Summary: We need to stop and remind ourselves of who we are: Believers in Jesus who are serving him in a marathon, not a sprint, toward his kingdom. Therefore, let us never forget, or even minimize, who were are or what our “upward call” is.
Paul the apostle must have been a sports fan. I say that because he uses a lot of terminology in the scriptures related to sports. He says – We don't wrestle with just flesh and blood. That's a wrestling illustration. He says – We fight the good fight. That's a boxing illustration. But I think his most favorite illustration from sports comes from running. He talks about running, running the race. Today in our passage in Philippians 3:12-21 we're going to see what that is and a little bit more closely. We're going to see what the race looks like. We're going to talk about it in these very personal ways. In fact, today he's going to talk about going toward a prize. He's going to talk about winning the race. So I've entitled this particular sermon, Five Secrets for Winners. I think that it's going to give us some direction for our life so that we too can be winners in life.
But before we do that, let's look at the passage in Philippians 3 because he starts with some words of humility. I think we always need to be humble in our minds, in our lives. We think we have the right answers. We think we have it all figured out sometimes. In fact, I think the people looked at Paul and they must have thought… Remember, he just finished talking about I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. He's just talked about that. And so I imagine people saying, “Paul has got it together. He must be perfect in his life.” And so Paul is going to start with this exhortation. I'm going to receive it as an exhortation in my own life about the humility that we must have in our lives. That sometimes we're going along in a way that we think is right, but it may not be the right thing. Humility is so important for us to embrace because it keeps us teachable and willing to learn.
So he starts out in verse 12 by saying these things. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. He says – I press on to make it my own. You see, I think what Paul is saying is this isn't just theology that's out there. I want it to be mine. I want it to be personal in my own life. I think that's why whenever we come to God's word we ask the same question. How can I make this my own? What can I learn for this for my own heart? This is not just something written 2,000 years ago. It's something that's written for my heart today. How can I make this my own? A very important question that we ask every time we come to God's word. It keeps us humble. So that we don't go on and start doing things that may be counterproductive in our lives, we need to remain humble. And that's what Paul seems to be saying here. Paul is saying I'm growing.
Now we're going to look at these five secrets for winners and as we do, you're going to see some ideas, I hope, that are going to drive you forward in your own life and your own Christian walk. The first one that we're going to look at is this one to concentrate. I use the word concentrate, but the word that's used in the passage of the word press on. Press on. We already talked about it in verse 12. I press on to make it my own.
But let's look at verse 14 where he uses the same Greek word dioko. Let me tell you what this word means. It's very important that you get the picture here. Because dioko means to press forward aggressively. It's most often translated persecution. It's the word used for persecution throughout the New Testament. Dioko. Persecuting the Christians. Now Paul is using it in a completely different way here. In the last chapter he said – I persecuted the Christians. He used the same word dioko in the last chapter when he talked about persecuting the Christians. But now he uses it in a completely different way to describe an aggressive pursuing. He says – I press on. I press on for what? Yes, there's this idea of being intentional. This idea of being courageous. This idea of concentrating by pressing on. But what is he pressing on toward? Notice he says – I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.
What is the upward call of God in Christ? See, I think these words the upward call are the key to the passage. So I want to park here for a moment. In fact, if I were you, I would circle the word upward call and maybe draw lines to the five things. Because it's really the upward call that we're pursuing. And these five different words or these five different secrets for winners are driving us toward the upward call.