Philippians was one of Paul’s prison letters and was the last known letter of Paul’s before he died. We’re not positive that Paul died by persecution but there is a good chance that he did while imprisoned in Rome. Paul’s intensity in this letter indicates that he may have had an idea that his end was near. That context makes our theme verse for this year all the more important. If Paul really knew that he was about to die, the intensity of his following statement seems especially appropriate.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14 ESV). The word that Paul uses for forgetting means to neglect something. In a very real sense, he is intentionally neglecting the past in order to “pursue” the future. Paul is straining toward (stretching, exerting himself) to what lies ahead. He presses on (pursues or hunts down) toward the goal.
As we begin a new year with a new theme, we Christians should really straining toward the same goal. If we are complacent we are comfortable. If we are comfortable we are not setting other goals to keep us focused on the goal. Nobody can do it for us. We each have to take ownership in our faith and how we are going to put that into action. Let this be a year of straining toward the goal of our upward call.