“Instead, I am single-minded”: Learning from Paul’s Focus on Jesus

This is a bit shorter than most of the Bible Study posts I share on Saturdays. I’ve been working on a study of James and it’s just not ready yet (an understatement, since I’m guessing I’ve only written about 1/3 of it so far). So for today, I want to share some thoughts about yet another scripture that relates to that double-minded study that we started back in January and which I wrote more about in May when my scripture writing group at church was writing out double-minded scriptures. Here’s the scripture:

Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways.

Philippians 3:12-15, NET

There are only two or three (depending on the translation) scriptures that directly talk about double-mindedness. Similarly, there aren’t many that talk about the opposite: single-mindedness. Once again, how often “single-minded” appears (if at all) depends on translation. The NET version of Philippians 3:13 is one that does talk about being single-minded, though a footnote on that verse says a more literal translation of the Greek phrase here is “But this one thing (I do).”

As you might know if you’ve been reading for a while, I love Philippians 3 (you can click here to read a whole post on it). This is where Paul shares his thoughts on following Jesus. He talks about everything he gave up and the terrible things he as suffered since his conversion, and boldly proclaims that it was all worth it because following Jesus is worth so, so much more than anything he lost.

But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-11, NET

Paul’s wording here stirs something in me every time I read it. What a high level of commitment and engagement, and what an expression of love and joy! This is one passage I go to if I’m feeling discouraged or if I ever catch myself wondering if this way of life is worth it. Paul went through a lot more severe trials than I have, and he thought following Christ was well worth any suffering or loss. More than that, Paul was eager to keep going and to know Christ more deeply. For him, even suffering could be a joyful thing because it was shared with Christ. Though “single-minded” might not be a direct translation of the Greek words Paul used in verse 13, it is an accurate representation of his level of focus. Let’s look at those verses one more time.

Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways.

Philippians 3:12-15, NET

Here, Paul calls on all who are “perfect” to share his single-minded focus on God. He wants us to “embrace this point of view” or, in other words, to “have this mind” that’s wholly focused on God (Phil. 3:15, NKJV). This is something we can all work on even if we don’t feel “perfect.” The really encouraging thing about how the Bible talks about people who are “perfect” is that God applies that title to anyone who is on the path toward perfection. For example, God describes Job as “perfect” at the beginning of the book, before Job grows and deepens his relationship with God during the course of the story. As long as we’re trying to become perfect and following God with our whole hearts, souls, and minds then He considers us “perfect.”

Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained. Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.

Philippians 3:16-17, NET

Today, let’s follow Paul’s example of being single-minded in following God. There are so many ways we can distract ourselves in today’s world but one thing is worth focusing on more than all the other stuff. Rather than letting ourselves excessively dwell on things that aren’t nearly as important as our relationship with God, let’s have the same mind that Paul models and be whole-hearted in our devotion to God.

One thought on ““Instead, I am single-minded”: Learning from Paul’s Focus on Jesus

  • “Rather than letting ourselves excessively dwell on things that aren’t nearly as important as our relationship with God, let’s have the same mind that Paul models and be whole-hearted in our devotion to God.”

    THIS needs to be put on billboards (metaphorically speaking) at Christmas time to combat all the consumerism snares…(that’s partially biting sarcasm, partially me being serious). But that last line really resonated with me. Thank you for this study–what a great way to start a Saturday. God bless.

    PS–Ordered a copy of the Beatitudes study. Should be getting here soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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