Last week we posted “It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish the race” that matters. (If you missed it or would like to re-read it, click here.) Today we want to continue in that “race” theme by looking at three verses in Philippians in which the Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race, forgetting what is behind and straining for what is ahead. Let’s jump right in and look at Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) –
“(12) 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. (13) No, dear brother and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus, is calling us.”
Verse 12 talks about attitude. Paul realizes that his Christian conversion helped him to re-prioritize his life. It gave him a new assessment of his goals and an overwhelming desire to know Jesus more fully. Paul He knows he must continue to pursue the plan God has laid out for him. Paul knows that it is not himself who supplies the resources to “press on,” but rather it will be Jesus who supplies those resources.
In verse 13 the emphasis is on focus. Again, Paul does not claim to have obtained his final goal – a full knowledge of Jesus and conformity to Him. The “one thing” he talks about is his passion for living the Christian life. Running a race involves the relentless centering of our focus and energy on the course ahead of us. It involves effort; every fiber of our being focused on becoming more like Jesus. Forgetting does not mean wiping his past from his memory but a conscious effort to not allow it to absorb his attention and slow his progress.
And finally, in verse 14, we are called to stretch. Paul compares the Christian life to pressing on in the race and stretching for the finish line. “Pressing on” is not easy and requires getting out of your comfort zone. This prize is not simply eternal life, but it is also complete knowledge of Christ. It is dying to that self-centered life that is natural to all of us and our willingness to press on in living, and sharing, our new Christ-centered life.
The Christian life is not easy. It is difficult to have the right attitude, to stay focused, and to keep stretching (pressing on) when most of our culture pushes us in another direction. It is very hard to have, and keep, Jesus in every aspect of our lives.
So, right now, either for the first time, or the umpteenth time, ask Jesus to be the center of your life, submit fully to Him, and then don’t look back, and commit to not just running the race, but running it to win!
New Bern, North Carolina