Friday, January 12, 2007

2-Sunday Series: "The Prize" Pt. 1


I want to start today by telling you a story that shows the importance of keeping a goal in mind

On July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick waded into the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island and began swimming toward the California coast 26 miles away. The day was cold and her attendants had to drive off sharks with rifles while she swam toward her goal.

Florence had already swum the English Channel twice and, if she could finish today, she would be the first woman to have swum both. But after 15 hours in the water, for the first and only time in her long-distance swimming career, she finally gave up and climbed into the escort boat.

They had tried to urge her on, but in the fog she couldn’t tell her how close she was to the shore. Because of this, she gave up and later found out she was less than a half mile from shore.

When she was asked by a reporter why she gave up, Florence said,

"It was the fog. If I could have seen land, I could have finished. But when you can't see your goal, you lose all sense of progress and you begin to give up."

On a warm, sunny day two months later Florence Chadwick swam the Catalina Channel, easily beating the men's record.

Why? This time she could see her goal!

Many people have three problems as they start 2007:

1. They have no goals.

We just wander through life and end up where the storms of life throw them.

2. They have no plans to achieve their goals.

If you don’t have any plans on how you’ll achieve your goals than your goals are really just wishes.

The difference between a wish and a goal is this:

  • A wish is something you want to happen, but won't or can't do anything about it.
  • A goal is something you want to happen and you're willing and can do something about it!

3. They have the wrong goals!

They focus on the wrong goal – wrong priorities – and never achieve what God created them to be.

Over the next 2 Sundays, I'm going to be doing a series I'm calling “The Prize”. During this series, instead of just looking at how to achieve OUR goals, I want to look at some goals that GOD has for us in 2007.

Today, I want to look at some of the first goals that God wants us to reach. We can hear them in the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3.

If you think about it, Paul's the perfect person to learn about achieving God's goals for our life. He wrote a huge portion of the New Testament and he helped establish a lot of the first churches throughout the Roman Empire.

Paul did such a good job at achieving God's goals for his life that towards the end of his life he was able to say this in Philippians 4:7...

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

See why Paul's a cool person to teach us about achieving God's goals for 2007?

Look at Philippians 3:10-14 and listen to what he says...

10 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, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Let’s stop there for a second.

There’s something in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia about the book of Philippians I want you to hear before we look at next two verses. Listen to what it says about this letter to the Philippians…

“It is a simple letter to personal friends. It has no theological discussions and no rigid outline and no formal development. It rambles along just as any real letter would with personal news and personal feelings and outbursts of personal affection between tried friends. It is the most spontaneous and unaffected of the Pauline Epistles.”

What we’re reading is a letter from Paul to friends where he’s revealing the real “Paul” to them! He's writing as he says at the beginning of Philippians as a “fellow servant”.

And what does he reveal to these friends?

He says, “I want to know Christ...”

This is PAUL, the Apostle, the one so many look up to. and he says, “I want to know Christ...”

We have to realize something more and more in life…

Life’s too risky. It’s too easy to fall short of what we were made to be for us to settle for just knowing ABOUT God. We need to know him from experience!

When you’re going through a hard time it’s good to know about God, but it’s better to know God in the middle of the whole thing! That difference makes all the difference! (Show broken clippers box and mention you want to KNOW God when you’re on a flight with crazy turbulence like we were on two days ago!)

Look at what Paul tells the Corinthians about knowing vs. knowledge in 1 Cor 8:1-3:

F18 Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.

When Paul says “Knowledge puffs up…” he’s using a word in Greek that means just the general knowledge of Christian religion.”

General knowledge – knowing verses, facts - by themselves “puffs up”. It makes you feel smart like you know the “facts about life”. It fools us into thinking we’ve got it all under control.

But, Paul says love (relational connection with God and others) builds up. It gives us a real foundation to stand on.

It will be those relationships that will matter the most in life – more than any knowledge we discover!

But Paul keeps going! I love what he says next in verse 2 to humble any of us who think we know it all…

2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.

We think we know so much about God and life, but we can’t even comprehend how much we DON’T know!


It’s like Jack, my 5 year old, trying to understand Calculus! He knows a little Math, but there’s no way he could understand or do Calculus! He doesn’t know yet what he should even though!

But that’s not really the best example of what we don’t know about God and life!

There are things about God and life that we don’t know, cause we don’t even understand the things we’d need to know for God to explain what we don’t know about Him and life!!!!

Paul then finishes out this thought to the Corinthians in verse 3

3But the man who loves God is known by God.

We need to know about God – know about his wordhis promises, BUT, more than that we need to love him!

Love is based on experiential knowledge. It’s relational. That’s what we really need! That what God really wants! This is what Paul’s saying in Philippians 3!

This Apostle, who met Jesus on the road to Damascus, this man who suffered for Jesus – and who God revealed so much truth to says…

“I want to know Christ”. He doesn’t want to settle for less!

That should be one of our main goals this yearto know Jesus more than we did last year.

*Does anybody have anything they want to say add about knowing God and making it a priority for this year?

Alright let’s keep going…

Paul says this, which we expect him to say, but then he admits something that probably shocked the Phillipians as much as it does us to hear. Look at verses 12 and 13a...

12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

You've gotta remember this letter is being written in the later part of his life – towards the end! And he says, “Not that I've already attained all this... I don't consider myself yet to have taken hold of it...”

He's saying, “I still haven't achieved it all yet. I still can't just relax and wait till the end!”

What I want you to hear today is that it doesn't matter if you're a new Christ-follower and just start following him today. It doesn’t even matter if you've been a Christ-follower for years!

The goal Paul is about to reveal applies to all of us!

What's the goal? You've already heard it, but maybe you missed it. Does anybody see it?

Paul says it in two ways in verses 12 and 14...

“to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” v. 12

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. V.13

Paul's goal – the thing that’s allowed him to live God's goals for his life – is to grab hold of the thing that Jesus had in mind when he died for him on the cross!

Don’t ever forget that Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection was a personal, specific thing.

He didn’t just do it for “whoever” would believe – a generic way – he had each person in mind when he died of the cross.

He died for them, because he loved each of them. He resurrected from the dead because he had a reason and purpose for each them!

Jesus had YOU on his mind during all of this!

Paul says he wants to accomplish the purpose God had for him when he saved him! Paul calls that “The Prize”! That goal helped Paul to finish the race so well!

We need to make that one of our goals for 2007.

We need to say, “No matter what else I do or achieve this year I want to KNOW Jesus more and come closer to that prize for which God has called me heavenward!”

Paul has a pretty simple strategy to accomplish this goal that will help us this year. Do you see it?

In verse 13-14 he calls it “the one thing I do”...

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus

He uses a picture that the Philippians would’ve understood to explain his simple strategy. It’s the picture of an Olympic runner leaning forward focused on one thing: the goal – the prize.

If you’re running in a race and you stumble for a second, you don’t go back and try to run that part again. No! You forget about it and keep running even harder towards the goal!

When we mess up and fall, when we sin what do we like to do? We like to go to “Instant replay” and keep watching it over and over again in our minds.

We want to take a “time out” go back and do it again. But, life doesn’t work that way!

No athlete that wins does that! When they mess up they do what Paul did: forget what’s behind and strain toward what’s ahead!


That reminds me of another man who lived his life in way:

Age 22 - failed in business

Age 23 - ran for legislature and was defeated

Age 24 - failed again in Buenos

Age 26 - sweetheart died

Age 27 - had a nervous breakdown

Age 29 - defeated for speaker

Age 31 - defeated for elector

Age 34 - defeated for Congress

Age 37 - elected to Congress

Age 39 - defeated for Congress

Age 46 - defeated for Senate

Age 47 - defeated for vice president

Age 49 - defeated for Senate

Who is this loser?

At age 51 he was elected president of the United States. His name is Abraham Lincoln. Throughout his life he went through more defeats than victories, but because he never gave up he won the highest office of the land!

Do you know what?

We worry and have guilt over sins God’s already forgiven and doesn’t even count anymore! We focus on failure that everyone else has forgotten about!

That’s the wrong way to live! We need to learn from Paul!

Remember the old Nike commercials? I want be like Mike”? We need to learn how to “be like Paul”!

How do you forget what’s behind?...

There are a lot of good things in life that I’ve done that I’ve forgot about.

Do you know how this happened?

I stopped thinking about them and after a long enough time I forgot them! I didn’t remember them till somebody reminded me!

I think the way forget about the failures, sins and all the other junk is to ask God and anyone else you hurt for forgiveness, forgive yourself and then STOP thinking about them! Stop obsessing about this stuff. Stop replaying it, reliving it and complaining about it!

Replace the past with what you want the future to be like! We’ve got to just keep pressing on towards the goal!

Can any of you think of any other ways to forget what’s behind? Or do you have something else to add?

Calvin Coolidge said...

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Make goals this year.
Make sure they’re not just wishes.

I just saw in the Washington Post an article that said most people don’t achieve their goals cause they don’t have a plan and they don’t have an accountability person.

Add prayer and action to that list and you’ll have a chance to really see yourself actually achieve your goals!

But, I want to encourage you (and me) to make our TOP goals: To Know God and to Forget what’s behind and then strain, press on – to grab hold of that prize – that reason that Jesus grabbed hold of you.

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