Holding Fast to What We Have Attained
One of my very favorite Bible verses that I pray over myself and very often pray over other people is Philippians 3:10.
“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”
It goes on to say in verses 11-16
“…that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 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. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true (or remember) to what we have attained.”
Let’s pay attention to verse 16, “…only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
The things we are supposed to forget are our failures throughout our Christian experience, but what we are to remember is how the Lord has worked in each and every situation we have experienced. We are to remember His faithfulness.
Romans 8:28 KJV says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
I like how The Passion Translation version says this verse: “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we have been called to fulfill His designed purpose.”
There is a verse in a song that I really like right now that says:
“Let Him turn it in your favor
Watch Him work it for your good
He’s not done with what He’s started
He’s not done until it’s good.”
(From Fear is Not My Future)
If you remember in the story of creation, God wasn’t finished until He said it all was good. This is the way our God does things.
I want to go back to Philippians 3:16, and in the NLT it says it this way: “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”
The Pulpit Commentary on Philippians 3:16 says “Let us, at each point in our Christian course, maintain and walk according to that degree of grace at which we arrived.”
A Bible commentator that I really love to read after, Alexander MacLaren, said this in his commentary about this verse: “If we honestly and conscientiously observe our present attainments, we shall get light as we journey. Let us live and be what we know we ought to be, and we shall know better what we ought to be at the next moment.”
Let me take you to the story of Jesus and the disciples in Mark 8:14-21. Jesus had just miraculously fed 4000 people, the Pharisees had just been trying to argue with Him, so Jesus left them and got into a boat with His disciples and began to sail away. While they were all in the boat, the Bible says this:
Mark 8:14-21 ESV
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Jesus asked His disciples “Do you not remember? Do you not yet understand?” In effect He was saying to His disciples “You are not holding true to what you have attained.” You are not holding on to the progress you have already made in trusting Me by seeing My faithfulness.”
Holding true to what we have attained means we both remember and understand the ways of God from our experiences with the faithfulness of God. Holding on to the progress we have made to this point is the foundation for further growth, and further freedom.
The disciples had a choice in that moment. We also will have a choice to make in those kinds of moments.
Our challenging circumstances can bring up thoughts and feelings that draw us away from what progress we have gained from past experiences of God’s
involvement with our lives. We might feel intimidated, worried that we somehow won’t make it this time.
In that moment, will we remember God’s faithfulness in the past or will we allow anxious thoughts to cause us to wonder whether or not God will help us this time? The Disciples had seen Jesus do multiple miracles, but they forgot to remember those things and instead gave in to worry.
In 2 Peter 1:12-15 (NLT) the apostle Peter says “Therefore, I will always remind you about these things- even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live. For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life, so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone.”
Peter knew that consistently putting yourself in remembrance of what God has spoken to us through His Word and through that still small voice in our spirits, that the Holy Spirit would help us always remember God’s faithfulness to His Word when we need it.
This is not just busy work, but the important work of holding on to the progress we have already made.
A minister that I like to listen to has said that he keeps a notebook of prophecies that he has been given concerning his life and ministry. One time while he was very ill, he just kept reading those prophecies to remind himself about what God had said about his future. He was encouraging himself in the Lord just as King David did in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.
In this passage, the Amalekites had taken all the women and children captive, burned Ziklag where they all had camped, and David’s men were so distraught that they considered stoning David.
But here’s what King David did in the middle of all he was facing—he reminded himself of the things he himself had already attained before the disaster at Ziklag happened. He reminded himself of the progress he had made in his relationship with his God.
Here are five points from a lesson by a minister named Blevins Welder that could have possibly been what David reminded himself of. I am adding my own commentary to his points.
1. David reminded himself of the Lord’s presence – We know the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us.
Remember times in the past where His presence was very real to you. We do not always feel His tangible presence, but our feelings are not indicators of His constant presence.
There have been two times in my life where God’s presence was extremely tangible, both occurring while in a time of private worship – once in my home and once while driving by myself on a mountain road.
As I was singing, God’s tangible presence came suddenly and overwhelmed me. I had to stop the car on the mountain road because I was crying and shaking, and it was not safe to continue driving.
All I wanted to do in both moments was to give up anything and everything that could possibly come between God and me. Nearness to Him was the absolute only thing that mattered to me, and I was completely willing to let go of it all just to have all of Him.
I remind myself of those two times whenever fear, doubt, or self-pity try to pull me away from Him. Just the memory of those two times remind me of how wonderful His presence is, and how I do not want anything to hinder our relationship or to come between our unity.
2. David reminded himself of the Lord’s protection – No man takes us out of God’s hand. Our times are in His hands according to Psalm 31:15. Remember times in the past or even in the present when you saw how God has and continues to protect you.
Many of us have stories of how God supernaturally protected us. It is helpful to write down every time you have an experience of His protection so you can read and remember later what He did for you. Testimonies inspire our faith and reading your own personal testimonies is a great way to inspire yourself to continue to have faith.
I am a great believer in the power of journaling, of having a notebook, and writing in it every day. Last year I went on a two week “sabbatical” in the mountains of Colorado, and I journaled every day of the things the Lord was revealing to me. I have really been blessed to read what I wrote during those two weeks and it helps me remember what He said. It is a strong encouragement to not forget what I have gained from my intense time with Him.
3. David reminded himself of God’s provisions – When we seek first God’s Kingdom, Jesus said everything we need would be added.
Remember the times of provision from the hand of the Lord to you. The psalmist said, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25 NKJV).
I have never forgotten a phrase that Thiago Garcia said in his prayer over a meal from my first visit to Brazil. He said, “We recognize this as Your provision.” I now say this phrase often.
Take the time to recognize God’s provision in the smallest things, and the understanding of His faithfulness toward you will grow. When we remember what He has done, it will give us confidence for what He will do in the future.
4. David reminded himself of the Lord’s promises – We always want to remember that God is not a man that He should lie.
We hold firmly to that truth as we read His word and experience His love toward us through His promises, even though sometimes the manifestation doesn’t look like what we were expecting.
Just because you experience struggles and challenges does not mean you do not have enough faith. It just means you do not live in Heaven yet.
In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 2 Timothy 3:12 says “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Your circumstances never determine whether or not God is keeping His promises to you. We can ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding so we are able to see what He is doing. Then we can know, indeed, that He is keeping His promises to us.
5. David reminded himself of the Lord’s perspective – We remember the story of 2 Kings 6 when Elisha’s servant saw one perspective—that the armies of the Syrians were surrounding them, and things did not look good. They were outnumbered. Elisha saw another perspective—he saw Heaven’s perspective which was that he and his servant were surrounded by many angels.
The Lord’s perspective of every situation we encounter often is different than at least our initial perspective. But as we remind ourselves that God is for us and not against us, we get untangled from what things look like to us and ask the Lord, “How do you see this Lord? And how do You want me to see this?”
Two questions I often ask the Lord is “What do You want me to know, and what do You want me to let go of?” Often, I need to let go of my perspective of a situation and learn what His perspective is.
So, I want to encourage you to hold true to what you have attained in your life with the Lord, to remember the victories, the answers to prayers, how the Lord has led you through difficult circumstances. Then, in remembering, you can have a sturdy hope and a faith that won’t fail you as you live each new day, full of His new mercies.