As I pondered Philippians 3 verses 12 - 14 stood out to me.
Paul has just been speaking about how insignificant his human standing and efforts are in light of what Christ has done in his life. He has gained so much through his faith in Jesus Christ... he has recieved salvation through Jesus death and ressurection... through no effort of his own.
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Phil 3: 7-9)But then he states
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."What does this mean?
Is there now something I have to work for... I thought salvation was free to me.
Is Paul saying that part of salvation requires my effort?
Paul is NOT saying that we have to work for our salvation-- it is free to all who believe (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9.
BUT he is saying that we do have to strive to fully understand the gift that was given to us through Christ as he states in verse 10 and 11:
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
This is what Paul has not yet obtained... this full understanding of what Christ has done... this is the prize he presses on for!
It is a crisp November day and you are visiting friends in New York City. They invite you to go and see the New York City marathon. Sounds like fun, maybe you will be inspired to start that exercise program you have been meaning to start. Even though thousands have gathered, somehow you are fortunate enough to get a spot right near the finish line. The crowd is energized. You see the first runner nearing the end. He is strong and fit and raises his arms in victory as he tears through the tape! He has won! The crowd breaks into applause which can be heard for miles. Then something strange happens.
You see the winner talking to the race officer and suddenly he's looking in your direction, he's pointing toward you. You look around to see who he may be looking at. When you look back the race official is walking toward you. When he is a few feet in front of you he calls your name. Your heart starts racing. "How does he know my name?" Your mind is spinning as you answer. The officer explains that the winner of the race wants to name you the winner and he wants you to recieve the prize for winning the race. "Me?! Are you sure? I have done nothing to deserve it!" He convinces you that this is for real, it is not a joke. You just have to accept it. "Really! Wow... thank you very much!! That's very generous of him! But why me?" you keep asking. "But wait," says the officer, "If you accept your name will be written down in the book of winners- guaranteed, BUT in order to claim the prize there is one stipulation-- You must run and finish the course!"
TWENTY SIX miles??? ARE YOU SERIOUS?" I can't even walk 2 miles without feeling it!
The winner who so graciously is giving up his title to you comes over and shakes your hand. "My father asked me to run this race for you... you are a winner in his eyes," he says. "He wants you to have the prize as well!"
None of this makes sense but somehow you begin to understand. You are almost speechless but manage to say, "This is very kind and generous of you but there is no way I can do this, I am not a runner, I will never make it." He takes your hand and replies, "Don't worry, I will train you, I will run with you, you can do this, you just have to reach for it. Trust me!"
For months you train, you begin to build up endurance and strength. During the training you learn more and more about this father and son. You learn that the father has adopted you... and is providing everything you need for this race. This means that man who has run this race for you is your brother. The more you learn the more you are amazed. The son tells you about the home of the father... it's description is beyond anything you have ever seen. He tells you how you will get to go and meet him once you have finished the course. Once you have run the race you will go to him to claim the prize and live with him.. he has a room for you! In spite of all you have to look forward to, some weeks are tough- you don't like the training. It is grueling, your feet are blistered, your muscles ache, you want to give up. Some days you miss practice, you try to avoid your brother, your new friend, the one who has made you the winner. But he is always there encouraging you. Sometimes along the route you begin to trip but he reaches out and catches you.. he won't let you fall. The more you get to know him, the more you trust him. He tells you not to worry about your failures, your missed practices. "Just press on," he says, "Remember the prize I have promised you." You fix your eyes on the goal and then finally the day comes.. the big day, the day you have been training for, the day you will recieve your prize. It is the day you complete the race!
You cross the finish line. It is beautiful!! There is your father saying "Well done!!" your brother, the one who made you a winner before you even knew him is there beside him holding your crown! You have run for the prize and it is now all yours, completely and fully... forever!!!
This is what Christ has done for us! Our Christian walk (or should I say run) is helping us to understand this gift more fully!
I love how these verses read in the GOD'S WORD ® Translation:
Philippians 3: 12-14
It's not that I've already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me. Brothers and sisters, I can't consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don't look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.
Run the race well my friend!