Summary: Paul challenged the Philippians to move on toward maturity and to complete the Christian race through the power of God that is at work in us.
A. The year was 1968, and TV producer Bud Greenspan was packing away his gear following the marathon at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
1. It had been over an hour since he had preserved for posterity the elegance and poise of the iconic Ethioian runner Mamo Wolde as he cruised, almost effortlessly across the finish line in a time of 2:20:26.
2. An assistant came running up to him yelling: “There’s one left. You ought to film him.”
3. And sure enough, into the darkened and almost deserted stadium, hobbled a heavily bandaged and clearly injured competitor.
4. Each step caused him to wince in pain.
5. John Stephen Akhwani, the Tanzanian competitor, had fallen badly in the eleventh mile while jockeying for position.
6. In the fall he dislocated his knee and badly damaged his shoulder as it was rammed against the pavement.
7. The few remaining spectators inside the stadium began to cheer and clap as Akhwani struggled to reach the finish line.
8. As he crossed it, he fell for the second time, clutching his knee in agony.
9. The crowd roared their acclaim.
10. Greenspan had recorded every bit of that excruciatingly painful, courageous and emotional finish.
11. In addition, he got to ask Akhwani why he bothered finishing given his injuries and that he couldn’t win.
12. Akhwani said, “Mr. Greenspan, I don’t think you understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish it!”
13. Although, Akhwani was the last to finish in 54th place, 75 runners started the race and 21 did not finish the race.
B. A former race car driver said, “No matter how well you start, or how many cars you pass, they’ll forget you before tomorrow if you don’t finish well.”
1. Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor at Fuller Seminary, did a study of male leadership in the Bible and determined that only 30% of them finished well. Wow! That is not a promising percentage!
2. The Christian life is like a car race or a marathon – it is long and exhausting.
3. Unlike those races, we are not competing against each other, we are competing against ourselves, the enemy, and against the course of the Christian life.
4. Even though every step of the race is important - the beginning, the middle and the end - the most important thing is that we stay in the race until the end and cross the finish line.
5. The Christian life is a call to completion.
C. In our sermon series “Joy for the Journey – A Study of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians,” we are almost halfway through the letter.
1. So far in our study, we have explored Paul’s prayer for them.
2. We have seen Paul share his situation and seen him give his perspective on his life.
3. We have seen Paul challenge them to live in unity by following the example of Christ’s humility.
4. Now, as we turn to Philippians chapter two, verses 12 – 18, we want to explore Paul’s challenge to strive toward completion.
5. What we will learn today is that when we strive to bring our salvation to completion, while depending on the power of God, it results in a powerful witness and an everlasting joy.
D. Let’s notice that before Paul moved into his challenge, he began with a word of appreciation.
1. Paul wrote: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence…” (Phil. 2:12a)
2. Here we see that Paul addressed the Christians at Philippi in the warmest terms – he called them his “dear friends” which literally means “my beloved.”
a. Paul truly cared about them and he wanted them to know that, especially as he moved toward challenging them.
3. After addressing them so warmly, Paul then gave them a compliment.
a. He praised them for their obedience.
b. How admirable is it if our children are only obedient when we are with them and are watching them? That is not so commendable, right?
c. But how do we feel as parents if we hear how well our children behaved while they were away from us and on their own?
d. Similarly, it is a wonderful thing when people are obedient to the Lord at all times, not just when they are being watched by someone they respect, like the apostle Paul.
4. Paul truly loved and appreciated the Philippians and he took a moment to convey that before he issued his challenge to them.
I. The Aim of a Christian
A. As Paul issued his challenge, he gave them the goal or aim for every Christian, and what is it?