This week I’m preaching in a meeting at the Cherry Sink Church in Gilchrist County, Florida. And it felt like we’d returned to the “normal” days of yesteryear.
I spoke twice in the morning. We had a potluck in the afternoon. And I spoke Sunday night. And I could see people’s faces. Almost no masks.
Our theme for the week is “Pressing Toward the Prize,” based on Philippians 3:13-14.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
This text is one of the times when the age-old questions of who? Where? When? Why? And wherefore are very helpful.
The apostle Paul was an aged man writing this book from a Roman prison. His life hung in the balance. He was ready to die for preaching Christ. But he was also willing to keep living if he could preach the gospel. His attitude was “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
So, what is Paul doing toward the end of his life? Worrying about his fate? Fretting over past mistakes? Regretting the sins of his youth? Rehashing the injuries inflicted on him by false teachers and enemies of Christ? Or reminiscing about the good ole days? And reliving his past victories and evangelistic successes?
No. He says, “I’m forgetting the things which are behind.” Paul realized that while life can be understood backward, it must be lived forwards.
So, he affirms, “I’m pressing on toward the prize.”
How does an aged man, in less than ideal circumstances, incarcerated, and under 24-hour surveillance by soldiers press on?
Paul could still pray. He could read. He could write letters of encouragement like the Philippian epistle. He could meditate on spiritual matters. He could share his faith with those who guarded him. They could hear him talk to his friends about the gospel. And see the sincerity of his convictions. His imprisonment had opened new opportunities for the spread of the Gospel In fact, the evidence of his faith in Christ had reached the Praetorian Guard, the imperial guard of Rome, the elite of the Roman army.
As a result of Paul’s devotion, determination and courage, brethren were emboldened to preach Christ. A negative situation produced a positive outcome. What the devil used to thwart the gospel message backfired. And resulted in “the furtherance of the gospel.”
The thrust of this meeting and today’s post is simple. We’re not done yet. We’re not finished. We’re still running the race. Pursing the goal. Pressing on toward the prize.
As we grow older, our roles may be altered. The way we function will be different than in days past. The positions we once held may be exchanged for new and modified means of ministry. Our opportunities will change. But our responsibility is still the same–keep pressing on.
When I was running cross county and track in High School, my coach, Carl Short, drove home an important point about running. He said when you come around the last turn toward the finish line, kick it. Run as hard as you can. And don’t run to the tape. But run through the tape.
In Andrew Daniels’s book, “The Greatest Finish Fails in Sports History,” he tells about Algeria’s Taoufik Makhisufi, who was running the 800 meter in a meet in Shanghai. Just before crossing the finish line, he stuck out his arms and his tongue and only to see his first-place finish get usurped by a Kenyan, Robert Biwott.
Showboating, being overconfident or losing focus not only spells disaster in running but also in running the Christian race.
As long as you’re living and breathing, the race is not over. Not yet. Let’s all keep on pressing toward the prize.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman