Did you learn to write using the sandwich strategy?
Although I’m sure Saul of Tarsus didn’t know this strategy, he did follow the pattern in the famous passage found in Philippians 3:12-14:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, 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.
In his introduction and conclusion, Paul gives us a thesis. In between, we find supporting points. This particular word-sandwich is meaty substance for faith-living. The wisdom Paul packs into this passage is a substantial feast for us! Especially as we set goals and make resolutions.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Paul had a clear purpose for all that he did, and he derived that purpose from Christ. In fact, by striving to take hold of the very thing Jesus chose him for, Paul makes it clear that God has chosen you and I for a purpose too.
Jesus took hold of us for a reason, and that should be our reason for being.
The Not Yet
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”
We’ve got work to do to God’s glory every day we’re alive. As we set out to accomplish His purposes, we need to know that there’s going to be a “next” and “more” asked of us.
As we achieve many goals, the Goal is going to last until we’re with Jesus and perfected in Him.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
Have you ever thought about what Paul left behind to follow Jesus? He had been a high-ranking, well-known man. His reputation, his life work, his community, even (in a sense) his religion, had to be left to strain ahead toward Christ.
We should expect that pursuing God’s purposes will involve leaving and losing, not just gaining.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize.”
Add the previous verse’s “strain” to this verse’s “press on” and the point is clear.
Reaching a goal requires persistence and perseverance.
“…for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Rounding out the sandwich-style wisdom, we are reminded of what needs to encompass our purposes. All the pressing on, all the leaving behind, all the not-yet of pursuing a goal is for a reason.
Our reason is ultimately Jesus, and our goal-setting is done best with Him as our focus.
May we be full with this wisdom in this season of change-seeking and resolution-keeping!
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