Philippians 3:12-15 “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. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 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.”
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. Friends, if you are not seeking the Lord, the Devil is seeking you. In the Christian life, it’s not enough simply to wake up. We are called to run, to become more like Christ, to press ahead in godliness.
The Apostle Paul possessed the unusual ability to soar into spiritual heights one minute and then descend immediately into the valley of the intensely practical. He had made his point concerning the necessity of a personal experience with Jesus Christ as a prerequisite to obtaining a right-standing with God. The relationship Paul had with Christ which came through his obedience to God and assured his forgiveness. His daily fellowship with the Lord gave him the recourse, strength and power for living each day triumphantly. Paul immediately assured his friends at Philippi that he knew that he had not yet completely arrived concerning Christian growth (v. 12). But he also assured them, that he was striving each day to reach the goal Christ had for him. The Lord had a great purpose in mind for Paul. Paul was now seeking to reach God’s goal for his life.
The Lord also has a great purpose in mind for you today and this involves several steps. Consider the keys Paul gives us that will enable us to have a great life in the Lord.
1. Forget the Past
Paul’s determination to forget the past was a part of his resolve to never rest or relax as he faced the future. He would not allow any memory of failure to bring depression into his life, or to slow him down. He was determined to have the same mind concerning the future as that of the athlete with his eyes thoughts fixed on the goal has. When we do this, we cannot look back. Looking back does several things that hinder our forward progress. It slows us down, gets us off balance and changes our focus. Whatever the past has been, God wants to make certain it will not hinder us, and that is done by concentrating on what lies ahead.
History provides an incident illustrating this important principle. When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to halt on the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat! Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.
2. Embrace the Future
Paul not only forgets the past, he ‘strains towards what is ahead,’ he ‘presses on.’ Some translators translate it, “stretching forward,” and the word picture from the original language becomes very clear. This is the expression used for a runner in a race as he goes hard for the tape. He has eyes on nothing but the goal – His arms are clawing the air – His head is forward, And his body is bent toward the goal. None of this can happen in our own strength. It is the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit consciously abiding within us that keeps us pressing on. But we don’t face a vague future, we have a specific goal.
3. Keep Your Eyes on the Goal
Paul says “I press on toward the goal for the prize…” (v.14) A goal is an object that the eye is focused on for the purpose of attaining it through constant attention and effort. The prize referred to here is an award like that given to a winner in an athletic competition. Paul compares his attainment of the fullest fellowship with Christ and his reward in Heaven to a trophy such as an athlete might win.
There is a fable about a dog who loved to chase other animals. He bragged about his great running skill and said he could catch anything. Well, it wasn’t long until his boastful claims were put to the test by a certain rabbit. With ease the little creature outran his barking pursuer. The other animals, watching with glee, began to laugh. The dog excused himself, however, by saying, “You forget, I was only running for fun. He was running for his life!”
That does make a difference! Motivation is the most important factor in everything we do. Do you really desire this heavenly prize Paul is talking about? Or do you prefer the decaying award of this world. The prize is described as the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The term “high calling” can also read “upward calling.” Everything about our service to the Lord leads us upward. Upward in service to others; upward in kindness; upward in joy; upward in helpfulness’ upward in love to the Lord and to others.
Do you have your eyes on the goal?