How can a person overcome worry? Worry or anxiety, as described to us in Scripture, is a way of thinking that causes inner turmoil, indecisiveness, insecurity, and emotional and mental bondage. The Bible also tells us that it can be overcome. I want to focus on one aspect of overcoming worry, and that is to keep moving onward. Worry can stop us from living a productive or even meaningful life. By the grace of God, that can change.
The Apostle Paul said, "Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14).
The heart of this passage of Scripture is "I press on" which is found in verses 12 and 14. The "goal" (skopos in Greek) is a mark a runner would focus on while running a long distance race. Our goal is Christ-likeness. It is a life-long race. Paul was saying, "I focus intently on the goal." We will not fully realize it until we cross the finish line and enter into the presence of Christ in heaven.
In our journey on this earth, we are designed to grow spiritually and become more and more like Christ. It is the "one thing" that was Paul's focus and should be ours as well. It implies working continually on a single-minded devotion to Christ. If we are devoted to Christ, who explicitly told us not to worry but to trust Him, we will grow more like Him.
How does this work in "real life"? Paul said the first thing is to forget what lies behind. This enables us to maintain our main focus which is Christ-likeness. It does not mean that we can blot out our past from our memories. Paul remembered his past as a Pharisee and persecutor of the church and even incorporated that as part of his Christian testimony. Forgetting what lies behind means we are to live in such that way that we do not allow the past to influence and dominate the present. We put the past where it belongs-in the past. We cannot live yesterday's successes today nor can we live under the burden of yesterday's failures. We cannot live tomorrow's opportunities today. We can live for Christ and walk by faith today. When that happens, each new day becomes the first day of the rest of our lives.
Paul's strategy for continually doing the one thing was forgetting what was behind and reaching or stretching out toward what was ahead. He was continually pressing on toward the goal. In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, "No one after putting his hand to plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." It is this kind of focused commitment that keeps us moving forward and away from worry.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the editor of The Baptist Courier, the official newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
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