Summary: This lesson deals with Paul’s self-confession and desire to succeed in his “pursuit of Christ” and "the prize of the high calling of God." He provides a plan for all who are “striving to succeed,” in their pursuit of Christ. It begs our attention.
1. Release the Past
2. Reach for the Present
3. Race toward the Prize
1. This lesson deals with believers striving to succeed – in their pursuit of Christ, and their desire to be well pleasing to God. The motto of the Lexus motorcar is the “Pursuit of Perfection.” To please God we must be in continual pursuit of spiritual maturity. This lesson deals with Paul’s self-confession and desire to succeed in his “pursuit of Christ.” Seeing this is the start of a new year, let's consider Paul's plan for all who are “striving to succeed,” in their pursuit of Christ. He is still in a Roman prison – and still a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He reminds the church of Philippi that he was still striving to reach the mark of spiritual maturity. He writes saying: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, (and) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” But what he has resolved to do, are three things. Be ye resolved to do these very same things yourselves.
2. First, “forgetting those things which are behind” or better yet – strive to release the past. He speaks to this in the first few verses of Chapter 3. This is one thing we might want to set forth as a resolution not only for this year; but for our entire life. To set behind us anything that might deter us from a true fellowship with Christ and one another. The things that brought us hurt; we should determine not to find ourselves involved with them again. Old relationships, bad friends and ungodly actions should be set aside. And, let’s with God’s help “overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21. We must forgive those that have hurt us; or caused us pain. That God might also forgive us and remove the hurt from our lives and give us peace with Him and with others.
3. Second, “reach forth unto those things which are before” or to reach forth to seize the present. Let us also do as Paul, reach forth to the present. That is, to reach forth to the things that lye before us; and to secure God’s current and future blessing. God has placed before us many blessings. They lay before us; but because we are constantly looking back; we are unable to see them now or in the future. We must trust God, and allow Him to bring us to a resolution of old things; that we might be able to receive the blessings of today and tomorrow.
4. Finally, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” or to race toward the prize. Let us do as Paul – race towards the mark (finish line) for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Our race is not yet over! For many it has just began. And all of us must continue our race to the finish line. This we will do with the help and blessings of God; and the care and patience of all the saints. As we race, let us do as Paul suggests elsewhere: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith," Hebrews 12:1-2. I suggest to you, that some things that keep us from growing in grace and knowledge are not sinful in themselves. There might be “weights” that hinder us in this race. We will speak to these later. But, for now let’s consider our first point, “release the past.”
BODY OF LESSON
I RELEASE THE PAST
A. For Paul this was a time for reflection. The Philippians church supported Paul’s work in Christ from the very beginning. He reflects on these important facts. Some things are worth remembering.
1. Fellowship with the church. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:3-6. There was great joy in Paul’s heart for these saints, who cooperated and communed with him in the work for Christ. They were partners with him; in the work of evangelism.
2. Faithfulness in their support of him. “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity,” Philippians 4:15-16. The stayed the course with him in their financial support of his preaching the gospel throughout the then know world! This church’s continued support permitted Paul “to have strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest he should build upon another man’s foundation,” Romans 15:20.