Summary: A sermon about perseverance and the trials we endure.
As we get started today, I wanted to speak about finishing the race. Not so much about the end, but about the trials and issues we all have on the way. I will be spending a lot of time in Philippians chapter 3 if you’d like to follow along in your Bibles.
We heard a few minutes ago about the goal that God has for us. We see there in Philippians chapter 3, Paul is telling us about pressing on to the goal that Christ Jesus has for us in heaven. It isn’t a thin medal we get to wear around our neck. It is a hundred times more important. A thousand times more important. More than a million times more important and valuable than any gold medal we have ever seen. It is… eternal life in heaven with our Father. Paul points out some good things to remember. First He reminds us to face forward. I am sure we have all heard the phrase, to keep our eyes on Jesus. It isn’t just a pretty hymn. It means, when others around us are sinning, watch Him (point heavenward) for guidance. It means when those around us are quitting or giving in to the Devil’s plans, Keep our eyes where they belong.
Many of us may have seen the newest movies by C.S. Lewis. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, or “Prince Caspian”. But he wrote some other books that are pretty amazing, even for fiction. In one book called “The Screwtape Letters”, a fictional book about a relationship between the devil and his supposed nephew named ‘Wormwood’. Regarding the subject of how to sabotage the church the devil counseled his nephew,
The Devil says, ‘The church is a fertile field if you just keep them bickering over details, structure, organization, money, property, personal hurts and misunderstandings. One thing you must prevent: don’t let them ever look up and see the banners flying, for if they ever see the banners flying then you have lost them forever’. The book is only fiction. However the lesson is as true as the world we live in. If we keep our eyes where they are supposed to be, the Devil doesn’t have a prayer, or a place in our lives.
There in verse 13 he goes on to tell us to forget what is behind us, and focus or strain towards what is ahead of us. Now we each know a lot of people. But I don’t know anyone who has not had trials in their life. I do not know, even one person who has not had hard times, or at least times away from God, where they haven’t always been as faithful as they could be. And that is Paul’s point to us here. He shows us first, that he isn’t perfect either. He shows us that he is in the same boat that we are. And then he gives us the lesson. He says, forget what is behind, and strain towards what is ahead. You see God knows everything we have done. And by accepting Christ into our lives, to be the leader of our lives, God has forgiven all of those things. He is looking into our future. He wants us to do the same. Forget what happened in the past, work towards the goal in front of you.
Now before you think this is some obscure verse, it seems to be a reoccurring theme in God’s Word. We find Paul telling the church in Corinth about preparing for a race in 1st Corinthians chapter 9. He goes on to tell them, if they want to finish the race and receive the prize, they must prepare. And later in 1st Timothy and 2nd Timothy we see it again. It is training that allows a racer to finish what they started. We are guided on how to prepare for such a long race. With training. With guidance from God. In that verse in 2nd Timothy chapter 2 verse 5, we read, “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.”
But as we look into Philippians chapter 3 we see we not only need to look forward not backward, and strain towards the amazing prize God has for us, but we see there in verse 15, we are called to be mature in these things. That means, if we aren’t taking time out of our daily lives to be with God, we should be. If we aren’t reading His word regularly, we should be. If we aren’t exercising the gifts God gave us for ministry, we should be. And when we want to be trained in finishing the race, and we sometimes see things differently than this, then God will make it clear to you that this is what mature believers need to do. We read it in different words in Hebrew 6 verse 1. It says, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.”