Philippians 3:12-16 | "12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.""
Today we will be considering Philippian chapter 3, verses 12 through 16, Running to Win the Prize Which is Christ. Hear the Word of God. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Paul likes to use the metaphor of a runner or runners in a race with respect to describing the Christian life and that’s what he’s doing here. And I think we’re all familiar with how runners -- athletes who are runners -- train. They’re very focused on winning -- I’m crossing the finish line first -- they want to win the prize. Everything they do is geared toward their best possible performance: their dietary regimen, their training routine, their coaching. They need to focus in order to run the race well and to finish. They train and run in order to win the prize, and that’s what we have here. Paul is saying, ‘we must run the race and run it well as if running to win the prize,’ and that’s what we’re going to look at today.
The first main point is this: In our lives as Christians we are to picture ourselves as runners whose whole being is completely focused on the goal and that is the goal of winning the prize, which is Christ Himself. Look at verse 13 and verse 14, “Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own” -- which is the resurrection -- “but one thing that I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Listen to what Paul is doing here. He’s saying, first of all, he’s forgetting what lies behind. In the immediate context of what came before this, we saw last time, it was Paul’s past accomplishments and his personal history. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, a great Pharisee, had memorized a lot of Scripture. He’s forgetting what lies behind.
Now, this is really important, because the Apostle Paul in other places recounts his past: in Acts chapter 9, Acts chapter 22 and 26, First Timothy 13, and in other places -- First Timothy chapter 1 verse 13, and in other places what Paul does is he recites things about his past. So he doesn’t forget his past, he just doesn’t allow his past to hinder his present running of the race. And we have to think about that as Christians; there are many Christians for whom their past is a stumbling block. They have guilt for things they’ve done 10, 20, 30, or 50 years ago. They can’t get their mind off of something they should have done or could have done or would have done had situations been different. We all have things in the past we would like to change if we could, but we can’t. So what are we to do? We’re to forget it in the sense of don’t let it hinder us, don’t let it inhibit us from running the race now. Christ has set you free. He’s forgiven your sins, He’s reconciled you to God, He’s cleansed our consciences from the dead works that we have committed. Hebrews chapter 9, ‘the blood of Christ is so deep and so rich that it can cleanse our consciences, whereas the blood of the sacrificial animals under the old covenant could only cleanse the flesh, the exterior of a person. Christ cleanses our consciences, so remember that. Forget what lies behind you. You remember your past, we’re thankful for our past, we have some good memories, but either way don’t let it hinder you. Forget it in that sense. It’s not an encumbrance to you. Don’t get entangled in the past. And then he says, “let’s strain forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.” Paul is straining forward, he’s pressing on, he’s like a runner in full stride. He’s not a laid-back believer here. He’s moving forward, he has a definite purpose and a definite goal.
One of the things that should characterize us as Christian people is we have this goal; we’re forward-looking people. Christ is the goal, Christ is the prize, and therefore, we’re straining forward. We live life in the here-and-now with this great hope, this impetus to press on which is that one day we will see Christ Himself. So regardless of what we’re doing, we may be working in the home with our family and children, in the workplace, on the ballfield, wherever we are in the world, whatever we are doing, we are doing as unto the Lord and with the attitude that we’re moving forward. This is what God has us involved in now, this is what He’s called us to do, and so as we do this well that means we’re straining forward, we’re pressing forward in Christ. “For the prize,” he goes on to say, “of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Again, Christ Jesus is the goal. Forget what lies behind, press on in the present, Christ is the goal -- past, present, and future. This encourages us, it motivates us, and it strengthens us to be excited about where God has us. Even in the midst of challenges, we rejoice in the Lord and this is why we have to persevere; this is why we have to press on.
Our major concern in life is to be the Gospel of God in Christ. Look at verses 13 and 14 again, “I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We persevere, it’s the grace of God working in us, but we have to work hard; that’s the Christian life. We work hard in all that God has called us to do and all that He’s called us to be. So, again, picture yourself as a runner in a race who is not distracted by any other people or by anything on the periphery, press on no matter what. Again, you have to do this because you may lose ground. If you’ve ever seen runners in a race, and they may look to the side and when they do they stumble. They’re too concerned with where their competition is, they may run into the other lane and get disqualified. There was an example in 1954, the miracle mile. The first time the 4 minute mile was broken, Roger Bannister was racing John Landy and Landy had about a 3 step lead. Bannister was closing, Landy looked over his shoulder to see where Bannister was and Bannister blew by him on the outside. Now, Bannister may have won that race anyway, but take that to heart. Landy, nonetheless, turned to looked back. He was too concerned with what was going on behind him, he should’ve been forgetting that, and Bannister was able to make up a couple of steps and pass him on the outside. So don’t be concerned with peripheral issues in life, there are a lot of details we have to take care of, family, relationships, but ultimately it’s Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
So we’re going to end with this: Our mindset has to be the mindset, Paul says here, of those who are mature in the faith. That is we are living in the present as those who are in pursuit of the future prize. Does that describe you? As you live your life in the present, are you pursuing the prize which is Christ Jesus Himself? Do you long to see Him face-to-face? Are you pressing on in life knowing that each step and each day you’re getting closer to the goal? Are you forgetting what is behind? The past isn’t holding you captive, even though you remember it. You’re pressing on in the future, you’re moving toward the prize, which is Christ. Be encouraged, you’re a runner in the race. Persevere, press on toward the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus, and one day you will receive the prize, which is Christ Jesus Himself. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word, we thank you for your truth, and the opportunity to run the race of the Christian life. Help us to forget what is behind, to press on inthe present, all for attaining to the goal, which is Christ Jesus Himself. In His name we pray, amen.