The Philippian Letter: Chapter 3


This is our third lesson from the book of Philippians, and we’re going to be looking at goals in the context of chapter 3. What aims do you have? Where do you want to go in this life? What plan do you have to meet those goals; how do you measure success; what steps will you follow? What feelings and motivations drive you to those goals? When we set goals, we can either set ourselves up for failure or success based on the answers to these questions.

In our spiritual lives, we must have goals that are measurable and actionable. We have to be prepared for the challenges and pitfalls we might face. We must be motivated to reach for those goals, or we might let them slip away from us. We might lose sight and begin to drift. What are your goals for spiritual growth? For church attendance? For benevolence? For encouragement? For teaching?

A Goal of Christ

Already in this letter to the Philippians, Paul has spoken of a goal to walk worthy of Christ. What does that look like? This chapter begins with rejoicing. Walking with Christ is a glad thing, even when we face challenges for our faith, as Paul points out in the next couple of verses. He is aware, and wants us to be aware, of the obstacles in the way of running toward Christ. If we know what obstacles lie ahead, we can be all the more prepared to avoid them.

Paul begins by pointing out where he came from and how proud his heritage had been — a Pharisee among Pharisees, flawless by the law of Moses, zealous to protect his faith. This is a man who had goals and pursued them with energy and enthusiasm, but then his whole life perspective changed. He started pursuing new goals, but he did so with the same zeal with which he pursued his former passions. His new goal is to know his Savior and the power of the resurrection, so that he too can be resurrected one day.

Looking Forward, Not Back

Starting in verse 12, Paul acknowledges that he had not yet reached his goal, but he keeps it in his sight at all times. He has laid aside his former life in favor of his new goal. He has forgotten his past failures so they may not weigh him down and drain his endurance. Reaching forward is hard to do when the past is holding us back. Therefore, what do you and I need to let go so we can move forward? What steps do we have to take to move forward with direction and purpose?

Nothing in this world will survive to the next, so we should not be too eager to hold on to the things of this life. Paul tells us our citizenship is in Heaven. This world is but a journey, so we should keep home in our sights, guiding us in the right direction. Where we place our focus is where we will run, either toward God or away from Him. Let us follow Paul’s example, leave our past behind us, identify and overcome the obstacles of this world, actively live like Christ, and press forward toward our home.

lesson by Mike Mahoney

Yielding to the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

Spirit living means we let the Spirit guide our attitudes and conduct in every part of our lives. Self-control, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, meekness,and gentleness — these qualities comprise that fruit we bear when we live by Him. This puts our God, our Savior, and His Spirit deep in my heart, guiding everything. I yield myself completely over to Him.

Changing Focus

This Spirit living does not take all challenges from our lives, but it does guide to set better goals, make better choices, and have better motivations in this life. This type of living also lets us give control over to our God, to stop worrying over the things of this life and lay them at the feet of our Lord. John 3:1-8 speaks of being born again in the Spirit. When we’re born again, that means we are a new person in Him.

When we live by the Spirit, our focus is above. That is how we obtain that peace that passes understanding. Psalm 118:8-9 reminds us it’s better to trust on the Lord than anyone else, and II Corinthians 5:6-7 speaks of our living by faith rather than sight. When we are focused on things above, He becomes our true guide. Then we give all over to Him, and He gives us peace and hope in return.

A Better Perspective

When we are looking beyond this world and its troubles, then we can keep our challenges in better perspective. Whatever our challenges, God is bigger. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust God with all of our heart and to stop leaning on our own reasoning. We need to be willing to allow God to direct us, in joy and sorrow, in peace and trials, in everything. We know He works for the good of those who love Him, and this comes by yielding to Him.

Galatians 5:16-18 records Paul’s desire to walk in the Spirit, and he describes a struggle between our flesh and the Spirit. We have to make a conscientious choice to live by the Spirit and to live by faith and love. It’s a civil war within our own minds, but we can overcome with God’s help. He can lift us above the chains of this life and deliver us to spiritual freedom.

Living for God makes it easier to make better choices in this life. Living for God helps us distance ourselves from sin. It’s not about making lists. Rather, this is a way of life. It is a transformation from one way of living to something completely new. Through Him, we have a power within us that can help us reach new levels of peace and hope, but we have to put that power to use through Spirit living. When we yield to His Spirit, we’re restored. We overcome. We’re made free in Christ. We’re made new.

lesson by Mark Ritter