Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Running This Race 9/5/2012 (rp)

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phi 3:13,14

The word of God is absolutely filled with wisdom, answers, direction, advice, commands and examples concerning living the Christian life.  In that we are all in different places in our walk, different passages resonate with us.  Philipians 3:13-14 has always stood out among the Scriptures to me.

Let's take a closer look at this:
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended..."
A perusal of the previous verses will show that Paul's main goal is to win Christ, to know Christ intimately, to be found in him and to know and attain the power of his resurrection (vs 8-11). These are lofty goals indeed, but to Paul, goals are indeed what they are, for according to his word, he has not yet attained or apprehended them. He goes on to say in vs 12 that he is diligently pursuing  the attainment of all aspects of a relationship with and true understanding of Christ. These are worthy goals for all Christians. I submit to you that we are all in the same state Paul was, having not fully grasped all that is Christ Jesus.

"...forgetting those things which are behind..."
Paul outlines his pedigree in vs 3-6. In it, he explains why he is a Jew of Jews and had every right to brag on his lineage, upbringing, education, associations and accomplishments. The key is in vs 7 and 8, where he says he willingly turned his back on all of that and counts it all as dung compared to the quest for Christ! Too often we put more stock than we should on things that pump us up, even as we fail to give Christ credit for who we are and what we have. This interferes with apprehending him. Think about it this way: looking back often results in going back. Remember Lot's wife?

"...and reaching forth unto those things which are before..."
Now I'd like to introduce you to the race analogy that Paul is employing. The Olympics in Greece were a big thing during this time and everyone could identify with athletic competition, particularly running. In fact, athletes were the rock stars of their day. The thought is that everything, the gaze, the legs, the arms, all reaching forward toward the goal, with great intent and never looking back. The Greek word here indicates stretching and straining. How often do we slip into remembrances and old habits that distract us from moving forward in our Christian lives? How much effort do we really put in to "winning" Christ?

"...I press toward the mark for the prize..."
The Greek here refers to the speed and effort. It conveys that he is doing everything to win. We know that the race goes to them that endure rather than the swift, nevertheless, you must cross the line in order to win. Paul wants to win, but what he wants to win is the prize of the high calling of God. What is that we are hoping to win? Popularity, wealth, fame, or heaven?

"...of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
The high calling is nothing short of the upward calling. It conveys not only that we need to lift our lives, lift our spirit and lift our way of living, but that we attain that which is above. God has been calling us home since Adam and Eve got thrown out of the garden. We can only make it home through Jesus (John 14:6). Godliness and our final reward should be the goal of all Christians and it should be seen in the lives that we live.

Beloved, consider your own favorite scriptures, why they are your favorite and what they truly mean to your life. Study those scriptures and attempt to extract every bit of meaning from them. I assure you that the longer you live and the more you go through, the more God's word will have to say to you.

Rejoicing in the Lord,

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