RUNNING TO WIN
PHILIPPIANS 3:13-14 PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH 11JULY 2021
The Apostle Paul is recognized by those who read his writings as a man who is surely walking very close to Jesus Christ. He appears to be following very closely His example. Yet, he uses himself here as an example of one who has not yet reached the goal or the end of the race.
He had endured more suffering and labored harder than most of Jesus’ followers. But he knew that he had no reason or excuse for resting. In fact, he was in Rome, in prison, when he wrote this letter to the church at Philippi.
But Paul’s race was not finished. He continued to look ahead to the prize of the “crown of righteousness” which lay ahead. He was willing to forget all the earthly honors and desires in order to gain the eternal prize.
We, too, have reason to press on. We must never be satisfied with ourselves. We must not rest, contented with our achievements. Any progress which we have made in our race toward the goal of Christ is very small compared to the ground yet to be covered.
The Christian life is one of looking ahead. And looking ahead with disciplined running. If we are running the race toward Christ today and expecting to win, we will forget what is behind and reach out for the things which lie ahead.
So, a large part of our running to win involves forgetting as well as some reaching out for greater things.
I. We must forget the things which lie behind us
We cannot rest on our laurels. The things we have achieved do not give us reason to relax our efforts. If you ever watched the Indy 500 race or Nascar races you will notice one especially important thing which happens during those races. Pit stops are necessary during those races. Adjustments may be made to the cars. They need to take on more fuel. But, notice this: the time the driver spends in the pit is very limited. We need to re-fuel sometimes in our walk with Christ as well. But our downtime must be kept to a minimum as well.
The writer of the Hebrews letter tells us in chapter 12, verse 1 that we must lay aside all hindrances. We must practice discipline which causes us to keep on moving ahead to the finish line.
In our run, we cannot cling to our past failures or disappointments. Rather, our past mercies and accomplishments should inspire us to push on. Our past sins should humble us and cause us to know that God does not give up on us when we falter and ask for His forgiveness and His strength to spur us on.
So, dwelling in the past must be avoided. We must rely on the power of God to help us win; to go on to better things.
Most of us, if not all of us, would have to admit that we are not yet conquerors. Just as dwelling on the past is harmful, falling into depression or allowing ourselves to experience pride in ourselves is equally as harmful.
Remember Lot’s wife. She had an opportunity to conquer, but her heart was still in Sodom and she shared in the destruction of the city by looking back when she was warned not to look back, but to look ahead. Looking ahead is what is important. Looking ahead allows us to go forth with the Gospel, spreading the Word to more people so that the Kingdom of Christ continues to grow.
Paul encourages us in so many of his writing to keep on keeping on. Look at Romans 8:37 where he says “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” And, in 1 Corinthians 15:57, he tells us: “…but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. Secondly, we must reach out for the things which lie ahead.
By this, Paul means that we must press on toward the goal. We must pursue the goal, speeding on earnestly, and without hostility, seeking the finish line, being determined to win. This race with Christ is like no other race anyone has ever run. In most foot races we might see in a track meet or Olympic event, there is one winner. But, in our race to our goal in Christ, everyone who runs faithfully will be declared a winner.\
But, if we are going to be found at the finish line, we can never relax, we can never weaken, or become slack in our efforts. Our standards must rise above the standards of the world, or what society sees as important or acceptable. Our standards must be those which God has set for us and what He expects us to live by.
We must continually reach out for the prize before us. We must see the goal. The eye precedes the foot. And their footprints we must follow are those in which Jesus walked. There are some beautiful lyrics to a great hymn that go like this:
“Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow; We will follow the steps of Jesus wherever they go. Then at last when on high He sees us, Our journey done, We will rest where the steps of Jesus end at His throne.”
Back in the 13th Century, a man named Kubla Khan conquered China. He wanted 100 Christians to explain and defend their faith and to live it before the people. Only two went, but they turned back out of fear. At that time someone said this about Christianity – “Christianity was tried and found wanting.” Others said, “It was found difficult and left untried.” What they were really saying is that a walk with Christ is of no value. It is too difficult to even try.
What a responsibility we have today in the Church. We have to be diligent in our walk to make sure that no one can say about Christianity, that the way we live proves that Christ is of no value. Each of us, individually, and corporately, as the Body of Christ, has a purpose in being God’s children. All of our lives we must press on to reach the purpose to which Christ has called us.
So, let’s sum all of this up this morning. The goal and purpose of the Christian is to be like Jesus Christ. We should seek purity in our lives, like His. We should continually devote ourselves to His will for our lives.
But, it takes more than a desire to be like Him. It takes a life of pressing on. It takes focus and concentration on the race to achieve victory.
The Christian life can be compared to the firing of a rifle. It is not aimed, the attempt to hit the mark will always be unsuccessful. We have to look ahead to the mark which we intend to hit. We cannot expect to hit it blindly or by chance.
Paul tells Timothy (1Timothy 6:12:) “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life.” Paul knew how much worldly goods has to be given up to receive eternal life. But he also knew that there is one thing worth giving up everything for --- focusing his whole life on doing the will of Christ --- so he could win the race.
Have you stopped along the side of the track today?
Are you dwelling on past victories or defeats, feeling defeated in the middle of the race?
Have you lost sight of the finish line?
Or, and I hope all of us can say “yes” here – are you still pressing on, reaching out for the prize at the end of the race?
We all need to ask ourselves today –
Do I really have a strong desire to win the prize?
And, if I do, am I pressing on toward the prize of being called to be with Jesus Christ?
It takes a day-by-day successful running of the race that is set before us, unburdened by the weight of the world. Won’t you, today, lay the world aside, and run toward Jesus?
------ Gary K Fair