walter_t._richardson_4.jpgI press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:12-16.

On Dec. 10, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an address entitled “Sleeping through a revolution.”

Speaking in Chicago to a mixed race audience, King said, “God called America to be a great nation. Nobody needs to be poor.

The question is whether the will is there, and up to now I haven’t seen the will.” 

There’s a world out here, an American psych that is sleeping through a negative evolution and evolving economic revolution.  Unemployment, re-engineering, re-structuring, decreased benefits and incomes have affected more than 75 percent of our local population.

These are tough times economically and also psychologically, materially, politically and spiritually. This dilemma of economic disease and other disastrous decaying dynamics is not new. Poverty, dishonesty and violence abound.

These conditions existed when Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians.

Paul wrote from an undisclosed jail cell and suggested that times are tough. He was in jail, but jail was not in him. He decided to move forward with his purpose with a positive attitude. In the words of Dr. Maurice Watson, “He chose to be happy.”

Here Paul was a volunteer pastor of the church that could not financially support his missions. He was not physically appealing. But in spite of his appearance and confinement, nothing affected his assignment. He possessed the right zeal, attitude and perspective to push forward.

Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him.  His perspective of being a “conqueror” made him determined to win – regardless. Paul’s attitude and personality comes through in these verses as he lays out some principles that can help us going forward in 2014.

The first of these principles is: Forget the past.  Paul had a dreadful past and it could have easily haunted him for the rest of his life. He could have walked around all his life with the burden of guilt crippling him, and he would’ve never become the person God intended him to be.

Many people dwell on their past failures and mistakes so much so that they become paralyzed. But Paul is telling us that we can turn our past over to God and start moving “forward to what lies ahead.”

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall. We’ve all failed many times.

We fell down the first time we tried to walk. We probably almost drowned the first time we tried to swim.  Mr. R. H. Macy failed seven times before his New York department store finally caught on. If we have been redeemed by the

Father, He has forgiven all our faults, favored us and freed us.  It is time to forget the past. 

Second, Paul suggested we focus on priorities. He said, “I press toward the mark!”  He introduced that statement by saying “this one thing I do.” Obviously Paul did more than one thing.  He made tents, he preached sermons and wrote books.

But what he is telling us is that his top priority in life was to “press toward the mark.” Paul’s number one priority was the Kingdom of Heaven. He was running straight toward that goal and he wasn’t going to let anything distract him from it.

Don’t let anything deter you from daily reading your Bible and praying, and be determined to be more involved in fellowship and wholesome activities.

In the text mentioned, Paul offered one more principle: Function in the present. He said, “One thing I do!” Notice that Paul did not say, “One thing I will do” or “One thing I’m going to do” or “One thing I will get around to someday.”  He said, “One thing I do.”

Paul was living and acting in the present. Many people try to live in the future.  Do you know what the busiest day in the world is?  It’s not Christmas, it’s not the day after Thanksgiving, it is “Someday.”  Everyone in the world has something scheduled to do “Some day.” You hear people all the time saying, “Some day, I’m going to do this or that.”

The problem is that “some day” is not on any calendar.  I’m sure that we’ve all made plans for “some day,” but the fact is, “some day” will never come. Be like Paul and say, in essence, “I’m not stopping, stuttering, stumping, stooping, stammering, staying, standing, or staring at where I am … I’m moving forward TODAY!”

*Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at Website: