“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Phil.3:13-16).
With his eyes fixed firmly on heaven, the apostle Paul pressed forward with aim and purpose. He realized that the Christian life was no playground; it was a battleground. Paul no doubt knew what it took to stay committed to the cause and constant in his walk. How can we learn from him? Let me suggest from the context of Philippians 3, what Paul had, and what we need if we’re going to finish our course.
Paul had Determination (vs.14). He said, “I press.” We too must exert an intense effort toward the proper goal. It’s in this context that Paul said, “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” (ESV). I see Paul’s motivation here for all that he endured and all that he did…Christ Jesus “has made me his own.” Paul never forgot the events of the Damascus road (Acts 9:22). He never forgot the mercy he received from the Lord nor the confidence the Lord had in him to accomplish the work of taking the gospel to the Gentiles (1 Tim.1:12-16).
Paul had Devotion (vs.13). He said, “One thing I do.” The problem with us is we dabble in too many things. We’re involved in trivial matters and become distracted from what really matters. John Maxwell once wrote, “The bookends of success are starting and finishing. Decisions help us start; discipline helps us finish!” How true. But our discipline needs to be channeled by the right things, or should I say, the more nobler things (Col.3:1-2; Matt.6:33). Kingdom agendas and actions were foremost on the mind and radar of Paul. He was all about being devoted to what was eternal and essential in the spiritual advancement of God’s cause and people.
Paul maintained a proper Direction (vs.13). He said that some things must be forgotten and left behind. What wisdom, as we pursue heaven. We too must not allow ourselves to be negatively influence or affected by something or someone. And what will surely help us in this endeavor is to trust in the Lord and walk by faith – a faith that daily relies on what the Lord says about us and our work, not what others say. It’s a belief in the promises of God, not in the false accusations of our enemy, the devil. When Paul faced the end of his ministry and life, he wasn’t overwhelmed by regrets, he was encouraged by God’s faithfulness and promise (2 Tim.1:12). I have to believe this had a powerful and lasting impact on Timothy and his ministry. If we’re going to “reach forward,” we have to maintain a proper direction that’s being fueled by our faith.
Paul had Discipline (vs.16). He said he would walk by certain rules. It is not enough for us to be determined; we must be determined to obey Divine rules (2 Tim.2:5). There surely is a difference between being busy and being productive. Paul’s ministry and life was driven by a Divine calling and direction. He allowed himself to be controlled by the Spirit, not the impulse of self or some other carnally directed voices. Paul disciplined himself to follow the truth and only the truth he received from heaven’s direction. Only by obedience to the truth will we be fit subjects for the kingdom of heaven.
It’s not enough to start in faith, we must finish in faith. But finishing can bring its challenges. While ministering to a dying man in World War II, an army Chaplin asked if there was any message he’d like to send home. The young man replied, “Yes, tell mom and dad, I died happy. Also, tell my Bible class teacher that I died a Christian, and I have never forgotten his teaching.” A few weeks later the army Chaplin received a letter from the Bible class teacher. The letter read, “God have mercy upon me. Only last month I resigned from teaching Bible classes, for I felt that my teaching was not doing any good; and scarcely had I, through my cowardly, faithless heart, given up my appointed work. I got your letter telling me that my teaching had been the means of winning a soul to God. I’m taking up my work again, and in Christ’s name, I’ll be faithful to the end.”
Oh, how the devil seeks to defeat us through discouragement and doubt. Oh, how we daily need to ask God for strength that we might be “instant in season and out of season.” May God help us to persevere as we plant the seeds of the kingdom! May we look to God’s word for proper perspective, and lean on Him for favor to finish in faith the course set before us. We can because God will! Let’s be a FINISHER like Paul!