I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on . . . (v.12).
Recently, my wife and I had the privilege of speaking on the topic of Loving One Another at a marriage retreat. Attendees included couples of all ages—those who had been married just a year to a “golden” duo who had spent 50 years together. That couple, Joe and Arlene, blessed the younger couples as they transparently revealed some of the struggles they had experienced in their marriage. They candidly acknowledged their imperfections but also stated that they had chosen to cling to God and their vows as they went through rocky times together.
Speaking the truth, letting people see some of our “warts,” can be greatly encouraging to other believers in Jesus. Even super-apostle Paul admitted that he was no Superman! He wrote, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12). Paul’s relationships were also a bit rocky at times, including famous falling-out episodes with Barnabas (Acts 15:38) and Peter (Galatians 2:11).
By God’s wisdom, the Bible is full of accounts of those who knew God but still had feet of clay . . . those who were far from perfect. You and I should live our faith by being honest about our failures and struggles. And, when appropriate, we should communicate these things to help encourage and build up other believers. We can plainly state that we “have not achieved [perfection], but [we] . . . press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13).
As we open up, we show that our confidence isn’t in our own “human effort” (v.3) but in the righteousness of Jesus (v.9).
The Psalms are full of real, raw words of personal fear, pain, and failure. Read a few right now and consider how you’re encouraged by the honesty and transparency found in what David and others wrote.
How can you use your past failures and challenges to bless and encourage others? What kinds of failure are not helpful to share?