Summary: A new year’s challenge to faithfulness
As many of you know, I don’t follow sports teams closely. And football is not my favorite sport, but I do try to find out who is playing in some of the bowls on New Year’s weekend. This year I heard that Ohio State would play in the Fiesta Bowl, not in the Rosebowl where they would like to have played. They lost 2 games this past season so they ended up in 7th place playing Kansas State. But that was better than what happened 4 years ago when they didn’t even make it to a bowl play off.
What has happened since that low point? According to Jim Naveau in the Lima News, the team has changed its image and its attitude. It has gone from a team that couldn’t win to one that expected to win. One of the players said, “We’ve made the standards so high that not playing for a national championship is looked at as disappointing. Expectations have been raised. Winning the national championship is a realistic goal every year.” Those players have learned what it takes to be on the winning team.
When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he urged them toward “the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” He wanted them to be on the winning team.
The image he used was not that of a football game, but that of a race, possibly a foot race. You can see in your minds’ eye the runner, feet pounding the track, leaning into the wind, going flat out for the tape across the finish line. That is the way Paul wanted the Philippian church to run. And that is the way we are to run.
If we are going to press on, there are three things we need to do. First, we need to look forward. Those of you in sports understand that you must look forward toward the goal, not behind you to see who is coming. You know that you can’t waste time or energy looking back. You must keep your eyes on the prize. You know that just because you won the last race doesn’t mean you will win this one. You can’t rest on your accomplishments.
Paul wanted the Philippian church to under-stand that followers of Christ must forget what they have done and remember only what they have to do. Paul’s words here are all goal oriented. “I press on.” “Strain forward.” The references to the past are just that – things to let go of, to release.
Some people get stuck in the past. Maybe they have achieved well and because they have done better than someone else they aren’t motivated to go beyond that.
Warren Wiersbe (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2) tells the story of Harry, a salesman who came out of the manager’s office with a dismal look on his face.
“You didn’t get fired, did you?” the secretary asked.
“No, it’s not that bad. But he sure did lay into me about my sales record. I’ve brought in lots of orders. I thought he would compliment me, but instead he told me to get with it.”
Later the secretary talked to the boss about Harry. He chuckled and said, “Harry is one of our best salesmen and I’d hate to lose him. But he has a tendency to rest on his laurels and be satisfied with his performance. If I didn’t get him mad at me once a month, he’d never produce.”