Why it matters: Think about 10 years ago. Is what was average then below average now? Probably. What does that mean to our work and our life? We must run for the prize. We can’t sit on the side lines and think that average is good enough.
God has a goal for us: We know we are good. Are we good enough to get better? God has a goal in mind for us. Do we know what it is? Do we relentlessly pursue it? Is good really good enough?
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 the Messiah 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. | Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Php 3:13–15). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
“I pursue!” This same verb is translated “I follow after” in Philippians 3:12, and it carries the idea of intense endeavor. The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A man does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books, or cheering at the games.
He becomes a winning athlete by getting into the game and determining to win! The same zeal that Paul employed when he persecuted the church, he displayed in serving Jesus. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be wonderful if followers of Jesus put as much determination into their spiritual life as they do their golfing, fishing, or bowling?
There are two extremes to avoid here:
- “I must do it all” and
- “God must do it all!”
The first describes the activist, the second the quietist, and both are heading for failure. “Let go and let God!” is a clever slogan, but it does not fully describe the process of discipleship living. What quarterback would say to his team, “OK, men, just let go and let the coach do it all!” On the other hand, no quarterback would say, “Listen to me and forget what the coach says!” Both extremes are wrong.
The runner with the spiritual mind realizes that God must work in him if he is going to win the race. “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God works in us that He might work through us. As we apply ourselves to the things of the spiritual life, God is able to mature us and strengthen us for the race.
“Exercise yourself rather unto godliness!” Some disciples are so busy “dying to self” that they never come back to life again to run the race! And others are so sure they can make it on their own that they never stop to read the Word, pray, or ask for the power of the Lord.
Toward what goal is the runner pressing with such spiritual determination? “The prize of the high [upward] calling of God in the Messiah Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). When he reaches the goal he will receive the reward!
Again, Paul is not suggesting that we attain to heaven by our own efforts. He is simply saying that just as the athlete is rewarded for his performance, so the faithful believer will be crowned when Jesus the Messiah returns.
The important thing is that we reach the goal He has established for us. No matter how successful we may be in the eyes of men, we cannot be rewarded unless we “take hold of that for which the Messiah Jesus took hold of [us]” (Phil. 3:12, NIV).