Summary: Paul found himself within a Roman prison, but he refused to be defeated. Although confined and isolated, he desired to continue for the Lord. As long as he lived, he wanted to be useful for the Lord. He refused to allow circumstances to dictate his life.
Committed to Finishing Well
Philippians 3: 13-14
Most will agree that living the Christian life can be difficult, especially in today’s environment and rapidly changing culture. While believers once enjoyed a majority, we now find ourselves in an increasing minority. We are continually challenged to compromise our faith for the sake of cooperation. Across the board, numbers are in decline, baptisms are down, and many have no desire for the church. It is easy to become discouraged while dealing with these circumstances.
Our text today was written by the great apostle Paul while he was bound captive in Rome. He had been accused of his own countrymen regarding the preaching of the Gospel. He had been faithful to the Lord, continuing to preach, even at the risk of his own safety, and this was his reward. He had been relegated to a life of confinement and isolation. It would have been easy to become discouraged and abandon the faith. Paul could have easily assumed his life’s work was over, but yet he remained committed and resilient. He refused to allow difficult circumstances dictate his life and ministry. Paul knew there was work yet to be done for the Lord.
While these are familiar verses, they are needful and relevant for our day. I want to discuss the challenges Paul reveals as we consider the thought: Committed to Finishing Well. We are first challenged to:
I. Realize the Truth (13a) – Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended. As we consider this profound statement, we must also consider the context in which it was spoken. Churches had been planted, and were thriving. Countless souls had been won to Christ, and discipled in the faith. Young men had answered the call to ministry, being mentored by Paul. Now he is bound in prison, unable to interact with them. Many would have considered Paul’s ministry a huge success. Others would have questioned its validity since he is no longer free to minister. Either way, it would have been easy for Paul to have backed away from ministry, assuming he had accomplished all the Lord had for him. However, Paul declared he had not yet arrived. He was still in the race; he had not yet obtained the prize. There was work yet to be done and he was committed to continuing that work.
As we look back over the past, God has done some marvelous things in our lives. I know in my heart He is guiding His church. But, now is a time for caution. We must realize the truth; we have not arrived! God isn’t through with us or His church. There is an abundance of work yet to be done. May we never be satisfied with things as they are; we can always improve! It is dangerous to grow complacent and see no need for improvement. Gal.6:3 – For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 1 Cor.10:12 – Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. We must realize the truth! Also we must:
II. Release the Past (13b) – Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind. Paul had seen great triumph, as well as, many defeats. His life was far from simple and easy. He always faced opposition while preaching the Gospel. It would’ve been easy to have become satisfied with the victories, counted the losses, and simply quit! Paul refused to focus on the past. The word forgetting has the idea of “ceasing to be affected by.” Paul refused to let his future goals be dictated by past circumstances!
It is important to learn from the past, but we cannot live in the past. We too must learn to release the past; let it go! You will never achieve what the Lord desires by living in the past. We must overcome the desire to:
? Rest in Past Accomplishments – Surely Paul had witnessed great triumph in the past, but he knew those were not sufficient for the current day. We too have experienced great blessing and victories in the past. (Revival at Bethel – 1950’s; Pastor McDaniel, Pastor White, and Pastor Honeycutt’s ministries. These are all great. I rejoice in them, and I continue to enjoy fruit from their labor, but those accomplishments are not sufficient for today. There is a work for us to continue!)
? Dwell on Past Hurts – It would been easy for Paul to have become bitter and angry over previous encounters. He had been threatened, abused, stoned, imprisoned, and falsely accused for his faith. He refused to allow past hurt to dictate his life. We have all been hurt at some point along the way. While I don’t enjoy those encounters or condone such activity, I know we cannot allow past hurt and disappointment to sideline us today. If we allow past hurts to hinder us, the enemy has won. We must be willing to let go of the pain of the past and continue for the Lord.