Paul wrote about this amazing gift when he said, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already become perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (NIV, Philippians 3:12).
If we follow Christ, we know that we did not apprehend him first.
It was Jesus Christ who, first, apprehended us.
What does apprehend mean? There are two central meanings. Most may picture when a criminal is apprehended and arrested for an alleged crime. However, in the case of this Scripture, apprehend means something far different. To apprehend someone is to understand, to comprehend, to grasp, to discern, to recognize and appreciate.
Jesus Christ by his holy power and holy love, understood, grasped, recognized and appreciated us. Then, with his outstretched, far-reaching arms, Jesus took hold of us. Why? To draw us heavenward.
We can’t forget that.
But we do sometimes, don’t we?
Our lives become filled with work, chores, family issues and responsibilities, and other pressing concerns that before we even realize it, our eyes are focused securely on earthbound things. We are blind to Godly pursuits. We are deaf to the voice of God. We are insensitive to the physical needs of those around us. We savor the benefits of a comfortable life, rather than the taste of discomfort. We prefer the aroma of good, clean living rather than the smell of poverty and want.
Jesus didn’t come to this earth to help us gain its offerings.
Jesus came to earth to call us to look beyond its offerings. He took hold of us to draw us up; not down.
Paul exhorts us to do the same knowing that it is a life long pursuit. “Brothers, 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. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (NIV, Philippians 3:13-14).
We are asked to forget the past and present things and not become comfortable, complacent and content with the measures of grace and mercy we’ve been given. Rather, we are prompted to keep reaching and stretching and living for more of God’s grace, love and mercies as we fix our eyes on Christ and heavenly pursuits.
Are we reaching for Christ?
Are we stretching out for Him?
Are we living with our eyes fixed squarely upon the heavenward prize for which we have been called?
Jesus once told a crowd of people, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (NIV, Mark 8:34-36).
We cannot claim to be followers of Christ, if we choose not to follow Him out of our comfortable and complacent life.
We don’t have to be perfect in our pursuit. Paul wasn’t. However, that imperfection didn’t stop him from his obedient and faithful efforts. He gave things up; a lifestyle, a career, a belief system and more to follow and pursue his Savior. He stretched himself towards Christ and towards eternity to not only know Christ for himself but for encouraging others in his sphere of influence to do the same. For Paul, this pursuit was worth everything he had to offer.
Jesus recognized, appreciated and loved us enough to apprehend us for eternity. Will we, like Paul, press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us?
It’s a question I ask myself even as a missionary. True, we’ve left our family, our friends, and our homeland to follow Christ. However, that doesn’t mean we will be here forever. One day, maybe soon, maybe years from now, we’ll be asked to follow Christ to another place. It is my prayer that we will be ready and willing to press into that pursuit when the time comes; whenever that next time of stretching comes. For me, I want to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me…wherever it takes me.