I was watching some kids on the challenge course yesterday when I heard the phrase that’s been echoing through my thoughts for the last few days:
“Point of no return.”
point of no return
Now, I don’t know about you, but that phrase doesn’t elicit happy thoughts on my part. It’s kind of one of those idioms I use to indicate that my control over a situation has been lost and the only way forward is out of my control. and.i.don’t.like.it.at.all
But when I was watching those kids I could see it, that moment when if they really want to go forward and summit the wall then they have to risk leaving the safety of the ground. See the ground was safe while they were on it and maybe a bit as they experimented with propelling themselves up and over the wall. But at some point (that point of no return) the ground isn’t safe any more. It would be riskier to fall down, you could hurt yourself or your spotters. See, you come to that point where the only place for them to be is to push through the struggle, conquer their fears and continue over the wall.
I sat there and watched person after person get over that wall. The process looked different each time. Some made it in one attempt, others took a few. But they conquered the wall and left the ground.
We read in Philippians 3 this week at staff devotions. A very familiar passage, no doubt; yet God’s voice spoke clearly through the Word. Remember these verses?
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
What a rally cry this section of scripture can be as we face the struggles and trials of life! We can take great encouragement as we see that even Paul did not have it all together, that his life was a continued journey to grow. We can be instructed by the Spirit in our walk with the Lord to persevere and focus on that which is most important.
Many people have hidden this particular section of the Bible in their heart, memorizing the words to guard their heart and guide their daily living. I’m one of them. But there are times when we take verses in isolation for so long we lose the beauty of the context. And this one is so rich.
‘Cause, see here, Paul was setting the stage right before these verses. The context he gave was not how I often use these verses. See, I pull out these verses in times of struggle. Times when things are hard, really hard. Times when I don’t ever feel like I’m going to make it. Times I wish I was not experiencing.
But Paul… he leads into Philippians 3:12-14 from a different place, from a place of strength, from a position of honor, from a lineage of security, from a life of renown, from a perspective of faithfulness. Verses 4-6 lay out for us the man that Paul had been, “a Hebrew of Hebrews…” he had it all.
” 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
Oh my word, just let that sit for a bit. Paul, listing all his honor, coming from all his worthiness, he says he counts it all as loss. Why? the NLT puts it this way, “7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” All Paul’s accomplishments, his list of faithful living, his zeal for the Lord was nothing compared to knowing Christ.
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
We come to that point of no return when we come to know that for God to work sanctification in us we can no longer rely upon our own strength, our righteousness. As good as our list can be it cannot provide what we need.
Just like those kids working to summit the wall: they had to work with the goal in mind, leave the ground, choose to look forward and not fall back on the safety of the ground below. The point of no return… “a point at which an irreversible commitment must be made to an action, progression.” The point of no return… “a point in a journey at which, if one continues, supplies will be insufficient for a return to the starting place.”
Our point of no return is found in verse 13-14, “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.”
When what we desire is Christ, then that irreversible commitment recognizes we do not have what is needed to make it on our own. No, that point of no return shows us that to face the future is not just to give up a bad past, not just to give up our struggles, not just give up our trials… the point of no return with Christ gives up our strengths, gives up our efforts, gives up our own attempts at righteousness.
The campers had to leave the safety of the ground if they wanted to summit the wall. What do you need to leave to allow Christ’s sanctifying work in your life today? What strongholds do you hold tight that keep you from the amazing grace of God at work in you?
God open our eyes to the wonders of your loving kindness. Lord, help us to be brave, brave enough to trust in you and lean not on our own understanding and strength. As we face the strongholds you call us to leave, the self-made securities we’ve built, may we see them all as loss compared with the infinite value of knowing you as Lord. Amen.