Too Blessed To Be Stressed – A Summary of Philippians

We just finished our teaching series on Philippians we entitled The Pursuit of Joy. Every book of the Bible is important because each one is inspired by God. Certain books draw us close to God time and again because of their strong encouragement, powerful teaching and practical wisdom. Philippians is one of those books. I hope you enjoyed the series and if you missed any of the sessions, I encourage you to go to http://northstar.cc/thepursuitofjoy/ and listen to the message you missed.

In this devotional I want to give you a summary of the series and of Philippians.

The Apostle Paul had this attitude: “I can’t lose for winning!” I can just hear him, “Heads I win, Tails I win!” Philippians is a book about joy, even though it is estimated that Paul spent at least twenty-five percent of his life in jail.  All that jail time coupled with other well-documented bumps in the road and yet his joy was contagious. I wonder if Paul’s ministry was today, if he would be sporting a “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” t-shirt under his prison overalls. Maybe we should sell those at Northstar.

When you peak behind the curtain of Paul’s life the thing that is easily detected is his laser like focus: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14.

As Paul urges the Philippians to move onward and upward, he does not do so without including himself or giving his personal testimony as inspiration and motivation. Paul gives us some insight as to what we must do to reach our goal. He uses the personal pronoun “I” implying that we must make our relationship with God personal, and the keys or steps for moving onward and upward are in Philippians 3:13, “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 hope that you will gleam from our study of Philippians that each of us who are followers of Jesus have to keep realizing, keep forgetting, and keep reaching.

Keep realizing that we have not yet arrived. Paul lets the Philippians know that no matter what knowledge, skills, or accomplishments or status that he has already accomplished in this life, he considers them all garbage that he may gain Christ. Our accomplishments should not hinder us nor cause us to “get a big head” thinking that we arrived or reached our plateau in life. Nothing should keep us from growing – moving on in Christ.

Keep forgetting those things behind because it is a continual process of not allowing past failures nor achievements to keep us from moving onward and upward. Yes, we remember the past. The process of forgetting means that we are not resting on past laurels neither are we pulled back by the guilt of past failures. Let the past be in the past.

Keep reaching forward to the things which are ahead. We must continue to strive and make every effort to reach for the things that are ahead of us. Keep pursuing a relationship with God. The goal is be more like Him as we read in verse 14 above.

My prayer is that members and regular attenders of Northstar Church will be straining and stretching forward for the upward call of Christ Jesus. And to know the joy that results.

In 2015, Northstar will be working as a church to press toward the same goal. Let us move forward together and be a group of believers that is too blessed to be stressed.

Discussion Questions
1. What is the basic theme of Philippians?
2. How can we receive and experience the peace of God?
3. What has God promised to supply?
4. How is singleness of mind expressed?
5. What are some of the ways that Jesus displayed humility? How many of those do we display?
6. Paul is in prison, potentially facing the death penalty, yet he remains positive and hopeful. Think about a time when you had bad news or a bad experience actually turn out for the good. What happened to change “bad” into “good?”

A Living Prayer Life

We completed The Pursuit of Joy teaching series this week. In this series we have been studying the book of Philippians.  As we pointed out several times in this series, Paul wrote Philippians from prison. It’s a letter written to the church at Philippi and as you read it’s words you can’t help but notice the joy that was evident in Paul’s life and the joy he desires to see in the lives of those he is writing to. In examining some of the keys to Paul’s joy, we noted that one obvious truth was that he was concerned about others and was in the practice of praying on their behalf.

That’s what we see in Philippians 1:3-4:”I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Then there is Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

I want to zero in on one thing in that passage of scripture that is needed in all of our lives as followers of Christ and gives us a great example of the types of requests we can and should make on behalf of each other through prayer.

I want to call your attention back to verse 9. Paul begins by praying that their love would abound still more and more. Paul is not praying for them to start their love. The Philippi church showed their love for Paul by their support of him and his ministry. This was a church that was already doing pretty well. What he was praying for was for their love to grow and overflow, and spill over into the lives of others.

And it wasn’t just their love for others. Paul also wanted them to increase in their love of God. As Christ followers, our goal should be to love God and love people more tomorrow than we do today. To do that it needs to be a daily prayer request. And as long as God has us here on earth there will always be room for us to grow in our love. We will always need more love in our homes and in our churches. I’m thankful for the love that is displayed at Northstar. But, let’s make it our aim to increase our love for God and each other. And, let’s be in prayer for one another that our love will increase more and more and for our church that God will continue to have His hand on our ministries.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is a beautiful example to us of how we should be praying for one another. Do you want to energize your prayer life? Do you want to experience true joy? Follow Paul’s example and pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ that God would be glorified in their lives and in the lives of those far from the heart of God.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are the references to prayer in verse Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.? How is prayer different from supplication? How does thanksgiving fit into making our prayers?
2. How often should we pray? Why is it that God hears our requests?
3. Read Paul’s Prayer for the church (Philippians 1:9-11). Summarize what he prays for. What part of the prayer do you want someone to pray for you? Why?
4. What part of the prayer for contentment is the hardest?

Worrying For A Living

Peace of mind is something that we all want. We all want to be able to rest, to not have to worry, and to feel free to enjoy life, family, friends, work, church, hobbies, entertainment, etc. We want to be able to enjoy ourselves and not be burdened down with worries that rob us of vibrancy, life, and most important, our joy. But what we want and what we get can be two different things.

The solution is to stop worrying. Many have tried. Every time I stop worrying about one thing, something else seems to rise up to tempt me to worry anew. Some people suggest that you can stop worrying just by the exercise of will power. There is only one Alfred E. Newman: “what me worry?” Paul talks about worry in two passages in Philippians 4.

“…I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” – Philippians 4:11. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.. – Philippians 4:6.

I am always drawn to the words “in every situation.” That means there is nothing too small or trivial to bring to Him. Martin Luther once said to, “pray and let God worry.” Everything is small and important to God, so take everything to Him in prayer. Prayer is the expression of our dependence upon his promises. It isn’t necessarily on your knees, or in the closet, but it can be simply that quiet, recognition that you need to lean back upon his grace and strength in everything.

God is not saying we should ask for everything we want. Instead, we’re to ask for everything we need. And what we need is His grace, his strength, insight, wisdom, patience, love and compassion.

So, let our requests be made known to God, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7.

Discussion Questions:
1. What do you tend to worry about most often – money, physical problems, your children? What exceptions do you usually make for your worries? How does this affect your daily walk with God?
2. Is anything wrong if we do worry? How do you know?
3.Turn to Matthew 6:25-34. In this one passage, Jesus exhorts his listeners four times not to worry and uses two examples from nature – birds and lilies – to show that His Father is intimately involved with the world. What does that passage say to you about worry?
4. What are some areas of worry you can take to God this week?
5. List some breakthroughs you have had with worry. Pray and ask God for more success in finding joy.

Contentment And All That Stuff

“The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment,” – Doug Larson

The quest for happiness seems endless. Many people have made it their primary goal in life. In the search for happiness, men and women have indulged every whim, desire, aim, passion, goal, and pleasure. Yet, how many people have found the happiness they seek? Decade after decade, we attempt to uncover the secret of happiness.

Charles Spurgeon said that “it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Somewhere along the way we have equated getting more and then more again with happiness. The commercial and materialistic nature of today’s advertisements reinforce that viewpoint. They have become very adept at convincing the consumer that their product will make the purchaser happy. Or popular. Or cool. I don’t care how much Armani cologne I put on, however, I will never be irresistible to women.

Here’s what I know. From our earliest days, people reinforce and live out the saying we all know to be true: more is never enough. And deep inside we know that the hunt for happiness will never be entirely completed through acquiring more material things and more success. I believe there will always be something lacking when we continue to pursue greater and larger “toys” in an effort to manufacture a sense of purpose, security, well-being, and happiness.

So where does that leave us? Frustrated? Often disappointed? Worried? Lacking joy? But, if you can look past all that you can have, you can be content. The forgiveness He provides for our failures and transgressions gives us a deep and lasting peace, contentment, and happiness. Resting in the security of Jesus allows us to turn our focus away from how much we can accumulate for ourselves and toward how much we can serve Him and further His kingdom.

Paul tells us as much in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Do you really want to know contentment? If so, you must start by making Jesus the ruler of your life. Believe His promises and trust His providence in your life. And when that happens you will begin to enjoy more of the “moments of life.”  You will leave worries about tomorrow with the Lord and you will accept every situation as God’s wise classroom for your growth and development. And when this happens, you will find that in good time or bad, pleasant or painful . .. . you will be content. And when you are content, you will find joy.

Discussion Questions:
1. Examine your “contentment quotient.” Are you satisfied with what you have? Are you growing in your contentment?
2. Do you rob yourself by wishing your life was somehow different?
2. What is the difference between joy and contentment?
4. What is the secret of being content in every circumstance?
5. Meditate on Psalm 4. What verses stand out to you? What does this show you about your own search for contentment?

Learning Contentment

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” – Socrates

Contentment does not come easy for me. Accepting everything in my life, both the good and not so good, as a gift from God, is a slow gradual process. I’m sure that is true of most people. Why? Because for God to be in control of my life, and remain in control no matter where life’s currents may take me, means that I recognize that I have all I need in Jesus.

The question is how can we learn to be content. Paul answers that question in Philippians 4:10-11. ”I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Paul is the model for contentment. There are not many people who would be content with his circumstances. I wish Paul had offered a magic pill for contentment. I wish there were 12 steps to contentment, or Cliff Notes or a class I could enroll in college. But there is not, because contentment must be learned over time.

Nor will contentment come easy, but it will come if we lean on God and work at the lessons God gave to teach us contentment. Paul takes the opportunity to teach by example. The teaching was that he had learned in whatever situation he was in to be content. What a powerful statement. Paul was content in prison and was content amidst all the uncertainly in his life.

There are many examples of those who learned contentment in the Bible. Think of Joseph. He was sold by his brothers, wrongfully imprisoned, and mistreated. He learned that God works all things together for good and was content in his God. Remember Daniel. He was righteous but was taken into captivity by the Babylonians and even thrown into a lion’s den. He affirmed that God rules over all and that all are beneath his sovereign rule.

Do you wish you could say that in any circumstance? The idea is in Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” Paul speaks to this issue in 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Again Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Contentment begins to grow when we learn and then embrace the fact that our greatest asset in this life is our relationship with the Savior. “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Paul could face and know joy in any and every circumstance because of the strength he found in Christ. So can we.

Discussion Questions:
1. Are you content? Would you like to be content? Do not think contentment changes when circumstances change? If you are struggling with health, finances, relationships, employment, etc., do you believe you can be content in those circumstances?
2. Make a mental list of the times that you are content and when you are not. Pray that God will teach you through those life experiences how to be content.
3. Is there someone in your life that has learned contentment in tough times? Ask questions and see what you can learn from them.
4. Above all, be in prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Pray that the Lord through His Spirit will teach you contentment.

Living In The Future Tense

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” ~ Henry Ford

We read these words in Philippians 3:13-14: “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.”

Paul was clearly looking ahead rather than dwelling on the past. But that doesn’t mean that Paul has suddenly developed amnesia in the Roman jail. He clearly understood his past and had not forgotten the man he once was, but he did not let his past discourage him or defeat him. He was determined to press on and to keep running the race. Paul was focused on eternity and what awaited him at the end of his life.

We are accustomed to viewing our lives in the order of “past, present, future.” The Bible suggests we should view time as flowing from the future into the present and then into the past. The believer should be future-oriented, “forgetting what lies behind.”

I often wonder if we realize just how mired down in the here and now we have become. Sometimes it’s dark and scary and you’re fumbling around because you feel like you have lost control allowing all kinds of noise and potholes in our lives. Things like broken relationships, money problems, illnesses, and so on. None of those things will matter in eternity. What will matter is whether we lived lives that were pleasing to God.

Paul’s was completely focused on the future. He was pressing toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul uses the image of a race to describe the Christian life. In verse 12 Paul says, “I press on.” In verse 14 he says, “I press toward the goal.” The idea of the word press is to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after. As you know I enjoy a good run. Pressing when running means that you have to give it a little more gas as you try to reach a certain distance at a certain time, or if you are in a race, when you try to overtake another runner. Basically you are running, not just for the exercise, but with a specific goal and purpose in mind. A runner who keeps his or her “eyes on the prize” will stay on track. Similarly, the runner who makes it to the half-way marker and stops there, saying “I made it!” will usually not finish the race.

You may have started the race a few days or a few weeks ago. Or maybe you started the race a long time ago, but somewhere along the way you stopped running. Perhaps you lost your joy or passion. Perhaps you stumbled and fell, or maybe you just got tired and decided to take a break. If you’re temporarily sitting on the sidelines, I encourage you to get back in the race. There’s a Savior to serve and a prize of an eternity with Him to be won.

Discussion questions:
1. How well are you running the race? Faith is just the beginning of the race we run as Christians. How can we better exercise our faith and put it into practice?
2. Do you run the race with the same passion and commitment as Paul did?
3. How can we start thinking future, present, past rather than the current order of past, present and future?
4. In Philippians 3:13 Paul said “… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, …” What do you think he meant, and how does it relate to our “pressing on toward the goal …”?
4. Pray and ask God for wisdom to help you on what you can do to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?

Don’t Stumble Over Something Behind You

Our history can be our own worst enemy. We let it determine our future. Because of failures in the past we see little hope for the future. We let our past shortcomings determine what we can accomplish in the present and in the future.

The key to life change, however, is forgetting, not remembering. A prime example of that is Joseph in the Old Testament. Consider the life of Joseph. If anyone was a candidate to dwell on the past, it was Joseph. Here is s man who was coddled by his father, pampered as the youngest, and ridiculed and ultimately rejected by his brothers. His eleven brothers stripped him, threw him into a pit, then hauled him out and sold him as a slave in Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph started out pretty good, but then was accused of something he didn’t do and was chained up in some rat-infested prison and completely forgotten for several years.

You would think that Joseph would have some issues and dwell on his past. He didn’t. In all of it, Joseph saw a sovereign God who was at work. He found a better way to deal with his past. He would forget the injustice, trust a wise and sovereign God, and move ahead with his life.

In Genesis 45:8, Joseph looked into the eyes of the brothers who did so much to hurt him and said, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

There is no amount of regret, there is no amount of tears, there is no amount of wishing you could go back and do that part of your life again that will fix things. As Joseph proved, the only way to change things is to move forward. God says through the prophet Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

The only way to move forward is to let go of the past. Remember Philippians 3:13-14: “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.”

Why not ask God for the grace to forget your past? This digging-up-the-past thing is a worldly and unBiblical method for life transformation. True heart change is not about remembering, and it’s not about digging up things that may or may not have even happened. It’s about trusting a sovereign God. It’s about focusing in on my own need to change and saying with the apostle Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal”

Is it important to deal with your past? Absolutely. God doesn’t want us to pretend. He wants us to face our past and to deal with it by focusing on forgiveness, and putting it behind us. God’s plan for your past is that you would honestly assess it and then displace it through forgiveness.

Discussion Questions:
1. Are there parts of my past that still plaque me? What do you need to “forget” so that you may focus on Christ today and tomorrow? How is my past keeping me from living in the present? What will I do this week to refocus pressing onto the future?
2. How can I balance the need to be spiritually content with the call to press forward and never be satisfied? How has God revealed to me the need to grow in various areas of my life? What area of my life is He currently working on? How am I responding?
3. Pray this week for God’s help on focusing on that which really matters? This week, how will my life be different?

Work in Progress

The definition of perfection is the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects, the act of making something that can’t be improved. I think we would all like to obtain a level of perfection in something, whether in our work, or sports, in our attitude or in our relationships. The problem is we are flawed. And while we may be highly successful in one of those areas, we are not God, so perfection is an unattainable goal.

Another definition of perfection in the dictionary is “the act or process of perfecting.”

It doesn’t say perfect or a deadline to be perfect. It is a process. As Christians we should be striving to be perfect knowing we will never get there. But that’s not the point. What is more important is that we are making progress. It is easy to shy away from doing things rather than be average or even poor at doing them. What Paul is telling us in Philippians 3 is that we need to get out there and get started on furthering God’s kingdom even though we may will fall short occasionally on the way. Progress is the goal and progress can be slow incremental steps. When we try too hard to be perfect, to get it right, we usually get it wrong. We sometimes try too hard to get it right rather than simply trusting God to guide us along the way.

So just keep moving forward, baby steps or long strides. Keep improving and keep progressing. That is what God wants. God wants our best but he knows it is flawed. If you are ever going to become the person you know you can be, you must learn to accept the fact that failure will be an ever-present part of the process. But even failure often leads to progress.

The Holy Spirit also enables us to commit to the process of moving toward a destination. Running has taught me that when you focus on the progression, the great majority of the time you reach your destination. Many people love getting to the destination, but few do the hard work of progressing toward the end goal. And believe me there have been times when I have stumbled and bumbled my way a few blocks more than the last time. Still, it is progress.

So as you begin this new week, focus on progress and on the things you need to work on to get better. If you encounter setbacks and failures along the way, don’t be discouraged, but take comfort in knowing that what you are experiencing isn’t a bad sign, but simply part of the process.

Discussion questions:
1. Can we become perfect in this world? If it’s not possible, what was Paul shooting for?
2. How does Philippians 1:6, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” give you confidence to continue making progress?
3. Do you think making progress is better than not performing or even trying?
4. Philippians 3:14 says “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” How would your life look different if you pressed toward the call of God in Christ Jesus?
5. Set aside time this week to sit down with your Bible with no distractions. Evaluate your spiritual progress. Make/keep your plan simple. Track your progress. Keep your eyes on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Idol Fascination

If I told the average person on the street that they serve “idols” they would conjure up images of ancient Rome or Babylon bowing before huge statues of gold, silver or bronze. But you don’t have to have a time machine to see idols in our everyday lives. They are present in our lives today. They might not be bad things, they could even be seen as good and noble things, but if they step between us and God they are idols.

For some people work may be our idol because it brings self-satisfaction, a reason for living. For some people family becomes the most important thing in life. For some it’s what they own. Homes are no longer a place to eat, sleep and get away for rest and reflection on one’s life. The have become statements about the value of one’s life. In some places they have become oversized, highly decorated monuments to the self. We all appreciate creature comforts but how much room does one actually need. And naturally we need a lot of stuff to fill the home. In some cases we have too much stuff. A whole industry has arisen around our need to store our stuff. Some people find their worth in their religion. Going to church and participating in some ministry or service to others, placing a high emphasis on good deeds makes their life seem successful.

A good job, a supportive family and network of friends, a nice place to live with all the trimmings, and a faith community, a church to belong to are all vitally important. I have them all and I thank God for blessing me with those things, but they cannot be what gives me purpose and define my life. As Paul said in Philippians 3, I must count them as loss because of what Jesus has done for me. My life must be defined by my relationship to Jesus. Everything that comes between me and Jesus is an idol to some degree and must be dealt with. Paul says we should seek the loss of all things to know Christ Jesus. I am not saying we all should go out and have some coordinated, giant Northstar garage sale to sell all of our stuff and and live like hermits. What I am saying is that these things cannot control our lives.

Paul said he learned to be content in all things because they come and go, except for one: Jesus and our relationship to Him is for all eternity.

Discussion questions:
1. Have you limited God to the way you like to think about Him?
2. What do you want more than anything else? Holiness? Godliness? Contentment?
3. What do you sacrifice the most to?
4. How can you fight for a life free from idols?
5. Pray for an idol-free life and an idol-free church.

The Perfect Resume?

Most of us have slaved over a resume at one time or another.  It is one sheet upon which you inform a potential employer about all your good qualities in an effort to distinguish your work and experience from the other hundreds of resumes. A resume is your way of introducing yourself, and giving that potential employer a chance to determine if they want to get to know you any better.

In Philippians 3, Paul presents us with his religious resume. And what a resume it was. Paul has bragging rights. If it’s ethnicity, family background, education, denominational affiliation, or accomplishments – I don’t care what criteria you wish to judge by – Paul has it in his resume. Paul has all the right stuff.

Yet, Paul looks over his religious resume – his bloodline, his knowledge of Hebrew, his learning, his commitment, his enthusiasm, his adherence to every jot and tittle of the law – and says that compared to life in Jesus Christ, all of those things, are rubbish. Rubbish? Really? It makes one wonder about my accomplishments and achievements reflected on my resume. Doesn’t it?

In Paul’s day, many people confused their religious resume with faith in God. Their resume was built on an individual’s accomplishments rather than on what God had done in, through, and for them. That is still true of us today. People ask us about our faith and we talk about affiliation and accomplishments. And no wonder.

We’re told to be productive, to make a name for ourselves, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We’re told to harness the power of positive thinking, to tap the secret deep inside ourselves, to be self-made people. We are self-made, on our own, and completely self-sufficient. The problem with focusing inward and cataloging my accomplishments is that, after awhile, I actually begin to believe my own hype, and I begin to think that I’m all that and more.

Then, Paul reminds us of where our priorities are. You think you’re something? You think your accomplishments are something to be proud of? You think it’s all about you? Turns out it’s all about having a relationship with Christ. It’s bigger than me. It’s about my values, and my attitudes, and my behaviors being shaped by Jesus Christ. It really has nothing to do with what people think of us, or if we’re keeping up the right religious appearances. At the end of the day, none of it matters. My accomplishments and affiliations are nothing more than rubbish.

I know that sounds so counter intuitive to what society tells us, but in reality this is good news. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I don’t have to be Mega Christian. I can be myself, someone with the same doubts and fears and shortcomings as anyone else in the room. I realize that everything does not rise and fall on my own personal accomplishments, because I am part of something greater than myself. I am part of Christ, I am connected to His body, and this is now the greatest and most important thing going on in my life.

So take the first steps or continued steps to sacrifice your ego on the altar of God. If you are one who has worked on being a self-made Christian by trying to beef up your religious resume, consider Paul’s message to press on even more diligently in winning the prize, which is a life with Jesus.

Questions:
1. What is Paul’s number one priority? What is our number one priority?
2. What does he consider rubbish in comparison to knowing Jesus?
3. Are there things you put in front of God? What would you be willing to give up in order to know Him better?
4. Who do you know that seems to put Jesus first? How can you tell?