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Run the Race (G.G.)

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This is an opinion article from a user of WikiChristian.

Sermon by Graham Llewellyn Grove, November 2008 - a link to the original sermon can be found here.

Good evening everyone

Tonight's Bible reading is quite a beautiful passage

There are quite a few parts that just jump out and capture my imagine

I wonder what stood out to you in the passage?

I'll read the passage again

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law;

Rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.

For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death

And that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

What grabs your attention?

(Wait for answers)

The part for me that stands out is

Forgetting the past

Looking ahead

I press on in the race


I press on looking only ahead

Matthew, my son, loves electronics equipment and buttons

He just loves buttons

I'm sure many of you have noticed him, time and time again, running towards the front of the church here to play with the buttons on the sound mixer

He gets this look on his face and he points towards what he wants

And then he's off - he runs as fast as his little legs will carry him towards those buttons

Often he runs so fast that he falls flat on his face

But he doesn't care - he'll get right back up and keep running

Obviously its not a good idea for him to play with the sound mixer so I have to keep a vigilant eye on him - but often he's almost there before I realize

So I sprint off after him, pick him up in the nick of time, and bring him back to the back of the church

But that doesn't phase Matthew

Forgetting what has just happened, forgetting the past, he's off again, running towards the sound mixer, looking only forwards to reach that prize...

It's a very tiring "game" to play

When I read this passage in Philippians, this image of Matthew running towards what he wants comes to my mind

Except in this case, the prize isn't a few buttons to press

The prize is something much greater, much more worthwhile, much more eternal

If you look back to verses 10 and 11 Paul talks about this prize

I want to know Jesus

I want to experience the resurrection from the dead

I want to possess perfection

Knowing God, living eternally , experiencing perfection- these are grand things to seek

This is an incredible desire; an incredible prize - who doesn't in his heart of hearts seek after these things?


The words in this Bible passage are taken from a letter that a Christian Jew named Paul wrote to the church in the Greek city of Philippi

When Paul was a much younger man he had an incredible experience where he actually met the resurrected Jesus

The encounter is recorded in the book of Acts - I'll read a bit of it

As Paul was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.

He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” he asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus..."

So Paul wasn't speaking about some theoretical concept when he wrote that he wanted to know Christ

He actually did Jesus, who had met him in an awesome way

Paul wasn't talking about some vague notion when he wrote that he wanted to experience resurrection from death

He actually did know something about the resurrection from the dead because he met Jesus, who had been murdered and yet had risen from the dead and was now alive

Paul is speaking something that he knows is real and not some vague concept

This is why its so good to hear personal stories about people's experiences about how they met Jesus - when you hear someone speak about how he met Jesus, you can really see how alive and real it all is

When Matthew has his heart set on reaching his goal he doesn't look back - he just looks at his goal and runs towards it

This is exactly how Paul describes his faith - his race towards eternity with God

Look at verse 13 again

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race

What did Paul mean when he wrote that

What past did he have to forget?

If you go back to verse 5 Paul talks about his past

He writes

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one!

In Paul's day, a lot of Jewish people thought that they were acceptable to God simply because of their race

Because they were born Jewish, they thought that they had the automatic right to eternal life in the presence of God

They also thought that anyone who wasn't a Jew wasn't acceptable to God

Paul once thought like this

What's more, he thought that he was even more acceptable to God because of all the good deeds he had done

In verse 5 he continues by writing

I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.

And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

So Paul, looking back at his past, knew that he once thought that he was acceptable to God

Firstly because of his race - his ethnic identity

And secondly, because he had earned the right because he was so careful to be obedient to the law


One of my friends in high school used to often have religious discussions with me

He'd say

I'm a good person, I'm going to go to heaven

I'm sure that this is common thought in Australian society

I reckon heaps of people think this way

People have always thought this way

Paul once thought this way

But it actually isn't the way that God thinks

God is holy

God is perfect

How can we come into the presence of a perfect and holy God if we aren't perfect and holy ourselves?

Sure, we can try and list the good things we've done, but they fade into insignificance when you compare them to the greatness and holiness of God

This is what the book of Romans in the Bible means when it says these famous words

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

It takes humility to accept this, but it is what the Bible teaches

And it is something that Paul realized - because if you read on, in verse 7 he talks about his good deeds in this way

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless

Rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.

Paul knew that it wasn't his racial identity that made him acceptable to God

The fact that a person comes from a Christian family or lives in a Christian country like Australia is worthless - it isn't valuable in God sight

Paul knew that it wasn't the good deeds or obedience to the law that had made him acceptable to God

The fact that person has done a lot of good things in his life, isn't what makes him acceptable to God

It's not these things - it's faith in Christ - knowing Jesus is what makes a person acceptable to God


Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race

There's another side to the coin though

Although Paul could say that he obeyed the law without fault, he also had a more disturbing past that he needed to forget

Paul certainly didn't have a perfect past

I'll read a little story that tells of Paul's past sins

Stephen was a follower of Jesus, a man full of God’s grace and power

So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.

They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.

Paul was actually murderer - he had been one of the people responsible for the murder of Stephen

He had waged a war against Christians, travelling the countryside, searching them out, and having them thrown in prison

He had done some horrible things

But you know what, in the end they didn't stop him becoming acceptable to God

Because his forgiveness, his righteousness lay in his faith in Christ

Knowing Jesus is what makes a person acceptable to God

It does not matter what we have done

Nothing in the past is too terrible, too repulsive, too horrific for God to forgive

That's why Paul could forget the past and run the race

Because he knew the past had been forgiven

If you know Jesus, your past has been forgiven - don't linger on - look ahead to Jesus

If you don't know Jesus, your past can be forgiven - you only need to look to Jesus

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race

These words aren't just a call to not look back

They are also a plea to look forward and to press on - to not get side-tracked

I've had a few friends over the years who haven't continued in their Christian race

One of my friends in high school seemed to be a devout Christian - he had read the Bible and talked about his faith quite often - but as the years went on he became more and more interested in pleasure - he discovered that going out to parties and drinking was good fun; he discovered that he enjoyed sleeping with his girlfriend - he soon stopped talking about Jesus and no longer read the Bible - and one day he stopped calling himself a Christian

He had been running the race, but he took his eyes of what lay ahead

Instead he looked to the side and saw other things that appealed to him more than Jesus

If you look at the Bible passage, and look at the next few verses, verses 18-21, you can see that Paul knew that losing the focus on Jesus ahead was a real problem

For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.

They are headed for destruction. o Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.

And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

These are challenging words

It's good to ask these questions of ourselves

Have I taken my eyes of the prize of Jesus and eternal life with him?

Have I looked to one side and am I focussing on things like my appetite, like wealth and other pleasures on this earth?

Because if I'm looking at Jesus and focussed on things that matter for eternity, then it's not possible that I'll be focussed on other things


God has in store for us a great future

He makes us clean and righteous if we have faith in Jesus

He has perfection and resurrection with life into eternity planned for us

All we have to do is run towards it looking to Jesus as our focus

Don't look back and rely on the good things you've done

Don't look back and be paralysed by the bad things you've done

Don't look to the side and get side tracked with the temporary things of this world - with money, prestige and pleasure

Look ahead - look at Jesus

I'm going to finish by reading a story about someone who ran the race towards Jesus

It's about a man named Eric Liddell

He was a Scottish man who was famous as a runner

He was also a committed Christian

In 1924 the Olympic Games were held in Paris

And Eric Liddell was thought to be the fastest man in the world and so he was expected to win the 100 yard sprint

The only problem was that final for the 100 yard sprint was on a Sunday

And Eric Liddell refused to run on a Sunday

You and I may not really understand why he wouldn't run a Sunday

But in his mind, in his heart, it was his conviction that it would be wrong to run on a Sunday

He had his sights on running the race towards Jesus

That was his primary race, not the 100 yard sprint

He could taken his eyes off Jesus and looked to the side and seen victory and fame

But he didn't - he was true to what he believed Jesus was asking of him

He ran the race towards Jesus rather than run the 100 yard sprint


Interestingly, a few days later he ran in the 400 yard run

No one expected him to win this race

But as he went to the starting block, someone slipped a piece of paper into his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30

Those who honour me, I will honour says God

He ran the race holding that piece paper in his hand, and not only did he win it, but he broke the world record

A year later Liddel travelled to China where he worked as a missionary for the next 20 years

In the last few years of his life, China became an increasingly dangerous place with World War II in full swing and the invasion by Japan

The British government actually advised all British people to leave the country

He was running the race towards Jesus; he could have looked off to one side and seen security and safety, but he didn't and he stayed

The mission hospital he was working at was captured by the Japanese army and he was sent to an Internment Camp

On the day he died he wrote a letter to his wife about suffering a nervous breakdown in the camp because of overwork, but in actual fact, he was suffering from a brain tumour and not a nervous breakdown

He ran the race towards Jesus; he didn't look back and didn't look off to the side; he just pressed on, looking forward to these beautiful words from Isaiah

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.

They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.


In the quiet times of this coming week lets each ask ourselves if these words are true for us, for me...

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race

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