Today’s Reading: Philippians 3:12-4:1
Key Verse: Philippians 3:16
Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
I was an avid runner. And then I turned 40 and realized life is too short to waste time on things that are particularly unenjoyable. While there are times I still romanticize running or convince myself an outdoor run on a sunny spring day will be pleasurable, the reality is, running sucks. Its hard. Painful at times. And it requires a lot of mental strength, discipline and endurance, which means 90% of us quit before even venturing out.
Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up on exercise altogether. I’ve just found slightly less unenjoyable ways to workout while achieving the same results. And that’s the point isn’t it? Results! We who subject ourselves to a daily fitness regime, all have some achievable goal in mind whether its health reasons, weight loss, or just to feel better about ourselves. And as long as the goal or ‘prize’ holds more value to us than the cost, we’ll strain, push on, and endure the physical hardships and sacrifices necessary. But do we do the same in our Christian walk?
Over and over again, Paul refers to a life of faith as a race. He’s not talking about speed here. He doesn’t mean for us to sprint through life, by-passing everyone and everything just to get to the finish line.
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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat 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
Paul wants us to see that strict training and discipline are essential to winning. It has very little to do with ‘race day’ itself and everything to do with the thoughtful, goal-oriented choices, decisions and sacrifices made day in and day out. And this, he says, is necessary in the life of the believer too. Look at Paul’s language in our passage in Philippians today: press on; take hold; strain toward; stand firm. All of it requires effort, discipline and intentionality. Without it sin easily entangles and quickly leads us off course.
…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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
This is the key: to fix our eyes on Jesus. Life is hard, painful at times, and exhausting. It feels like running, and if we’re not prepared, if we’re not disciplined enough, we’ll grow weary and lose heart. But Paul encourages us to look ahead to the prize.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
Fight the good fight my friends. Finish the race. Keep the faith. The world wants us to follow it; to pursue what it chases: power, wealth, vanity, and fame. To worship what it worships: people, possessions, money, and prestige. But if our eyes are on worldly things, we will end up striving for what doesn’t last. With our eyes fixed on Him though, the author and perfecter of our faith, we will press on toward the goal, like Paul, to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. We will stand firm in the Lord, as Paul exhorts. And we will, as Paul implores, live up to what we have already attained. It will be worth the cost. For He has promised and He is faithful:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9