Summary: In Philippians 3, Paul describes our Christian life twice by using a race analogy. It is an effective analogy. For like in a race, we have a reason to run (or cause). We keep our eyes on the prize, and we are encouraged along the way.
One night in college, I needed a study break, and I decided to read some online articles. As I was scrolling through, one caught my interest. It was titled: “Top Ten Greatest Canadians.” As I saw the title, I wondered how many people on that list would be hockey related, since it is Canada, after all. I figured at least Wayne Gretzky was on the list, and I was curious to see where. I then clicked on the article and began to read. He was in the number ten spot, and I continued to read to see who else made the list. Alexander Graham Bell was on it. So was the First Prime Minister of Canada. Don Cherry, a hockey announcer, made the list too. At the number two spot was a person that I had never heard of. It said, “Terry Fox, athlete.”
Being on my computer, I decided to google him. I knew he wasn’t hockey related, and I wanted to see who he was. Terry was a young man who was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. To save his life, they had to amputate his leg, and they did it quite high. When he was getting treated, he was frustrated at the care and the lack of cancer research at the time. He didn’t want to sit at home and do nothing. He was going to do something about it. He was going to run across the entire country of Canada to raise money. He wanted each citizen to donate a dollar, which would have raised $25 million. To accomplish his goal, he would run a marathon’s distance each day until he finished. He started in St. John’s in Newfoundland with little fanfare. Word quickly spread about his run, which he did on one prosthetic leg. By the time he reached Ontario, he was a national celebrity, and treated like one. However, his run was not easy. He often got horrible blisters from the constant running. He got shin splints and extreme fatigue. Despite this, he pressed on. Terry’s run lasted 143 days before he had to stop due to the cancer coming back. In Philippians 3, Paul compares our Christian life to a race, similar to the one that Terry did. Like him, the apostle says we have a reason to run. Like him, we keep our eye on the goal. Like him, we are also encouraged along the way. Our Christian life is like a race.
Terry ran to raise money for cancer. Paul has a reason to run as well, that is, to live a Christian life. The Apostle says, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus had made me His own.” Jesus is His reason to run. Jesus has made the apostle His own. The greek word here translated as “made me His own” literally means “to grasp” or “to take hold of.” I find that to be a helpful imagery. Jesus had grasped and taken hold of Paul that day as he headed to Damascus. The Lord had other plans for him. He pulled him from his previous life and ways. He pulled Paul out of his sin and into the Lord’s grace. The apostle was made Christ’s own through His death and resurrection. He belongs to Jesus. He is the Lord’s.
Therefore, Jesus is the reason for his run and his Christian life. The apostle wants to attain the resurrection of the dead and (where he will be) to be perfect. However, he is not perfect, and says so twice in our text. In fact, he won’t be perfect this side of heaven, nor will we. Despite that, he pursues and runs on to make heaven, where he will be perfect, his own, like Jesus made him His own. He is pursing eternity for that goal. Paul wants to live in his calling, serving and living in the Lord. Paul is not going to stand on the sidelines. He wants to live in his faith and in the Lord.
Like the apostle, we too have a reason to run, to live a Christian life. Like Paul, we are made Christ’s own. We belong to Him. We are precious, prized, and His people. We were made His own when He took hold of us in the waters of Holy Baptism. It was there that He put His loving arms around us, and gifted us grace and the Spirit. It was there that we started the race and began to head to the goal that He has already won for us, eternal life, heaven. It was at our baptism that He began His work in us to make us like His Son. We live for Jesus, and we run for Him. We have a reason to run.