12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
– Philippians 3:12-16
Last week we began studying Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian believers to run the race to win the prize. The race is the Christian life. In this text you should notice three essentials which are necessary in order to run the race effectively. The first essential is this: You must never be satisfied with your spiritual progress. Remember, the goal is spiritual perfection. Thus, this side of heaven you should never be content with where you are spiritually! With God’s help, we all need to press on towards the goal of spiritual perfection. Spiritual discontentment is the first essential that you must maintain in order to run effectively.
Secondly, if your desire is to run the race to win the prize, then you must be single-minded. Paul writes, “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” (verses 13-14).
Paul’s life was totally transformed on the road to Damascus, and his life would never be the same had he not walked that road. In his former life, Paul had achieved much: he came from the right family, he was brought up in the right traditions, he was a scholar, he was religious. Paul was so ambitious. And he kept all the rules too. So in the eyes of the world, Paul had achieved everything.
But when Paul met Jesus, his accomplishments unraveled. In fact, he saw all of his past achievements as rubbish compared with knowing Jesus and becoming like Him (Phil. 3:8-10).
After seeing his life in light of Christ, Paul wanted to forget his past and follow after Jesus with his whole heart. To forget your past doesn’t mean that you don’t remember it. It simply means that it no longer controls you; it no longer has power over you.
You are set free from it.
Too many Christians try to run this race looking backwards. Many believers have not been able to forgive themselves for something they’ve done in the past. Thus, their past life keeps them from running the race effectively. As God’s children, we should confess our sins, accept God’s forgiveness, and press on. This is what Paul did. He didn’t want anything from his past to disrupt his focus on the goal or the prize of communing with the Father. The goal and the prize became his single focus in life.
I have already stated that the goal is spiritual perfection. So, what is the prize? Obviously, our main prize is the eventual return of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and living with him forever.
However, there’s more. I believe the prize also includes the coming glory that God is going to give to His children one day. It’s our coming reward in eternity. Paul writes about this in Romans 8:18-19: He writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” In these two verses, Paul is depicting creation as if it is a person. Creation is pictured standing on its tiptoes looking into the future with great anticipation to see when God is going to reveal to the world who the true believers really are.
This tiptoe anticipation became Paul’s focus in life. He lived for the day to come, and followed Jesus wholeheartedly in the here and now. Understand that one day God is going to show to the whole world who His children really are. And on that day, Scripture declares that He will wipe away our tears and remove our disgrace. Then, He will crown us with glory. Isaiah 25:8 states, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.”
Do you not long for this day? Does this not give you great hope and great reason to run this race with your heart and mind focused on the prize? One day, you, if you are in Christ, will cross the finish line and see Jesus. In that moment, you will be like Him forever, never to sin again (1 John 3:2). On that day He will crown you with glory.
William Secker said, “The body has two eyes, but the soul must have but one.” And so our challenge today is to keep that one eye focused on the prize and run to win!
Do you want to win the prize? If so, then never be satisfied with your spiritual progress, and be single-minded in your pursuit of holiness. These are the first two essentials. Next week, we will learn what the third essential is for running this race known as the Christian life in order to win the prize. Stay tuned. Amen!