As a new decade dawns, we can float along, sit back and comply or we can rise up, be Running to Win and stand and fight for what is right. What lies ahead for us in 2020, and how can we obtain it?
Our nation needs us.
“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV Strong’s)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Paul was a guy who never felt like he had arrived… He never rested on his laurels. He kept run Nb, kept striving and kept reaching if more and more. I want o be that guy, don’t you?
RUNNING TO WIN IN 2020?
Looking back is easy because hindsight is 2020 vision. The 1920s were considered a roaring good time after the misery of World War 1 in the 1910s. The 30s were misery again with the Great Depression, the 40s were war, the 50s shaped up pretty well with prosperity back, and the 60s were about rebellion. The 70s were less than memorable, the 80s gave us awesome music, the 90s destroyed most of that, the 2000s were about security risks and the 10s were for many quite tough. But the roaring 20s are back!
We are like athletes running a race, and that’s what Paul picks up on in this passage. At the start of this decade, I want to explore how we can make this year and decade a winning decade!
Paul uses that athletic illustration to inspire us on in life. The past is gone, the future is yet to be, but God’s gift to us is life right now, that’s why it’s is called the present!
Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Right at the start, let me point out that Paul is not salvation he is running to win. He is not pressing on to win the prize of salvation, because this is written to those who are saved. You are saved by faith, not your works, lest any many should boast. Just a few verses later he says,
Philippians 3:20 (ESV Strong’s)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
What he is running for, striving for, is reward, not salvation. To compete in the Greek games, athletes had to be citizens already, and no one competed for the prize of gaining citizenship.
All of us want to be “winning Christians” and fulfil the purposes for which we have been saved.
What are the essentials for running to win the race and one day receiving the reward that is promised?
- DISSATISFACTION (3:12-13a)
Most people today are dissatisfied. We live in a country that offers so much, and still we whine? Facebook is full of people just venting, with little knowledge, limited intelligence and zero tact, and when I return from nations like India or the Philippines, it turns my stomach when I hear people whine about how hard life is, because they can only afford a 55 inch TV. Some people find a way to moan and criticise, no matter how good things are. Some people can find the cloud in every silver lining!
But here Paul is talking about a sanctified dissatisfaction, which is the first essential to progress in the Christian race.
So what do I mean by sanctified dissatisfaction? Paul is content with his God, but not his spiritual achievements.
1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV Strong’s)
godliness with contentment is great gain,
Philippians 3:12 (ESV Strong’s)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
This is the statement of a great Christian who never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments. There’s always more!
The Greek word for perfect is teleioō, which means to make perfect, to finish or to complete, and it carries a sense of being able to look back and know the job has been done well.
What Paul is saying is, I’m not done yet!
COMPARED TO WHAT?
Comparison is often the enemy of spiritual maturity.
Comparison can be a dangerous thing, because we can err in two directions: (1) thinking ourselves better than we are, or (2) thinking ourselves worse than we really are. Paul had no illusions about himself; he still had to keep “pressing forward” in order to “lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold” of him.
Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their “running” with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. I’m not in out and out sin, I’m not a drug addict or a criminal, I’m not an axe murdered, therefore I’m ok. They feel superior.
Others feed their insecurity by comparing. I’ll never be as good as her, I can’t sing like her, or fix cars like him.
No good ever comes from comparing yourself to others, it’s a lose, lose.
2 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV Strong’s)
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
As I look at my personal life, my professional life, my church, I can see many trials, but also see great victories and progress. But I want more. I refuse to be satisfied, because until I draw my last breath, I’m going to strive and strain towards the prize and serve with all my heart, with a sanctified discontent!
- DEVOTION (3:13b)
This one thing I do… boy do I need to hear those words. I don’t know about you, but I can do many, many things, and I often get distracted by the shiny object syndrome. We need to focus, to be devoted to one thing above all.
King David, who did many amazing things in his life, wrote this…
Psalm 27:4 (ESV Strong’s)
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
Too many Christians, too many churches, including this one, are too involved in “many things.” The secret of progress is to concentrate on “one thing.” D. L. Moody the great evangelist discovered this. Before the tragedy of the Chicago fire in 1871, Moody was involved in Sunday school promotion, YMCA work, evangelistic meetings, and many other activities. After that tragic event, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism, and became the greatest evangelist of his day. “This one thing I do” became a reality to him. As a result, millions of people heard the gospel.
So what one thing do you devote yourself to or focus on? The believer must devote himself to running the Christian race. No athlete succeeds by doing everything; he succeeds by specialising. A few athletes are proficient in multiple sports, but most specialise. The winners are those who concentrate, who keep their eyes on the goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling.
For the devil to win, he doesn’t have to make you sin to destroy you, he just has to distract you. What you focus on is what you get. As Zig Ziglar said,
“When you focus on problems you will have more problems. When you focus on possibilities you will have more opportunities.”
Concentration is the secret of power. If a river is allowed to overflow its banks, the area around it becomes a swamp. But if that river is dammed and controlled and concentrated, it becomes a source of incredible power. It is wholly a matter of values and priorities, living for that which matters most.
James 1:8 (ESV Strong’s)
a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
So like Nehemiah, let’s not get distracted by the many voices, the TV, the bad news, the poor advice, everybody’s opinion, the computer games or Facebook or anything else. God is calling us to keep the main thing the main thing. This one thing I do, because I’m running to win!
- DIRECTION (3:13c)
The unsaved person is controlled by the past, but the Christian running the race must look toward the future. If you are running a race, looking back slows you down, but focussing on the finish line drives you on. You cannot drive looking only in the rear vision mirror can you?
Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)
one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind
In Bible terminology, “to forget” does not mean “to fail to remember.” Apart from senility, amnesia, or a brain dysfunction, no mature person actually forgets what has happened in the past. We may wish that we could erase certain bad memories, our sins, our failures, our lost opportunities, but we cannot.
“To forget” is epi/lantha/nomai in the Greek, and it implies “no longer to be influenced by or affected by.” When God promises, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17), He is not suggesting that He has amnesia! This is impossible with God. What God is saying is, “I will no longer hold their sins against them. Their sins can no longer affect their standing with Me or influence My attitude toward them.”
So, “forgetting those things which are behind” does not suggest an impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase memories of the sins and mistakes of the past. It simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change how it affects us now and in the future.
IN 2020, IT’S TIME TO MAKE THE PAST PAST AT LAST AND START RUNNING TO WIN!
Paul had done things he was ashamed of, and I bet there things you’ve done you you regret or feel guilty about. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you see the past.
Joseph could have let what his brothers did to him affect his actions, but he chose to forgive and forget their sins. Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life–a race for him to run–and in fulfilling that plan and looking ahead, he broke the power of the past.
Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong’s)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Too many Christians are shackled by regrets of the past instead of running to win. They hold grudges, they are controlled by regret, shame and Unforgiveness.
They are trying to run the race by looking backward. No wonder they stumble and fall and then trip up other Christians. Some Christian runners are being distracted by the successes of the past, not the failures, and this is just as bad. “The things which are behind” must be set aside and “the things which are before” must take their place.
- DETERMINATION (3:14)
It is possible to have dissatisfaction, devotion, and direction and still lose the race and the reward. There is a fourth essential: determination.
“I press on.” The Greeks for press on is diōkō, which means to follow, pursue vigorously or follow after. 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 watching the event on TV. He becomes a winning athlete by getting into the game and being determined to win!
There are 2 extremes to avoid here…
Doing it yourself and not
listening to God,
and doing nothing hoping God does everything. Both are wrong.
Determination is required to achieve anything in life. So what is it that you pursue more vigorously than God? I see people pursuing a business, or a hobby or even a ministry more than they pursue intimacy Him! The race, the one thing you should do, is your relationship with Jesus, the prize is intimacy with Him, and anything else you pursue more vigorously is sin!
Isaiah 26:9 (ESV Strong’s)
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
What are you determinedly seeking? Are you running to win?
- DISCIPLINE (3:15-16)
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (ESV Strong’s)
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Many of us fall down here… It is not enough to run hard, or be focused or determined; the runner must also obey the rules, and he must be disciplined if he is running to win.
In the Greek games, the judges were very strict about this. Any infringement of the rules disqualified the athlete. He did not lose his citizenship (though he disgraced it), but he did lose his privilege to participate and win a prize.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong was perhaps the most celebrated athlete of his time, but when it came out that he was guilty of doping and drug taking to performance enhance, he was stripped of all his medals from 1998 on, including 7 Tour De France titles. He was a cheat!
2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV Strong’s)
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
In Philippians 3:15-19 Paul reminds us that there are rules in this race, and some Christians don’t play by them, and so disqualify themselves instead of running to win.
The issue is not what a person thinks or what the spectators think, but what the judge says. The Bible says one day each Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12). The Greek word for “judgment seat” is bema, the very same word used to describe the place where the Olympic judges gave out the prizes. If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules, we can compete to receive a prize on that day. Don’t tolerate sin, confess it and break free of the shackles that hold you back or potentially disqualify you.
So we need dissatisfaction, devotion, direction, determination and discipline. So let’s get down to brass tacks… I want to suggest 4 things you can commit to right now so that this decade becomes the greatest decade of your life for Jesus…
1. COMMIT TO LOVING
John 13:35 (ESV Strong’s)
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We need to commit to loving one another, that’s how people recognise Christ in us. It’s our superpower. Not our judgement, not our knowledge, but by how we love each other. So at the start of this year and decade, let’s commit to loving one another.
Lord, I commit to loving my brothers and sisters, and running to win.
2. COMMIT TO GIVING
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Now this applies to money, but it also applies to time and devotion. What you sow you reap, usually more than you sow and later than you sow. If you sow discord, if you sow unforgiveness, anger, hurt, disunity, guess what you reap.
Sow to the wind, reap a whirlwind.
If you sow love, if you give money, time or devotion, you will reap that. It’s a principle. So this year, let’s commit to giving of ourselves, our time, our money and our heart to the Lord and each other.
Lord, I commit to giving of my money, time and talent this year, and running to win.
3. COMMIT TO SERVING
A practical extension of giving is to commit to serving. Why not put your hand up for something in church? Can you give some time to be a part of the catering team, carpark, kids, prayer, worship, pastoral care?
1 Peter 4:10 (ESV Strong’s)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Every one of you has a gift, so this New Year, come on step up and join us serving Jesus here at Ignite and let’s start running to win.
Lord, I commit to serving You in this place.
4. COMMIT TO SEEKING
You can commit to loving, giving and serving, but I challenge you to number one, this one thing I do, commit to seeking God! Everything else you desire in your life can happen when you put Jesus first.
Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong’s)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
And here is a practical way to do it… Join us in the Bible Reading Plan right now.
Lord, I commit to reading Your Word daily, and running to win.