“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14
Some of you knew my Dad and Grandpa. They were kind, selfless men who were amiable and generous to anyone and everyone around them. They weren’t just that way out in public, they were that way at home too, but they were also very focused when it came to getting a day’s work done. They could be a little harsh with their intensity on occasion, but even in their harshness, they were teaching us to be better men. One phrase that I can recall hearing on several occasions was, “Keep your butt behind you!”
What does it mean to keep your butt behind you?
As a youth, I never fully understood what that phrase had to do with using particular tools or welding or any of the hundreds of other physical tasks that we were taught, but they did make me pause, listen to their instruction and learn how to do things right. I accomplished those tasks because I kept my butt behind me. So, what does it mean? In essence, it means to stop trying to rush ahead and force things to happen. In the case of using tools, that meant allowing the tool to work the way it was meant to work.
“Keep your butt behind you” is a call to steadfastness of purpose.
The main issue involved in keeping my butt behind me as a boy had to do with a youthful tendency to not focus on the task at hand. Physically, it was learning to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground and staying in a steady position with a solid foundation underneath me. A beloved football coach used to have a similar term that he used, “Keep your pins under you!” In both cases, the focus was on keeping a strong base underneath me. Those lessons reach far beyond ranch work and football.
Focusing on the Upward Call
The apostle Paul is giving us a similar word of guidance in Philippians 3:12-14. In essence, he said, “I’m not perfect, but I keep trying. I haven’t learned or understood everything, but I keep seeking.” In spite of the fact that he wasn’t perfect, Paul knew where to keep his focus. He kept it “on the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He knew that his foundation was found in keeping things behind him in their place and moving forward toward the prize ahead of him. Hebrews 12:1 & 2 echo what Paul wrote:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus is our greatest example
The writer of Hebrews reflects the steadfastness of Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. In spite of what He endured, Jesus didn’t look behind Him, didn’t glance to the right or to the left, but remained singularly focused on doing the work that was before Him. He had all of the power of God in Him. He could have swept over the earth conquering the whole world, but that would not have accomplished His purpose. Jesus kept His butt behind Him. He held fast to His foundation and focused on His work.
Christians are struggling
All across the world, Christians are struggling in various forms. I have spoken to many individuals who are struggling with their faith as they face numerous difficulties. I have gone through some pretty tough struggles myself. Though these things are not uncommon, I believe that I’m seeing a pattern taking place. Our struggles have to do with balancing out what we see going on in our chaotic world and what to do with our faith.
Christians are being called out
I believe that Christians are being called out by God. When I use the term “called out,” I mean it in two ways. One of them is that we are feeling the labor pains that were prophesied and we’re being led toward going home. The other is best described by the showdown scene of a Western movie, “I’m callin’ you out!” That meaning is in order to prepare us for whatever we must endure ahead of us. In essence, Jesus is asking us to show what we’re made of; He’s asking us to find our foundation and set our feet firmly upon it.
Christians need to keep their butts behind them
The examples and exhortations that we have from Jesus and from the scriptures tell us to stand fast in our faith. Joshua made a similar call to the Israelites in Joshua 24:15, “choose ye this day whom you will serve.” The days of playing church and playing at religion are falling away. We ought to be praising God for that, because it will get rid of the crap that weighs us down and ensnares us. We need to lay those things aside and focus on the UPWARD CALL.