Pastor Shim's Sermon for January 9, 2011.
“Forgetting what’s behind, I press on toward the goal. Philippians. 3:12-14.
“ There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.” - George Bernard Shaw
The founder of Home Depot, Bernice Marcus, lost his job after working for 30 years at a home improvement company. He was devastated, yet he realized to forget the past and start a new life. You know that now Home Depot is a global company and Marcus is a billionaire. God gives everyone a second chance. We can see it in Paul's life too. When Jesus encountered him, he was proud of his achievement and service (Philippians 3:4-6). Paul was saying “if I were to brag of my success, I would win the contest.” However, Paul looked at Jesus, his Lord, who gave up a lot more than he did to save sinners (Philippians 2:5-11). Paul decided to be like his master Jesus Christ and dedicated the rest of his life to Christ and the Gospel. God calls us all like Paul to three goals in our Christian Life: (1) To exchange our good lives for the best life in Christ; (2) To become disciples of Christ by imitating Him; (3) To press toward perfection in Christ as a prize of life.
Paul shares with us how and why we must press forward in (Philippians 3:12-14). Paul stated his purpose for living again and again in this book. In chapter 1:2 he says, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In chapter 3:10 Paul says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul had three goals as he pressed forward to becoming like Christ: (1) To live for Christ daily by saying no to all competing and conflicting values; (2) To know and serve Christ each day by applying necessary disciplines like an athlete; (3) To attain the resurrection like Christ. This was Paul's ultimate goal, his crown.
Paul looked at the life of Jesus who lived a perfect life and how he completed his mission on earth perfectly to the glory of God, and then Jesus was highly exalted to sit at the right of hand of the Father (Heb 1:3).
Paul's passion was to please God as his master Jesus did and to finish well. Upon evaluating his goal, he said, in chapter 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but
I press on...forgetting what is behind....straining toward what is ahead...I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Jesus Christ.
It’s interesting everyone who competes in sports wants to be first, but only those who are prepared and fit achieve that goal. Last week I was reading about marathon runners. One of the runners was almost to the finishing line but for some reason he made a wrong turn and lost. I felt sad for him.
However, Paul, being familiar with Olympic games, he learned to discipline himself and run toward the prize. We too can finish well if we follow his steps. We must forget the past failures and achievements. We must move on toward the prize by faith. We must believe that God is with us (1:6). We must focus on the prize like an athlete - no runner looks backward, only forward. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, our champion (Heb 12:1-2). The aim is progress, not perfection. Nobody is going to achieve perfection in this life. As Paul reminds us, we press on toward perfection. Right kinds of experience lead to the desired goals. Being perfect means being mature or complete in Christ. Our relationship with Christ makes us complete in God’s sight.
For example, a doctor says to the newborn baby’s parent, “She is a perfect baby.” What he means is she is healthy. The parents know the baby is going to be totally dependent on them at least for 18 years. The statement remains valid, even though we cannot claim perfection until we reach the finish line. We have to aim for the prize. One day we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and what a glorious day that will be. Unlike the athletes who complete the race and only a few are awarded the prize, we can all make it to the finish line because God promised to help us to complete the task (Philippians 1:6 and 2:13).
Progress toward the prize is possible - keep going. Progress toward the goal could be hindered by past achievement or failure. Forget the past; it's gone, both good and bad. Press on toward tomorrow--reach for it--it holds hope. Seek God's help through prayer.
Let me close with two examples from the Bible of those who reached the goal and those who failed.
For those who finished well, our example is Paul. Paul made it to the finishing line (2 Timothy 4:7-8: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Those who failed to make it: King Saul and Lot’s wife.
As we aim toward the prize, there are hindrances, stumbling blocks, but God has promised to help us. Isaiah 40:29-31, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths
grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not
Finally, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfect or of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2-3) --- Amen!
Shim Habte - Willows United Methodist Church,
544 N.Shasta St.
Willows, CA 95988