I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
Like much that we find in Paul’s epistles,
this passage is packed with helpful godly truth. Read it all, but pay
particular attention to how it ends. Read the part that starts “But
one thing I do . . .” What we find here is a three step
Step 1: Forgetting what is behind – Imagine going to a track meet and seeing the runners at the starting line waiting for the starting gun to fire. What’s that?? One of the runners is facing the wrong way! He’s planning to run the race backwards. Uhhuh, I hear you now: “Oh pastor, that’s ridiculous. Nobody would do that.” Well, that is just the way a great many Christians DO run their race. Some can’t get their eyes off of past failures, past losses, past sins. Others are looking backward at past victories, trying to draw upon past blessing. Church, if there is sin behind you, confess it, receive God’s forgiveness, and go on. If there is a rich history of worship and blessing, then praise God for it and go on. In either case, your calling is ahead of you, not behind.
Step 2: Straining toward what is ahead – OK, imagine this. There is a special chair, or perhaps a pew, in the church. If you sit in it God will always come and make you feel good. Wouldn’t that be great? I think I would just go and sit there all the time, how about you? Well, sorry; there is no such thing. God would never set out a trap like that for His people. The church’s purpose is not sitting and soaking, it is going out into the world and making disciples. It is about running the race – running hard. Sometimes it is about climbing the steep path. Sometimes it is about going the extra mile. The truth is, it takes more strength and endurance than we have to answer the call of God. That is why He gave us His Spirit. There is one thing I know. The people in the stands never ever win the race. Consider this:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ---Theodore Roosevelt
Step 3: I press on toward the goal – I remember a high school track coach telling me that a runner has to keep his eyes on what is ahead. If you start looking at the other runners, you’ll lose. Christian, there is a goal. There is a finish line. There is a prize to be won. Charles Wesley, the hymn writer, put it this way: “A charge to keep have I, a God to glorify. . .” He actually based his hymn on the writing of Matthew Henry who wrote: “We have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master.” Friends, it is not a starter’s gun that gets us running; it is the trumpet call of God. The business we are about is heavenly business. Press on!
Pastor Keith Andrews