One of the dangers Paul speaks about in Phil.3:12-16 is resting in past achievements.
(Philippians 3:12 ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Philippians 3:13 ESV) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:14 ESV) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:15 ESV) Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
(Philippians 3:16 ESV) Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
I must admit that right after I accepted Christ as Savior I had a problem moving past the bad things that I had done or those things that had been done to me. It took years for me to accept the fact that God had completely forgiven me and freed me from my past failures. And it took years as a believe for me to truly forgive those whom had hurt me.
My successes and accomplishments as a believer also became an issue, but it took longer for me to realize this. One of my drawbacks was getting sidetracked over past accomplishments and achievements. These can cause us to put confidence in the flesh, (our body, our experiences, our intellect). Paul stated that he had not attained (or captured) all the things that he was captured for, therefore he forgets past failures and accomplishments in order to press forward. What a great goal, “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Although Paul was not with them physically he encouraged the Philippian believers to continue to make progress in their faith. This means there was a way to measure it. Paul explains what this spiritual progress looks like.
We have hundreds of years of church history exalting our heroes. But true Christian maturity and doing great things in God are not limited to the special few, but to any who press forward. The illumination of the “deep things” in God’s Word is not for the chosen few, but to any who will press forward.
The “yo-yo” up and down daily walk of many believers is not supposed to be the normal Christian life of joy and peace. Paul gives us the example of a Christian life that is lived out of a steady patient practice of Biblical disciplines until they become our own familiar character traits. In case there might be some misunderstanding here, I want to clarify that this is not just an outward change alone producing a religious type of fake life mirroring a Pharisee. It is an outward conduct that comes from an inward change of the heart towards God’s love and a sense of service to Him and the saints and finding the joy of the Lord in doing it.
Paul did not tell us to do something that he himself had not done. He knew how to be content in whatever state he found himself. He knew how to rejoice in all situations and live a joyful Christian life even while sitting in prison facing death. (See Phil.1:12-18).
Philippians 1:12-18 ESV (12) I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, (13) so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (14) And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (15) Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. (16) The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. (17) The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. (18) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
Paul told us to mark those who have a good testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ and then use them as an example to follow.
Philippians 3:17 ESV Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 4:9 ESV What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.