Run To The Finish Aiming For The Goal

October 19, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Philippians 3:12-21

1. There was [this] wedding ceremony in a certain church. The wedding was held in a dignified manner, then the bride and the bridegroom set out from there for their honeymoon. Like you see in the movies and all, the couple is leaving and getting into the car after church. But when they get outside, there was some kind of prank done on the car. Somebody stuck a big placard on their car. What did they write on the placard? On it they drew a picture of a man growling gruffly and a picture of a woman letting her mouth shoot off like his. Then the following sentence was posted under it. "The moment I got what I wanted, I didn't want it any more." -- It's something I read some time back.

2. Generally speaking, it's the same old story, the things we get after working so hard, after we actually get them, they no longer hold our complete interest. Prone to be like the story just a minute ago, even with the dignified event of a wedding, [things] do run the risk of turning out [on a sour note] like that. [Take college.] Even after putting so much hard effort into getting into college, there are a lot of people who skip class after [just] five months. [Take work for an example.] Even though it is a job that they longed to do and they wanted to go into, after working in it a while, when they bump up against some stress, they start complaining about why in the world am I doing this kind of work. This kind of stuff happens.

3. Why does stuff like this happen to us? It is because we don't have an ultimate objective. Overall in general when it comes to intermediate objectives, there is meaning especially when we have an ultimate objective. An intermediate objective without an ultimate objective will lose value upon being achieved. It's the way it is.

4. So, what in the world are we ultimately living for and aiming towards? What are we living for and pursuing after? What is [our] final purpose in life? How in the world are we going to answer this question!?

5. Actually, this question came up three weeks ago as well. It was the time we read chapter one of the Epistle to the Disciples of Philippi. Paul gave a talk, the people were living by clinging steadfastly to the answer he gave. Do you remember it? We have returned back to the Epistle to the Disciples of Philippi. So, again, I think we should focus our eyes on this figure of Paul, and turn our ears to what the Lord is saying to us through these words.

In Order To Obtain The Prize Which God Will Award You

6. Please look at verse thirteen. Paul addresses the disciples of Philippi here as "brothers." Then, Paul makes the following definitive statement about himself. "There is just one thing [I] ought to do!" What is that "just one thing?" He says that [I] have to run steadfastly aiming for the objective. What is waiting in that objective? For what purpose does he run aiming for the objective? Paul tells [why]. "God has called me upward through Christ Jesus, in order to obtain the prize that [he] will award [me]."

7. It is not solely "in order to obtain the prize." He says, "in order to obtain the prize which God will award [me]." The focus of his consciousness is obviously not "the prize" itself. [His focus] is [on] "God" who will grant him it. Earlier I said, "What is waiting?," but that expression is not exactly accurate. I should have said, "Who is waiting?" God has been waiting there. Paul runs keeping his thoughts on that time, looking to that time when he will meet with God plainly out in the open.

8. When I meet God I would like for him to speak well of me. I am running steadfastly seeking just that. That is the one thing I ought to be doing. In short, life is about just that. It's just that. That's it, the goal that we're aiming for. What do you think about it? Do you have pretty much a plain-n-simple childish view of life? As we read this epistle, though, it does make us think twice. Isn't it true that so often we are missing simplicity and in need of it, which we could say is acting child-like?

9. We actually lose this simplicity, and go around saying, you gotta do this and you better do that. While we move around like that, at the end of the day, we still can't answer the question when asked what's the ultimate purpose. We don't have a clue about what the purpose of human life is or where we're going in life. We end up people exactly like that.

10. Please give it some thought. Paul is in jail at this time. Where he was living he couldn't see tomorrow. In a certain sense he was in an utterly helpless bind. But yet he was running. He was steadfastly running, and he was able to run. How is that? He just wanted to be praised by God. He wanted to receive an award from God; because he kept his mind on that alone. Therefore, be he in a jail or be he in any kind of bind he would live one hundred percent. He would run for sure.

11. Won't you restore this simplicity back? Let's steadfastly seek to be take pleasure in God the heavenly Father, to be praised by him, and to be valued by God. Let's run with this as the final goal. It is precisely by having that as the final goal that these many different intermediate objectives [of ours] will also have meaning.

Forget What Lies Behind And Keep Your Whole Body Turned Towards What Lies Ahead

12. Well, with the above things in mind, the next main thing is how you run. We also want to learn from Paul how to run; he was still running while in jail. I will read once again midday from verse thirteen. "The one thing [I] ought to do is, to forget what lies behind me and to keep my whole body turned towards what lies before me, and since God has called me upward through Christ Jesus, in order to obtain the prize that [he] will award [me], I ought to run steadfastly aiming for the objective," (verses thirteen and fourteen).

13. It goes without saying that the image being given here is that of a runner in a stadium. When players are in a race in a stadium, how do they run? They are not disqualified even though they may look to their side or look behind them while they are running. But just because they aren't disqualified doesn't mean that this way of running is a good way to run. Always looking to the side and to the rear will be an obstacle to [your] running. Therefore, the runners must run with their eyes steadfastly looking ahead.

14. Running to receive a prize from God is the same [way]. You can't run always looking backward. Therefore, Paul says, "Forget what's behind [you]." Of course, Paul is not saying that he has forgotten everything that has happened in the past. Paul never forgot many of the events that had occurred in the past. For example, Paul never forgot the events of the grace of God, when he had saved him. He would never forget that while on the way to Damascus Christ had met with him.

15. But then on the other hand, when we are running and looking ahead, there are times that we should not look back. There are things we must leave totally behind us. When we don't leave them behind, they will hinder our progress.

16. The first thing is the glory of the past. It is especially easy for that glory of the past to be a hindrance to our progress in situations where the things that we were proud of, that we used to have in the past, are now lost. Would you agree with that? By clinging only to the glory of the past, by saying, "[Things] used to be great in those days," it may indeed be the case that you cannot take one step forward that you must truly take right now. By looking behind, you have no grounds to proceed forward. In order to go forward you must leave what's past in the past.

17. As a matter of fact, there were a number of times when Paul used to feel overly proud. Beginning in verse five the text reads as follows. "I was circumcised on the eighth day after I was born, and I belong to the Israelites, I am from the tribe of Benjamin, I am a Hebrew among Hebrews. Regarding the law, I was a member of the Pharisees, on the point of zeal I was a persecutor of the church, and concerning the duty of the law I was blameless," (verses five and six). As a Jew he was of the elite. You could say, he had days of glory, where future hopes had been pinned on him as a scholar of the law as a pupil of the great rabbi Gamaliel, and the people had garnered their high expectations in him.

18. However, when he followed Christ, he lost it all. Now he had come to a place, in jail, where he was approaching his final moments. Did Paul regret what he had lost? Was Paul looking in their direction? No, not hardly. What does he say? "Because of Christ, I have lost everything, but I consider it dirty trash," (verse eight). He put it like that. It's not that Paul doesn't remember; but that these things just don't have a hold on Paul. They are not hindering his running; because after putting behind the things that lie behind, he is going straight ahead. We should be that way, too.

19. And then another thing. There is something that hinders progress more than the lost glory of the past. It is the guilt of the past. There are so many situations in our lives that we want to do over if it were only possible. It is especially so as our old sins look worse and worse the more we know the grace of Christ. His having persecuted the church and instigated the death of numbers of Christians must not have felt guilty to him at all when Paul the Pharisee was on fire with a sense of righteousness. But, when [his heart] was illuminated by the light of Christ, he discovered that it was a great sin which could not be undone. We get irate over the same stuff.

20. If we're dragging along a heavy load of sin, the more we try to stretch ourselves forward, the more intensely it will become a power to drag us backwards, and we'll have to work even more. We must be set free from the heavy burden of sin in order for us to make progress going forward, stretching ourselves ahead. What's the best thing for us to do? To do this, it does certainly [seem] important that we apologize to others, make up with them, and receive forgiveness from them. But, being set free from the heavy burden of sin in a true sense only comes from God's forgiveness.

21. In the Old Testament the Lord already said the following. "I will pardon their evil, and I will never remember their sins again," (Jeremiah 31:34). "The Lord will have mercy on us again, he will accept our faults, and he will throw all of our sins into the depths of the sea," (Micah 7:19). And then it was on the cross of Christ where the truth of these words had been fully revealed. The Lord sent Christ to forgive and save us. Christ bore every bit of our guilty sin and hung on the cross, and then accomplished the atoning death. Because of this Christ, we receive the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sin.

22. As a result, when God makes a pronouncement of forgiveness, we must not be trapped by guilt from the past at any time ever. Because of that, we must not condemn ourselves. Since God has thrown our sins into the depths of the sea, we must never drag them up out of it again. For, God requires that we are to run looking ahead, instead. For, we are to run looking ahead and steadfastly seeking to take pleasure in God. When it comes to a person's parents, they do not wish that their own child will live his or her entire life having regrets and feelings of self-condemnation. Even more so, the heavenly father does not wish that his children live an entire life of regret.

23. Repentance and regret are not the same things. Repentance is a necessary thing. It is imperative that we not make the same mistakes. But, repentance is not simply being sorry or regret. We are to change directions. The main thing is that we are to begin running looking forward. The person who used to go for sin begins running for God. As we continually desire to meet with God and to receive good words from Him about ourselves, even praise, we run to the finish going for the goal. That is our life.