In Philippians 3:10, Paul articulates a three-fold prayer that ought to shape the heart of every believer: “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (CSB). This verse has been an inner compass for me for many years now — constantly realigning my heart to what truly matters.
Goal 1: To know Christ.
Goal 2: To walk daily in resurrection power.
Goal 3: To gladly embrace gospel-pain.
As is the case with all noble goals and worthy quests, we should not expect smooth sailing. On the road to each of these Spirit-powered pursuits lies a formidable, fleshly enemy. A demonic distraction. A believable lie.
Enemy 1: Busyness.
Enemy 2: Self-reliance.
Enemy 3: Worldly comfort.
What these enemies of the gospel all share in common is subtlety. On the surface they seem harmless enough, perhaps even virtuous. But like the sirens to Odysseus, they are nothing more than monsters posing as beauties, under whom lie countless shipwrecked lives that thought they were sailing toward success.
Whether we are just beginning the race of faith or have the finish line in sight, may an awareness of these three enemies focus our eyes and an appropriation of these three prayers power our stride as we press on toward the goal.
1. MY GOAL IS TO KNOW HIM
In his book ‘True Spirituality,’ Francis Schaeffer describes the Christian life as “being cast up into moment-by-moment communion, personal communion, with God himself.” It is this sense of longing to behold the God-who-is-there that soaked the life of David:
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you” (Psalm 63:1).
That is what Paul is getting at when he says, “My goal is to know Him.” And yet it is disastrously possible to be busy doing things for Jesus, in proximity to Jesus, and yet never really know Jesus (Matt 7:23). Case in point: Judas.
We need to be wary of a spiritual busyness that works and sweats and serves but does not abide. Luke 10:40, in which Jesus tenderly rebukes Martha for “being distracted with much serving,” should be blazoned on the eyeballs of every one of us who have a knack for getting-things-done-for-Jesus.
This is particularly important for us who regularly preach and teach God’s Word. One of the most common yet concealed tragedies of our time, is the countless number of pastors who labor in the kitchen of God’s Word, preparing spiritual meals for others, while slowly starving in their own souls. To approach God’s Word only functionally for our sermons, but not relationally for our souls, is a type of spiritual anorexia. Pastor, ‘Sola Scriptura’ is of little benefit as our creed, if it is not also our diet.
A pastor-friend of mine recently said to me, “I want to preach as a man who has not merely been to seminary; but as a man who has sat still in the presence of Jesus.“ Let’s join him, and by the Spirit’s power say “no” to any rhythm that propels us into busyness for Jesus at the expense of abiding in Jesus.
2. MY GOAL IS TO WALK DAILY IN RESURRECTION POWER
Paul was constantly praying for power. So should we. The New Testament is clear that the normal, non-weird, non-optional Christianity known by the multilingual genius from Tarsus, was one marked not by mere talk, but by power (1 Cor 4:20).
- Power to share the gospel (Acts 4:33),
- power for ministry (Col 1:28),
- power to abound in hope (Rom 15:13),
- power for our spiritual growth (2 Cor 3:18),
- power to press on in endurance (Col 1:11),
- power to share in suffering for the gospel (2 Tim 1:8),
- power to deal with demonic spirits (Luke 10:17),
- power to face any circumstance in life (Phil 4:11-13),
- power to comprehend the atomic reality of our present union with Christ (Eph 3:16-17)
In light of the biblical scope of our need, self-reliance —that great virtue of Western individualism — makes no sense at all. It is a deadly and subtle form of pride that flows out of delusions of our talent or impatience with God’s timing. Self-reliance corks the flow of God’s gracious power in our lives (James 4:6).
We are far too quick to throw together a golden calf, built with the hands of our own cleverness, instead of waiting on what can only come from the hand of God. The simple fact is that we often do not know resurrection power in our daily reality, because we often do not seek it.
Perhaps for many of us, the greatest indicator of pride in our hearts is not the presence of boasting, but the absence of prayer. Relying on our giftedness for God’s mission is like trying to circle the globe in a glider. It might fly for a while. But, predictably, it is going to crash.
I have to constantly ask myself: Does the way I approach my week reveal a prayerful awareness of, and dependence on, the power of the Holy Spirit?
Prayer is God’s sovereignly appointed means of connecting our never-ending neediness to God’s never-ending power. Corrie Ten Boom said it well, “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”
By the Spirit’s power, let’s say “no” to trusting in our own cleverness.
3. MY GOAL IS TO GLADLY EMBRACE GOSPEL-PAIN
One of the most admirable things about Paul is that he never seems to be surprised by suffering. None of us like pain, nor should we go looking for quarrels and conflict (2 Timothy 2:24). But neither should we be surprised when we encounter it. Each of us needs to know that pain is as normal to the Christian life as gravity is to our earthly reality; it keeps our feet on the ground.
None of us are immune to drifting off course or experiencing gospel-amnesia: worldly comfort has a powerful gravitational pull. It only takes a little bit of success to be seduced by it. To stop taking risks and to start looking inward. To become satisfied and settle for playing it safe.
By the Spirit’s power, let’s say ‘no’ to a decision-making framework that is driven by our surrounding culture’s idolatry of comfort instead of the cross. What if we weren’t shocked by discomfort in our lives? What if we embraced our low position of being “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” (1 Cor 4:13), because we’re totally secure in our eternal position (Eph 2:6)? Well, we might just finally quit posturing altogether and become the best foot-washers in the room.
If the gospel is true; if Christ is on the throne; if the same Spirit that raised him from the grave is really with you and in you and empowering you, then your resources for fulfilling your ministry outnumber your problems in ministry by infinitude. In Christ, you are loaded. You have more spiritual power available to you, than you have spiritual problems coming at you, no matter how difficult the present day may seem.