07/04/Su – Pursuing the Prize

Isaiah 66:10-24; Philippians 3:13-21; Psalms 75:1-5; Proverbs 18:13

NT: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame; and they are focused on earthly things. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:13-21‬ ‭CSB)

In just a few weeks, the summer Games of the XXXII Olympiad will commence in Tokyo, Japan. Athletes from around the world will gather for one primary purpose: to pursue the gold medal. Among the games in the summer olympics are the track events. If you watch the track events, you will see runners in the last few feet of the race, stretch their bodies forward to try and be the first to cross the line. Some runners stretch forward so much, that they end up falling across the line. They risk everything to win the gold. When Paul wrote, “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,” that was the picture he was painting: a runner reaching forward to cross the line and win the prize. Paul, however, was not running and reaching forward to receive a gold medal. He was in a race to claim the prize promised by God through the upward call he received in Christ. Paul’s prize was future glory, eternity with God, a shared inheritance with Christ, resurrection from the dead and a new and glorified body.

The athletes that appear in the games, have gotten there through years and years of focused and dedicated work, often times suffering through many setbacks and challenges along the way. They don’t devote their lives to many different things. They have a singular focus: to become the best athlete possible at their one sport. Paul was also similarly focused and dedicated. He said, “One thing I do.” His focus, determination and dedication was to fulfill the call that Christ had given him… and after fulfilling the call, winning the prize. Paul did not allow his past failures to dictate his future. He forgot those things that were in the past, and continued moving forward by grace through faith with focused determination. Paul went on to say, that anyone who is a mature disciple of  Jesus Christ should have a similar focus, dedication, and determination to fulfill Christ’s call on their life – living fully in the truth they have received through the gospel.

In recent days, one American Olympic athlete has made the headlines – not for her achievements necessarily, but for her mistake. She is one of the United States’ fastest women runners, but has recently failed a drug test, disqualifying her from competition for 30 days. Because of that, she will not be able to compete in her primary race. Somehow, she lost sight of her priorities, gave into her fleshly desires, and disqualified herself from winning the prize. The same can happen to us as we run our spiritual race. That is why Paul told the Philippians to pay careful attention to their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – because some lose their way and begin living as enemies of Christ instead of disciples of Christ. Instead of keeping their eyes on Christ and pursuing His call, they begin pursuing their own desires, their own purposes, and their own glory. They get their eyes off of the heavenly call and focus on the immediate things of earth. As we remain in Christ, we are not of this world and should not pursue worldly things. As we remain in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven. We are not competing for ourselves, but for the kingdom of God. Just as Olympic athletes wear the uniform of their nation, we clothe ourselves in Christ. Just as Olympic athletes stand under the flag of their nation, we stand under The Lord our Banner. Let us remain singularly focused, not allowing the things of this world to distract us, that we may run the race Christ has called us to and win our eternal prize in Him.

Prayer: Lord, not only have You saved me and set me free from the debt and penalty of sin, You have also called me to run a race here on earth as a representative of Your kingdom. If I fulfill the call and finish my race, You will stand ready to crown my head with a crown of glory and reward me for being a faithful steward and servant. Help me, as I place my faith in You, to not get distracted by worldly things – but run with singular focus and dedication as I pursue my prize in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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