- Sermon Notes
Life on the Run
In Philippians chapter 3 verses 12 to 16, Paul, after using an accounting analogy centered around gains, losses, and the surpassing value of knowing Christ in the previous verses, gives an athletic analogy using imagery from an athletic competition.
Philippians 3:12-14, Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
When Paul wrote “press on,” it is a word that can mean a couple of different things. It carries the idea of a pursuit, chasing something or someone down. Here, Paul points us to the pressing on toward, or running down of, the upward call of Jesus Christ. He was on the run for Christ, and it was that run, that race to which he had committed his life.
Athletic analogies and illustrations that are given frequently in the New Testament and often come specifically from Paul. It is apparent that Paul believed there were some important realities that athletic competitions can give as we live out our lives for Christ.
He wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In 1 Corinthians 9:26(b), I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air, and in Ephesians 6:12(a), We do not wrestle against flesh and blood…
The most common analogy, however, is associated with a foot race…
1 Corinthians 24, 26(a), Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly…Philippians 2:16, I did not run or labor in vain. Galatians 2:2, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Galatians 5:7, You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
We can understand the analogy, we understand running, even some things about running competitively and Paul consistently points the church to the fact that there is pursuit to chase down, there is a race for you and me to run spiritually.
For the rest of our time this morning we are going to get some spiritual coaching from Paul surrounding our lives on the run for Christ. I will pull out three coaching points Paul provides to help you run the race marked out for you spiritually! The three points have to do with positional awareness, a proper focus, and a victorious finish.
- Don’t Settle for Where You’re Set
Philippians 3:12, Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
- In verse 12, Paul displays a recognition of his place and the importance of pressing on from that place.
- In the verses leading up to verse 12, Paul spoke about the transformation in his life when he encountered Christ. He spoke to his impressive credentials.
- After recounting his impressive resume he wrote, “if anyone thinks he had reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more reason.”
Philippians 3:5-6, Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Philippians 3:7-8, But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ…
- In verses 9 to 11, he acknowledged that he had been given the righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in Him, he expressed his desire to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection and have continued fellowship with Him.
- Many might look at him today and say, he’s set! 30 years running the race, the proper understanding of righteousness by faith, a focus on relationship, fellowship and a future with Christ in his life! He is set!
- But Paul was not settled on where he was set. “He is making it clear…I am not there yet.”
- Paul’s desire in his life was to pursue Christ, he knew that Jesus had taken hold of him, and he wanted to take hold of the reason Jesus took hold of him…He tells us here, he was not there yet!
- In Acts chapter 9, when Paul was on his way to persecute Christians and Jesus stopped him on his way saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In Acts 22 Paul recounts how he responded, “who are you, Lord?” …he knew it was Jesus, then asked, “what shall I do, Lord?”
- The Lord told him to get up and go and he would be told what he must do. Here Paul says, “I am not there yet, I have not “arrived,” I have not grasped it.”
- He repeats that statement in verse 13.
Philippians 3:13(a), Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet.
- Paul had an impressive resume for the cause of Christ: He had planted churches around the world, he was spiritual, knowledgeable, and educated; he was fighting the good fight, had been beaten, bitten, blasted and bound up.
- The Philippian church may have looked at Paul and thought, there is nothing more for him to do, nowhere else for him to go, and Paul here says, “not so.”
- He was aware of the perfecting work the Lord would continue, and make sure the people know that the perfecting work would continue in them as well.
Philippians 1:6, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB 95’)
- If we are going to reach forward, we need an awareness that we are not at the finish line…We will not reach perfection this side of heaven.
- So, no matter what a person has done, or how far they have come, there is still a race to run.
Philippians 3:13-14, Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Illus. On your mark, get set, go!
- In verse 14 Paul speaks of the prize, but first, he points out that there is something that must be done in order to press on towards the prize. Specifically, he says “forgetting what lies behind.”
- Maintain a Forward Focus
- If we are going to effectively reach forward and run the race marked out, we have to look ahead, not behind.
Illus. Look forward!
- Paul wrote, in pursuit of the prize, it is critical to forget about what is behind.
- In the Bible, forget doesn’t mean to lose your memory, or that you are unable to recall something. Rather, to forget means that we do not act according to something, it doesn’t influence our present.
- For example, in Jeremiah 31:34, the Lord declared, “I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.” Isaiah 43:25, “I am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
- This does not mean that the Lord has a bad memory or is not aware. Rather, it means that He does not deal with us according to our past, in the present. The Lord does not act according to our sins, they have been forgiven.
- In that same chapter of Isaiah 43, where the Lord says I will no longer remember your sins, there is instruction to His people…
Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not call to mind the former things, or consider things of the past. Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it?
- Paul says here, forget about the past, in other words, don’t act according to it.
- Paul had a past. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was ugly.
- Some would have been impressed by his past, others would have been appalled by it. Either way, he says, forget about it!
Illus. Forget it!
Hebrews 12:1, Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us.
- We are told “let us also” lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that easily entangles.
- The acknowledgement is that there are certainly encumbrances, other translations say things that hinder, or every weight that slows us down.
- Those three make up the definition of the Greek word here, “ogkas” (ogg-koss): A burden or weight.
- This would have meant something to those who understood racing in the ancient world. Racers in that day would often run without clothing, get in the best shape possible, removing all excess weight possible so that they could run unencumbered.
- Here we are being implored to throw off every weight, no limits, no lines, if I find something is an encumbrance, I am to throw it off.
- The next thing we are to lay to the side is the sin which so easily entangles us.
- The word entangles us is an interesting word in Greek as well, euparistatos (you-pay-riss-tah-toss), which depicts a skillful surrounding.
- In order to run the race, we have to lay aside the sin which so easily entangles.
- There are times in the race we run that we might get tangled up, and we must be aware if that is where we are because we must rid ourselves of obstacles and entanglements.
Galatians 5:7, You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
Illus. Cut in on.
Philippians 3:13, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Press On All the Way to the Finish
- The idea of press means, to exert oneself. Paul was pressing for the prize of upward call in Christ Jesus.
- In verses 12 and 14, we read Paul write “I press on.”
- And it is interesting because the same word used in those places for “press on” is used earlier in Philippians 3:6, where Paul says he was a persecutor of the church. The word for “persecutor,” is the word for “pressing.”
- In other words, the energy and intensity that he had put into persecuting, when he turned to Christ, he put into pressing on for Christ. The zeal, passion, and focus of his life shifted, from pressing on a people, to pressing into a person and the calling for Him.
- Paul was pressing for the prize of upward call in Christ Jesus.
- There are many prizes we get for running races. When I was in high school, I got a ribbon. In the Olympics in Paul’s day, they got a perishable wreath, a laurel wreath.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the game’s exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
- Paul found a prize in knowing his life’s purpose, and a recognize the prize of eternal life in the upward, or heavenward call.
- And in verses 15 to 16, Paul points out that this upward call and the orientation toward heaven, is not just for him, but is given for us all, and something we do, and pursue together.
Philippians 3:15-16, Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (NKJV)
- Paul is broadening the scope from the picture of his personal race to the reality that they are all included in the running.
- Notice he wrote, “let us,” “we,” and again “let us,” “let us.”
- He says that mature believers are to share in the race, to share his view, and press on toward the goal.
- He said, if you think differently, the Lord will reveal this to you.
In other words, if you think different, the Lord will show you what is true…
- Some believe Paul was talking about those who thought they could become perfect in the flesh, others however, believe Paul is referring to followers of Christ who had stopped reaching forward for Christ. To those who had gotten off the racetrack and become apathetic to the call, to those who were looking on from the sidelines.
- In both cases, Paul was speaking to those who were not recognizing their need to pursue the prize and run the race in this life.
- Paul says, if they think otherwise, I trust that God can reveal that to them.
- Still Paul recognizes the importance of their revelation and also, He uses the terminology “us, we, us, us.”
- And as we reach forward, it is imperative that we reach forward together.
- Runners run better, together. Running with, alongside, encouraging, building up, helping strengthen, and holding accountable. Runners are better together.
Hebrews 12:1(b)-2, …Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Illus. The goal.
12Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that to you as well; 16however, let’s keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.