Paul's message in Philippians 3:12-16 is that he wants the Christians in Philippi to press on. He wants them and us to run the race, so as to win the prize. We have seen Paul offering illustrations relating to the Christian life before…and now we meet Paul the athlete running the present Christian race. Paul is satisfied with Jesus Christ (3:10), but he is not satisfied with his Christian life…he is always trying to improve. Many Christians live a life of self-satisfaction, comparing their "running" with other Christians who may not appear to be making a great deal of progress. This is easy to do, but it is wrong, nonetheless. Paul compares himself with Christ, knowing that he isn’t perfect, but is always striving toward maturity. He has an honest evaluation of himself…and so must we!
Paul focuses on this one thing. It is easy to get involved in many things, when the secret to progress is to concentrate on one thing. Here, Paul says Christians must devote themselves to "running the Christian race." Few athletes succeed by doing everything -- save decathletes :-)…generally, athletes succeed by specializing. A person does not get to be a winning athlete by only listening to lectures, watching movies or cheering at games…it happens by getting into the game and determining to win. Winners focus – they keep their eyes on the goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling.
Focused Christians "forget what is behind." As one person has said, this doesn’t mean "fail to remember," but means "is no longer influenced by." It is breaking the power of the past by living for the present. If anyone’s past could have held them back, it was Paul’s (1 Timothy 1:12-17), but it inspires him on instead! It is hard to live in the past. It is like trying to run a race looking backward…it becomes easy to stumble and fall and hinder others. Christians need to put all such distractions behind and move ahead!
But, it’s not enough just to run hard; the runner must also be disciplined, self-controlled. Christians must be focused on the Word. Athletes who break training are disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). Christians cannot break training either, or else Satan, the flesh or the world can cause us to be disqualified. One day all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12). I believe that one of the tests for us will be…did we disciplined ourselves according to grace and the Word?
This is why it is so critical to qualify for the race…this can only take place in the Son. When we respond in faith to God’s grace in His Son, we qualify -- but it is only the beginning. I will say this…we are qualified in Christ; in this, we should know that once we enter the race, the victory is ours. Knowing this certainly makes it easier to run. We must know that if we run…we win! It is incumbent on runners to run faithfully the entire race…not going off course into the wilderness – but, it is necessary to finish the race. There are no short cuts on the cross country course or in the Christian race. Like a runner racing for the finish line, there is a goal that runners in the Christian race press on toward…an eternal crown is the prize a waiting at the end.
It doesn’t matter if we finish first or last in the Christian race, but that we finish! This is truly what matters. Some may march with heads up toward the finish line, while others may just crawl across, so to speak. But, the important thing is to finish. We must qualify for the race…we are baptized/converted to Christ, and we must run faithfully. No complacency. We need to have a dogged determination that nothing will take our focus away from the race…that nothing will take us off course. Concentration is the secret – stay close to God through the Word, prayer and fellowship. We must keep fixed on the prize which is in Christ Jesus. When we discipline ourselves, keeping our will in line with God’s will, we will win this prize…and eternal victors crown. Blessings,