captures it all. Paul engages all his energy in the pursuit, but he knows it’s not ultimately up to him. It’s all dependent on Jesus, who has already – firmly, powerfully, wonderfully – taken hold of him. The burning image from the Damascus Road, arrested by Jesus, would come to mind again. He knew it was all a result of Christ’s love. And now, Christ’s love compels him. He runs the race, but as he runs, he trusts fully in Jesus.
“I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
What am I leaning on? If it’s anything of my own past accomplishments, or faith-filled heritage, or degree of faithfulness, or spiritual experiences, it could never be strong enough. If I’m leaning into my current spiritual temperature (how successfully I’m battling temptation, or how much time I’m spending in the scripture, or how devoted I am to ministry and service), it’s a frame that could never support my weight. Or, if I look at myself and despair, finding, truly, there is nothing but inadequacy, then I am setting my sights in the wrong direction.
Rather, I will look beyond myself. I must. I want to have eyes on Jesus only. I choose to lean into him alone – forever – trusting his sure grip, as I am carried heavenward by his call.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
O Lord Jesus, I trust in you only. Strengthen my legs for the race, always in you.
Reflect: Is your confidence in anything other than Jesus? Name it. Put it in his hands. Wholly lean on Jesus’ name.