By, Branden Kunath
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I had the opportunity to attend the Men’s Legacy Programs in both California and Texas this month. The time I was able to share with those Warriors really highlighted the need for all of us to press forward through life’s challenges, to not give up, and to finish the race.
Anyone familiar with military or para-military training would understand marching or running cadence. Cadence is defined as the measure of rhythmical motion, or in simple terms: keeping in step. Calling cadence trains and fosters esprit de corps, communication, and discipline. It moves large groups of individuals in a controlled, organized manner, from where they are to where they need to be. When done correctly, it can truly be an incredible sight to see. If you have ever watched the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The precise timing of very complex moves takes hours upon hours of practice, and the slightest miscalculation can throw everyone off. Calling cadence while marching or running also encourages the members of that platoon or squad as force marches and runs can be tiresome, and everyone must press forward. There are hundreds of songs sung or yelled with each branch of service adding their service’s spin to make it apply to them specifically.
I recall one cadence used while serving as a United States Marine called, “Get on Back Home.” The song’s theme is that the Marine is homesick and needs reminding that he or she is now a part of something much more significant. “Ain’t no sense in looking down, ain’t no sense in looking back…” are a few lines from the cadence call. Those of you that are familiar with it are probably singing it in your head now. “Press forward, press the attack” are often used to get people to keep moving forward. After all, it makes sense why it’s unhelpful and potentially dangerous to think about what you left behind.
The Apostle Paul has something to say about that, and I am thankful that we can go to scripture to find truth and hope. Regret, or the thought of making a mistake, is an extraordinary emotional feeling. Regret can rob us of any progress made, stealing our hope. I firmly believe Satan uses regret as a primary weapon in the spiritual battle we are all in. The enemy will use our regret to grow doubt and challenge our thoughts and feelings, deceiving us. Paul writes in Philippians 3 that we can find righteousness through our faith in Jesus Christ. Warnings and encouragement are found throughout the chapter. In verses 7-11, the Apostle Paul tells us that any “gain” before coming to know Christ, Paul could count as a loss. Anything gained since surrendering to Christ is not of Paul’s doing or righteousness, but only a result of faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul understood that as long as he was still breathing, God had a purpose for him, and just because he knew and believed in Jesus, he wasn’t done. Throughout Paul’s epistles, he spoke to himself just as much as those he was writing to. We can never graduate from the Gospel and must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, just as we are to share it with others.
Reading through Philippians 3:12-14, Paul makes it clear that we do not become perfect, that there is still work to do, that he still needs to cross the finish line, and that the same applies to all those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Verbs like press, taken, and straining demonstrate action-like responses.
Paul had plenty of reasons to regret his past and nothing close to an easy life after his encounter with Jesus during his travels to Damascus. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and his life constantly threatened, and the terrible things he had done before knowing Christ, yet none of that was as bad as not knowing Christ. While we don’t need to experience all of those hardships, or even any of them, it does lead me to believe that it is impossible to live a Christ-like life passively and still gain as if we need only to check a box, and everything will be good to go.
We are made new when we have an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old has passed away, and we can bank on every wrong and sinful thing we have ever done being forgiven (1 John 1:9). While God can remember our sins no more, the idea of us forgetting is near impossible. I often say that it’s not that I don’t forget; it’s just that I choose to remember it differently. Regardless of what it is or was, we can’t look back at the past, as it can’t be changed and does nothing beneficial for us. We must focus on what lies ahead of us, keeping our eyes and focus forward on the prize as Paul teaches us. As anyone expects a no-quit mentality in the military, 1st Responder, and sports team communities, Christians must take hold of that too and draw strength from the Holy Spirit and scripture. Be in God’s word, prayer, and fellowship with others as dying daily to ourselves and picking up our cross will not be easy; it will be worth it! We can engrain Philippians 3: 12-14 in our hearts and minds as a new cadence that encourages us to get from where we are to where we need to be.
To learn more about Mighty Oaks and our programs please visit: mightyoaksprograms.org/veteran-programs/