Pressing toward the finish

The Verse of the Day for July 28, 2018 comes from Philippians 3:14, but we need to take a look at the preceding verse as well:

Philippians 3:13-14 (Revised Standard Version):00

Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

To understand the passage more fully, we can explore some of the athletic imagery Paul uses in Philippians and elsewhere, particularly his references to “the race.” In this case, “to press toward the mark is to focus intently, to “scope in on” the finish line. The runner blocks everything out except the thin white line which is only visible when the competitors are right upon it. The athletes are “single-minded,” focusing all energy and efforts on finishing the race. Not looking to the right nor to the left, certainly not looking behind, but pressing toward the mark, athletes strive to cross the finish line in first place.

A recent blog post spoke of the Church, the Body of Christ, as God’s crowning achievement and made reference to the crown or the prize in a similar athletic context. Part of the discussion centered on the ending of the race or athletic contest that believers find themselves in today. “The Finish,” a poem written for that particular entry opens this way:

In this present season God is placing a great demand
On those who excel, those seeking to run and win the race.
Though the way seems grueling, we are still guided by His hand.
God exhorts us to run as He sustains us by His grace.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

Philippians 3:13-14 reminds believers that we must finish the race that is set before us. We recognized that we have to cross the finish line before we can receive the prize.

Here are words of encouragement:

As We Finish the Work

Jesus said to them, My food (nourishment)
is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me
and to accomplish and completely finish His work.

John 4:34 (Amplified Bible)

As we finish the work God has sent us to do,
We seek to fulfill all His will and leave our mark.
The Lord will bless and refresh and make all things new.
The fire on the altar enflamed from a small spark
Beckons as we press to reach the top of the mount.
As servants of the living God, we have been blessed
To reap the good of this life’s bountiful harvest.
We reflect upon God’s favor as we recount
All the days of our lives in multiples of five,
Having received the fullness of grace upon grace,
As we persevere not just to survive but thrive
And triumph with renewed strength to finish our race.
Along the way will be many whom we will inspire
To serve the Lord, for this has been our heart’s desire.

A related passage in I Corinthians 9:24–27 offers a similar athletic analogy:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

As spiritual athletes, we continue to learn firsthand the fight we are in is real, and we are not just “shadow-boxing.” We recognize, however, we must “endure a great fight of afflictions” as mentioned in Hebrews, and “run with patience the race that is set before us.” We have already won, but we simply need to finish the course. Then we will be able to say along with Paul:

2 Timothy 4:7–8:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith: Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day: and not to me only but also all who have loved His appearing.

As I reflect upon my track and field experiences back in the day in high school, I now recognize many times we knew the outcome of the entire track meet beforehand, based on the accumulation of points from all the previous track and field events, with the last two races being relays. Drawing a spiritual parallel with the spiritual athletic arena we find ourselves in today, the believers’ team is so far ahead that we cannot lose; however, the challenge is for each individual believer to finish the race, having achieved his or her P.B. (personal best).

In a similar way, we encourage all believers in their individual races to

Cast aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets,
Forget the past, press toward the mark,
Look straight ahead with no regrets.

We close with a beautiful song by the Wilds based on Philippians 3:13-14: “Press toward the Mark”:

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One Response to “Pressing toward the finish”

  1. Riverside Peace Says:

    🦋 A though provoking verse is Philippians 3:13-14; a timeless inspiration for preachers, lecturers and writers.

    🦋 Totally blessed by your thoughts.

    🦋 Thanks for sharing.

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