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Phil. 3:12-16 RUNNING FOR THE PRIZE

Intro: There are two basic statements that every growing Christian in this room will have to agree with this evening. Let me share them with you.

1. We have failed in the past. That is, we have fallen short of God's goal for our lives.

2. We are dissatisfied with our present spiritual state. That is, we want to become more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Whether you know it or not, if you get to a place where you think you have arrived spiritually, you will cease to grow in the Lord. By the same token, when you are willing to admit that there are areas where you need to grow, that is a sign of a maturing Christian.

In these verses, we are given a glimpse into the life of the Apostle Paul. He lets us in on the secret that even he, the great Apostle, had areas in his life that needed work. I don't know about you, but that encourages me this evening!

I would like for us to take a few minutes tonight and join Paul on his quest for spiritual maturity as we think together around the thought, Running For The Prize.

I. V. 12a, 13a PAUL'S EXAMINATION

A. Think of all the reasons that Paul had to stick out his chest and crow about his Christian life. He was hand picked to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. God was using him to record the inspired words of God. He was a tremendous soulwinner and preacher of the Word. It seemed that Paul had all his ducks in a row and was making the grade for Jesus. Anyone looking at his life would have concluded that Paul had arrived. However, Paul knew the truth! He had not arrived, but was still working towards that ultimate goal - Perfect Christlikeness!

B. Paul's response to his own life was a mark of spiritual maturity! (Ill. Beware of those people who think they have "arrived!" 1 Cor. 10:12; Gal. 6:3. We haven't reached perfection yet, but we will one day!)

C. Ill. Paul realized that he wasn't perfect, but he was not content to let that cause him to sit still on the Lord. Too many people will get discouraged with the lives they are living and will just quit on God. Friend, it is not a matter of if you will fail, but of when! Don't let your failures cause you to drop out of the race for the Lord Jesus! If you have fallen, get back up, dust yourself off and start to run again!

I. Paul's Examination

II. V. 12b, 13b, 14a PAUL'S EXERTION

(Ill. These verses are characterized by action terms. Paul is using very descriptive language to describe his Christian race. Note these five great statements made by the Apostle.)

A. V. 12b I Follow - Literally - "To run swiftly in order to catch a person, or a thing." It has reference to a hunter pursuing his prey. It also has the idea of a runner chasing the finish line. Whatever the goal, the picture is of pursuit. For Paul is was the hope of "apprehending" something. That word means "to lay hold on" What Paul is saying is, "I am pursuing the goal of laying hold on all that Jesus laid hold on me for." He realized that he had been saved for a purpose and that God had a plan for his life. Paul would not be satisfied until he had apprehended that for which he had been apprehended!

(Ill. What are you doing about what God saved you for? Many of us are just "Stuck on Salvation". That is, we got saved, but that is as far as we have gone with the Lord! Friend, He saved you for a purpose! Get at His feet and find out why He laid hold on your life. Than pursue that with all your heart. Let nothing satisfy you but satisfying Him!)

B. V. 13a This One Thing I do - Paul as a specialist! Just like an Olympic athlete, Paul specialized in one thing: reaching the goal. Notice that he left the past behind him and he reached for the future. A man excels when he specializes. If you want to know the secret of Paul's success, it is that Paul had a one track mind! Nothing was as important to him as was pleasing the Lord!

(Ill. One of the problems with the modern Christian is that not many of us can say, "This ONE thing I do." Most of us are pulled and tugged in a thousand different directions. Well, there is only on thing that will matter when this life is over and that is how well we ran for the Lord our God! I would challenge you to develop a one track mind when it comes to living your life. We could all use more simplicity in our lives!)

C. V. 13b Forgetting Those Things Which Are Behind - Paul said, "I refuse to look behind me at my past." The word forgetting means, "To cease to be affected by." If you run with your eye on past successes, then you will have the tendency to lay back and rest on your accomplishments. If you run with your eye on your past failures, then you will tend to stay back for fear of failing again!

(Ill. There is another thought that needs to be mentioned here. As you are running for the Lord stop looking at how others are doing in the race! There will always be those are able to outrun you and there will be others who will lag behind, or even drop out of the race. Don't worry about what others are doing, you duty is to run to please the Lord Jesus Christ! When we run, He should be the sole focus of our attention, Heb. 12:1-2.)

D. V. 13c Reaching Forth - This phrase pictures the runner in a race as he nears the finish line. He can be seen to lean forward and strain for the goal. Paul tells us that he is "reaching out with all he has" to be sure that he wins his race!

(Ill. Can we honestly say that we are straining to reach the goal? For most believers, the Christian life is a hit or miss proposition. That is, we just kind of take it as it comes. If we succeed for the Lord, then praise His name! If we happen to stumble and fall, it's "Oh well, I'll try and do better tomorrow!" Not Paul! He wasn't content to sit around and wait for life to happen. No, he was busy making it happen! He was out there reaching for all he could be come for Jesus. He was trying to reach his fullest potential for the glory of God. What a lesson for the children of God this evening!)

E. V. 14a I Press Toward The Mark - The word Mark refers to the "goal that one has in view." In other words, Paul was oblivious to his surroundings, he was just heading for the goal. He wanted to finish well. Notice that when he did reach the end of his life, he was able to leave behind the testimony that he had indeed run well. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" 2 Tim 4:6-7.)

(Ill. My friends, there is a great need for us to avoid the trap of becoming distracted by the events of this life. There is a mark, there is a goal and we should be striving for that goal in our lives! God help us to keep our eyes on the goal. Too many come out of the blocks primed and pumped to run the race, but after a few short months or years, they have become distracted and fallen out of the race. I like those people who are steady! They are not living for the moment, but they run with eternity in view at all times. They realize that God is honored by a race well run and a life well lived. They are not easily distracted, but they run with their eyes on the goal!)

I. Paul's Examination

II. Paul's Exertion

III. V. 14b PAUL'S EXPECTATION

A. Paul tells us in this verse that he is running for the "prize". This is the award presented to the victor in the race. Paul wanted to run a good race and he wanted t win the prize that God had for him!

(Ill. Paul knew that the Lord called him for a reason. He called him to carry out his duty before he Lord. He also knew that successful completion of this goal would allow him to enjoy the rewards of the Lord. By the way, things are still the same! Jesus saved you to do a job for Him and for His kingdom! When we do what the Lord wants and we live our lives in pursuit of the prize, then we too will receive the rewards that come along with faithful service to the Lord, 1 Cor. 3:8; Matt. 25:21.)

(Ill. Paul got what he was after, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.", 2 Tim. 4:8. Will we? Yes, but only if we run for the prize!)

(Ill. Notice that Paul refers to the prize as a "high calling". I want you to know that God did not save us so that we could continue to live like the world! He saved us that we might follow after Him and strive to be like Him in every detail of life. Don't cheapen your salvation by running after the flesh, the world or the devil! Treat your relationship with the Lord like the precious thing it is, by striving to live up to a "high calling.")

I. Paul's Examination

II. Paul's Exertion

III. Paul's Expectation

IV. V. 15-16 PAUL'S EXHORTATION

A. In these verses Paul is simply telling is that this is the mature Christian attitude! Does this match your attitude of what the Christian life is supposed to be?

B. He then warns us that if we have a different opinion about how the Christian race should be run, then the Lord will deal with us in that matter. The only problem with that is that too many people are enjoying the race they are running and wouldn't listen if the Lord did call them to run differently!

Conc: If we are to succeed in the Christian life and honor God by the lives we live, then we are going to have to run the race His way. We will have to run with our eyes upon Him. We will have to learn to turn a blind eye to the allurements of the world and a deaf ear to the siren song of compromise. If we will attain the prize of Christlikeness, then we will have to pay the price of dedication and struggle. It will be a hard fought victory, but in the end, when we see His face, it will be worth it all!

How well are you running this evening? Are you eyes on Jesus alone? There is a song we sing from time to time that ha a part that goes like this, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." How true! Getting your focus solely on Jesus will give you the direction you need to successfully run the race for His glory and your eternal benefit as you run for the prize!



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