August 30, 2019
Running Your Race Well
By Skip Heitzig
I'm convinced Paul the apostle was a sports fan. I don't know if he watched Monday night chariot races or anything like that, but he often used analogies of the athletic world to describe the Christian life—including the foot race (see 1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7).
In Philippians 3, Paul basically told believers, "Put on your running shoes and get on the track." There are five things he mentioned that we need to run the race of the Christian life well:
1. Dissatisfaction. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected…. I do not count myself to have apprehended" (vv. 12-13). Boy, am I glad Paul wrote this. This tells me that none of us will reach perfection this side of heaven (though I have met Christians who think they have—and they're a pain to be around). But this also tells me that we need a healthy sense of dissatisfaction to drive us onward and upward.
2. Concentration. "One thing I do," Paul said (v. 13). "One thing" is an important biblical phrase, and it makes an important point: winners of sports competitions become winners because they concentrate on one thing. One of our greatest problems in life is when we spread ourselves so thin that we fail to be effective at one thing. That's why I've discovered that no can be a holy word. For Paul, Jesus Christ and His will for Paul came first; everything else took a back seat.
3. Direction. "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" (v. 13). To forget here doesn't mean to lose your memory; it means you don't let the past influence your present. Instead, you learn from your past and move forward.
4. Dedication. "I press on…. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv. 12, 14). To press means to work up a sweat or use every bit of your strength. No one becomes a winning athlete by attending lectures or watching videos on the Internet. At some point, you have to get on the track, and train. And what did Paul press for? The prize of knowing God's plan for his life and, eventually,knowing eternal joy and glory in heaven.
5. Collaboration. If you read verses 15-16, you'll notice Paul included his audience, the Philippians, in the running by using the words us and we. The point is that runners do better with other runners. You can run alone, but you will up your game when you are surrounded by other believers who inspire you, encourage you, train with you, and hold you accountable.
Now, some believers have gotten out of the race altogether and prefer to watch everyone else run. If that's you, I encourage you to put on your running shoes, get back on the track, and just keep going. Maybe you think, Oh, but I'm not good at the Christian life. Just keep going. But I've fallen. Just keep going. But I'm disqualified. Just keep going. Victory comes by endurance (see Hebrews 12:1). The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash. It's not even a marathon. It's an ultramarathon. So just keep going.
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