When I walked the Camino in Northern Spain, I knew how vital the yellow signposts were to stay on the trail, especially in the remote and rugged terrain or new areas of exploration I experienced. However, sometimes the markers- arrows- were hard to find, and I often thought I made a wrong turn.
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
These yellow arrows kept me safe and focused on the trail. The arrows were markers that allowed me to enjoy my pilgrimage without the fear of getting lost and potentially spending hours or days in a detour.
Sadly, many die on the Camino each year because they fail to follow the yellow arrow, they go off track and over a mountain cliff somewhere.
Likewise, the apostle Paul gave us some signposts that mark the spiritual journey stages, which usually correspond to specific spiritual, emotional, and psychological experiences. We come to some of the most passionate and personal words that Paul wrote to the Philippians. who was concerned with their life’s and spiritual journey
He wrote these words to his beloved brothers and sisters in a Roman prison cell far away from them. It’s as if their spiritual well-being—and even the eternal joy they would experience in heaven—depended on them believing and entirely doing what he is about to say.
Starting at Philippians 3:17, we read these words:
17 Brothers and sisters, follow my example and observe those who live by the pattern we gave you. 18 For there are many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, who live as enemies of the cross of Christ [rejecting and opposing His way of salvation], 19 whose fate is destruction, whose God is their belly [their worldly appetite, their sensuality, their vanity], and whose glory is in their shame—who focus their mind on earthly and temporal things. 20 But [we are different because] our citizenship is in heaven. And from there we eagerly await [the coming of] the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself, will [not only] transform [but completely refashion] our earthly bodies so that they will be like His glorious resurrected body.
Think of Excellence
4 Therefore, my [a]fellow believers, whom I love and long for, my delight and crown [my wreath of victory], in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Paul speaks here of those who live by God’s pattern. Paul’s analogies using ‘the PATTERN’ for the Christian life because calling it a “pattern takes things out of the realm of theory and places them into the realm of real-life practice, sureness, and stability.
Paul is letting us know that God—in His great mercy to us—has not left us to figure out how to live the Christian life on our own. There is a particular pattern to follow, and if we follow it, we won’t get lost in the maze of life.
Instead, Jesus has ‘arrows on the floor’ of life for us through His word.
It’s our job to live the pattern following the instructions as He has laid out for us in the Scriptures. That’s how we are to put our Christian life into practical, everyday action—by a faithful ‘walk’ according to God’s instructions. They lead us to the ‘feast’ He has prepared for us at the end.
Now, Paul was very concerned that his brothers and sisters faithfully lived according to the pattern of the Christian life. So, in Philippians 3, he lets them know that some would seek to pull them away by diverting their attention away from the sufficiency of what Jesus did for them on the cross; and who would seek instead to get them to try to earn God’s favour through conformity to religious rituals and rules and regulations.
In Philippians 3:9, he set himself up as an example of confident trust in Christ; and showed them that he sought to “be found in Him, not having my righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
But this didn’t mean that he was passive about putting his Christian life into action. Even though he was far from where he should be, he diligently sought to live out—in actual practice—the righteousness that God had given him by faith in Jesus. In verses Philippians 3:12-16, he wrote;
Philippians 3:12-16 New Life Version
12 I do not say that I have received this or have already become perfect. But I keep making that life my own as Christ Jesus made me His own. 13 No, Christian brothers, I do not have that life yet. But I do one thing. I forget everything behind me and look forward to what is ahead of me. 14 My eyes are on the crown. I want to win the race and get the crown of God’s call from heaven through Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are full-grown Christians should think this way. If you do not think this way, God will show you. 16 So let us keep on obeying the same truth we have already been following
CAREFUL WHO’S PATTERN YOU IMITATE
Paul begins by saying, follow my example . . .” Literally, the idea is that others were following his example; and he was encouraging the Philippians to do the same.
Let’s not misunderstand Pauls’ motives here- this was not simply because Paul wanted to place himself up on a pedestal and be thought of by everyone as the ultimate example.
Of course, many think that he was the most outstanding example of a Christian who ever lived! It’s clear that God gave Paul to us and sets the example to live the Christian life in action.
Paul, more than any other sinner who ever walked the earth—sought so diligently to follow the pattern of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he put it this way; “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He wants us to pattern ourselves on Christ – to imitate Christ.
It won’t be long before we have reached our journey’s end – so, let’s be diligent in following the pattern in the way we should. Let’s follow the arrows God has laid out for us in His word.
As Paul would tell us, let’s be careful to imitate the examples of those who genuinely imitate Christ and ‘walk the walk’ themselves.
Let’s be on guard against those who would lead us astray from that walk.
Let’s keep our focus on heaven—where our true homeland is—rather than on the things of earth.
And when the pressures rise against us, let’s be sure to “stand fast” in our faith to the very end!
What would Paul say?
If Paul could speak to us today- he would say, I am a sinner just like you. I was a greater sinner than anyone else could be. But even though I admit that I have not yet arrived at perfection in the way I live for the Lord Jesus, I am earnestly pressing on. I am seeking—with all my being—to follow the example that the Lord Jesus Christ set for us when He walked upon this earth. So, just like a child would look up to the example of their godly father, or just like a youngster would look up to the example of a godly older brother, you look up to me and follow my example by going in my footsteps.
I’m laying down a safe and reliable pattern for you to follow. So look carefully at my footsteps and follow me!” It’s as he said in Philippians 4:9, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Jesus our Pattern
Jesus has set the initial pattern for us, and Paul followed that pattern faithfully- and encourages us to do the same!
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Paula Rose has a Bachelor of Pastoral Counselling and Theology, Vision Christian University, USA
Master of Arts In Counselling & Professional Development, specializing in Spiritual Abuse The University of Derby, UK.
BACP Life Coaching Course, Bristol, UK
A life member of (ISFP) The International Society of Female Professionals.
Paula Rose Parish is an author, and the founder, of Hope. Faith. Love. She studied at the University of Derby and received a Master of Arts in Counselling in Professional Development.
Over the years Paula Rose has served as a pastor, chaplain, counselor, coach and taught at Christian university, led workshops and retreats, and spoken worldwide on Christian spirituality. Author of over 100 articles and two books, Paula Rose continues to write on the spiritual life. Paula Rose is adding a string to her bow and is presently reading Health and Wellness. She has four grown children, five grandchildren, and lives in South Wales, UK.
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Paula Rose is a Wellness Coach Ordained Minister, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, Course Creator, Published Author and has a Master of Arts in Counselling. and many other qualifications and a lifetime so, I have heaps to share with you.
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