30th December 2023
Mary Fairchild offers
The Apostle Paul is laser-focused on the race, the goal, and the finish line of his journey of faith.
Like an Olympian runner, he does not turn back to dwell on his failures.
Forgetting what is behind, Paul looks forward resolutely toward the final victory lap when he will see the face of Jesus Christ.
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.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
Now, remember, Paul is Saul, the man who persecuted the church violently.
He played a part in the stoning of Stephen, and he could have let guilt and shame cripple him for that.
But Paul forgot what was in the past.
He didn't let it haunt him or trip him up in the present.
Neither did Paul dwell on his sufferings, beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment.
He forgot the disappointments and challenges of rebellious church members, false teachers, and persecutions.
Instead, he trained his eyes on a vision of his Master welcoming him home to heaven saying,
"Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward!"
Although Christians are called to be like Christ, we continue to make mistakes.
We have not "arrived" yet. We fail.
In fact, we'll never obtain complete sanctification until we stand before the Lord.
But, God uses our imperfections to help us "grow up" in faith.
We have a problem to deal with "the flesh."
Our flesh pulls us toward sin and away from the prize of the upward call.
Our flesh keeps us painfully aware of our need to diligently press on toward the goal.
For this reason, Paul exerted an all-out, single-minded effort to obtain Christian maturity.
He recognized his own shortfall.
Paul also called the Philippians and all future Bible readers to diligently strive with every spiritual muscle to pursue forward momentum in their Christian lives.
The author of the book of Hebrews echoes Paul's words with this similar encouragement.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NIV)
God alone is the source of our salvation as well as the supplier of our spiritual growth.
The closer we get to completing the race, the more we realize how much further we have to go to become like Christ.
But we cannot look back.
If we do, we'll get burdened down under the weight of past memories of failure.
Any prize we might seek and obtain here on earth will not last.
Only what is eternal will last forever.
Paul told the believers in Corinth that he was working for "a crown that will last forever."
But to win the eternal crown, we need to exercise self-discipline.
Again, Paul uses the imagery of a runner in a race:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV
Be encouraged by Paul's emphasis here on forgetting the past - forgetting what is behind - and straining forward to what lies ahead.
Don't let yesterday's failures derail you from the goal of your upward call of God in Christ.
Press on for the gold medal prize until you meet the Lord Jesus at the finish line.
Bible references available on request
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