Day 13 – Peaceful Straining? – 2023

Day 13 – Peaceful Straining? – 2023

“…but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal…” 

Philippians 3:13-14

Read Philippians 3:12-16 

The concept “straining forward” does not evoke intimacy, love or beauty. In our culture, it connotes hard work for achievement, status or wealth, or struggle for improved conditions amid oppression. Amid modern culture wars, straining forward may even entail winning battles we see as existential threats, whatever “side” we find ourselves on. Sadly, this is not peace. 

Yet words have different meanings. “To know” can mean to master solid facts and defensible theories to manage my world or win my battles, but it can also mean an ongoing participatory process of unfolding understanding and deepening appreciation, such as how I might know my wife, my son or a good friend. 

Given that Paul has been laying down all his achievements (Philippians 3:5-8) and admits having not grasped anything completely (3:13), we should seek alternatives for what it means to “strain” towards God in Jesus (3:14). David Bentley Hart, following Gregory of Nyssa, suggests Paul is speaking of “stretching out”—the soul’s condition of participation in the infinite beauty of God. This reflects our deepest desire, always first towards God, as we stretch out to him whom we can never know fully, but always more intimately, finding our very being in his life, growing in virtue and forming us in Christ’s likeness. 

Rather than straining to win in our dominating culture, our weary world rejoices in stretching out to find peace in our deepening relationship with God. 

God, form in us a commitment to know you in an intimate, lively, relationship of participation that transcends our seizing upon knowledge to be used for achievement or against one another. 

Advent Devotions
Adam A. Ghali, Ph.D.

Adam A. Ghali, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *