Summary: In this sermon, we discover how Paul was able to finish the Christian race.
A. One day the devil gathered all his demons together to review their work.
1. The first demon reported, “I let loose the wild beasts of the desert on a caravan of Christians and their bones are now bleaching in the sand.”
a. The devil replied, “What good was that? Now they are dead and their souls are saved and out of our reach!”
2. The second demon eagerly reported, “Well, I drove a terrible wind against a boat filled with Christians and they all drowned!”
a. The devil replied with irritation, “And I repeat myself, what good was that?! Now they are dead and their souls are saved and out of our reach!”
3. The third demon proudly reported, “For ten long years I have tried to get a Christian to slip into spiritual sleep, but I finally succeeded and I have left him so.”
a. Then the devil praised the demon’s efforts and they all celebrated this great victory.
B. If the devil can’t get us to serve on his side, then he considers it a great victory to cause us to fall asleep spiritually.
1. It is a victory for the devil if he can get one of us to lose our zeal and become apathetic and uninvolved in spiritual things.
2. It is a victory for the devil if he can get us to be uninterested in growing, and learning, and working and giving.
C. But what a great defeat it is for the devil when a Christian is alive and awake spiritually.
1. The Christian who is filled with zeal, and commitment, and an eagerness to grow and serve is a great asset in God’s kingdom and is a great threat to the kingdom of darkness.
2. Listen to how Charles Dickens described the secret to success in his life: “Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely.”
3. Isn’t Dickens’ commitment for his life a good example for our spiritual lives?
a. Are each of us trying with all our heart to do the Christian life as well as we can?
b. Are each of us devoting our whole selves completely to our Christian walk?
D. Without a doubt, the Apostle Paul was that kind of Christian – he was certainly alive and awake, and he was committed and eager to grow.
1. Today as we explore Philippians 3:12-16, we will see how Paul expressed an incredible zeal for the Lord and his desire to become mature in Christ and be faithful to the end.
2. Many Christians sit around waiting for that kind of zeal for the Lord to strike them, and they hope that maturity in Christ will just happen with time.
3. But we must understand that zeal and maturity are things we have to work toward, they don’t just happen automatically, rather they require concentration and effort.
E. In the previous section of Philippians that we studied over a two week period, Paul used a accounting metaphor to describe our spiritual standing before God with regard to salvation.
1. Using that accounting imagery, Paul talked about profit and loss.
2. Hopefully, we learned from Paul’s example the bankruptcy of trusting in our own pedigree and performance for our acceptance before God.
3. Hopefully, we have come to understand that the only way we can be made right with God is through an asset transfer of the righteousness of Christ into our spiritual account.
4. We cannot save ourselves by our works, but can only be saved by God’s grace through faith by a transfer of the righteousness of Christ into our lives.
F. Now in today’s section, we see that Paul is no longer using an accounting metaphor, but begins using an athletic metaphor.
1. Paul must have been a sports fan, because over and over again in his letters, we see him using sports illustrations to make his point.
2. Sometimes he speaks of wrestling and boxing, and other times he speaks of running, winning the race and receiving the victor’s crown.
3. I don’t know if he himself played any sports, but it’s clear that he was fully acquainted with the athletic world of the first century.
4. As he used those illustrations, he talked about the discipline necessary to win, and the danger of being disqualified.
5. These kinds of things translate so well into the spiritual life that we must live, and that’s why I often use illustrations from sports in my sermons, even when we are studying a passage that doesn’t use an athletic metaphor.
G. As we explore Philippians 3:12-16 today, let’s learn the principles that Paul learned about how to spiritually press toward the prize.