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I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. - Philippians 3:12 (NLT)
My high school track coach always said, “You’re only as good as your last race.” When I got to college, the stress level went up a notch. There it was, “At this level, you are only as good as your last workout.” Those axioms created a tremendous amount of pressure. The kind of striving they engender will wear you thin. They make you set out at a pace that’s not sustainable, making the possibility of going the distance unattainable. Because guess what? Under your own power, you’re just never going to be perfect.
The kind of endurance demands Paul mentions in Philippians 3 are very much like elite competition on a track. Or training diligently for gameday on the playing field. Or maybe for you, it’s more like gutting it out at a Junior High band concert. Whatever metaphor suits you, spiritually speaking, these real-life demands look like:
Standing firm in the commitment you’ve made to your marriage.
Enduring difficult days of parenting that seem they’ll last forever.
Sticking with the same job for more than just a few years.
Dealing with people who require more grace than you can muster on your own.
We just can’t do it alone. But the good news is that Jesus is the One doing the work. Hebrews 10:14 tells us that, through Jesus’ sacrifice, God makes us perfect forever even while we’re in the process of being made holy at the same time. So we are free to run the race with endurance and go chasing those impossible-on-our-own goals. You see, Jesus’ perfection is ours... when we trust Him to do the work in us.
The race of life is often draining because we’re looking for strength from the wrong source. At the end of the race, Jesus will be all that matters. Do you want to know more about Him? Give me a shout. I’d love to help.Share Tweet
No… I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. - Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)
There’s a rare condition called “Superior Autobiographical Memory” which causes people to recall, in vivid detail, every regrettable word, action, and thought they’ve ever had. They can’t erase even one single emotion they’ve experienced, positive or negative. For their entire life. One gal named Jill says she recalls “every bad decision, every insult, and every excruciating embarrassment.” She says the assault of these memories have eaten her up. A peaceful night of sleep is rare for her.
Can you even begin to imagine how that must feel? Try it: Stop here for a minute and make a mental list of the various sin-bait you’ve fallen for in your life. Now add every sinful thing done to you. Take a look at your list. Yuck, right? Even without Jill’s undesirable “ability”, we all have things in our lives that were so difficult, so painful, so regrettable that they are etched in our memories. And some of these things hold us back. They keep us from growing. We stay stuck instead of changing and thriving.
What’s the advice in Paul’s playbook for chasing after the prize? Simple: Forget. Paul knows that to go the distance, we need to be facing forward. Running backward only carries us further from the goal. Even if when we run forward, if we keep looking backward, we wind up missing the mark, perhaps even running down the wrong path. We just can’t get to the finish line, let alone win the race, if we aren’t running, eyes-forward, focused on the goal.
So we must, along with Paul, forget. Then press on. We focus our eyes. And make a run toward the finish line set before us. In Christ, the pressure is off. We are already guaranteed the win.
... we must hold on to the progress we have already made. - Philippians 3:15-16 (NLT)
My first memory of running is a footrace with my dad at about 5 years old. Then there were Field Days in grade school. Next, it was running laps after ball practice. And then running track in high school. By college, I had my sights on becoming an Olympian. But there was always another race. And the need to prove myself never went away. It was exhilarating but physically and mentally exhausting. Eventually, God used an injury to set me free from the performance-cycle and draw me to Himself, completely changing my perspective on life.
I’m still a runner today but the goals (and my speed) have changed quite a bit. There’s just not much to prove anymore. In fact, one of the most challenging and rewarding runs in my entire life came within the last few years with no spectators, no prizes. A simple, solitary, twenty two mile road run in Jessamine County, complete with long stretches of river valleys, angry dogs replete with angry owners, running out of water and bumming some from a guy washing his car, and eventually just slowly walking it in for a non-grandstand finish. And I love running again.
The race of life becomes draining when we’re running at a pace we cannot sustain. And there are races way more worthy of winning than mere running. Especially the race of faithfully doing life with Jesus. Even if you feel too old, beaten up, hobbled by injury, you’re just too tired, or don’t feel like racing… you can keep ahold of the progress you’ve already made and keep moving forward with Him. That starts with the next step. Are you ready?
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. - Philippians 3:17-19 (NLT)
I read recently about a man who has spent over 25 years searching for the Loch Ness Monster. He refuses to give in to the disappointment that has sent others packing. He quit his job, sold his house, and has been living in his van. Talk about chasing your passion! If this dude were to invite you to join him on his expedition, would you join him for a few days? A few of us might take him up on it for a few weeks. A rare individual for a few months. But 25 years?
Speaking of ludicrous invitations, consider the Scriptures where Paul boldly leans in and says, “Psst. Hey. You. Follow me as I follow Christ.” I have this picture in my head of him looking calm and cool. Maybe a Clint Eastwood squint in his eyes. He’s confident. He’s collected. Here in today’s text he goes and says it again: Pattern your lives after mine! If we were to rewind far enough in my life, those words seemed so completely unattainable as to be false. I thought God’s word couldn’t be entirely true, because, well… look at that invitation and then compare it with my life. Impossible, I thought.
Maybe you’re with me?
But the good news is… when we follow Jesus, even from our first day following Him, we all have the potential of extending this same invitation. When we plug into Jesus and begin taking our nourishment, marching orders, and cues from Him, then the invitation to follow us as we follow Jesus is not cocky or arrogant. It’s actually humbling when you get right down to it. We’re kind of just saying, “Hey look! I’m a screwball and I’m following Jesus... and He’s changing me. Wanna join me?” On our own, we’ve got nothing much to offer. But with Jesus as the power-source, we’ve got everything we need and plenty left over for others.
[Jesus] will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. - Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT)
Michigan. December 2017. It was time for the long-time home stadium of the Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome, to be turned to rubble. When the time came to implode the stands, 90% of the explosive charges went off… the smoke cleared… and the Silverdome was still standing. The place stood firm! The solid inner structure that was holding it up remained intact. It just… wouldn’t… fall. If you recall the fact that the Lions’ home field hadn’t been anything like a fortress when it came to home victories, it’s hilarious that the stadium had more strength to withstand defeat than the team it hosted all those years!
If we’re going to endure, we need God’s help to stand strong. And to stand strong, we’re gonna need to avoid the forces of demolition. Here’s how...
Build a solid interior. Shore up your interior life. Spend time in Scripture. And cultivate friendships with wise, godly people. You’re becoming the average of the five people you’re spending the most time with, so get with people you know God wants you to become like. And run from any bad company that could lead you down a destructive path.
Don’t give explosions a chance to happen. Duh, right? Steer clear of the explosive charges and their subsequent detonations. What has the potential to blow up in your life? Run! Take off running right now and get away from it: Temptations. Compromises. Stuff you’re hiding. If it blows up, you will be taken down. The destruction will hurt you and the people you love.
Beware the enemy’s target on those places that were once shored up. The demolition team didn’t give up on bringing the Silverdome down. They returned to the places that needed to be strategically weakened. They kept at it and eventually reduced it to a pile of broken concrete. Pay attention to the forces positioning themselves to bring you down and repeat steps one and two above!