Running toward the Goal
12I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13My friends, I don't feel I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14I run toward the goal, so I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. 15All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. 16But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.
17 My friends, I want you to follow my example and learn from others who closely follow the example we set for you. 18I often warned you that many people are living as enemies of the cross of Christ. And now with tears in my eyes, I warn you again 19that they are headed for hell! They worship their stomachs and brag about the disgusting things they do. All they can think about are the things of this world.
20But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ 21 has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body.
Passion and perseverance may at first sight appear somewhat incompatible. Passion shines bright, with the energy of a sprint, but can be over in an instant: someone launches into a project with wonderful ideas, but flakes out at the first hurdle. Perseverance may seem very dull in comparison, like a slow marathon. The faithful plodder, reliable and self-disciplined, may be less noticed but invariably respected. In this text, both qualities are beautifully combined in Paul as we witness his single-minded perseverance inspired by a passionate response to God’s grace.
Expressing the intensity of his emotions, Paul urges the believers to run the Christian race with great determination. Having told the story of his promising past and present passion, Paul insists on drawing full attention to his future goal: completing the race for which Christ has entered him. Despite his imperfections, everything about him strains towards that finishing line: knowing Jesus Christ fully. Fascination with earthly trivia (whether greed or legalism or something else) is a pitiful distraction in the light of the Saviour’s glorious appearing. In the meantime, precisely because that future hope stretches like elastic right back into the present, Paul presses on with grit and focus.
In the busyness of personal and church life, we need to keep that goal before us. In our mission and evangelism, we call people not to a spectator sport or short-term therapy, but to a lifelong marathon.
We offer new Christians opportunities for service, not to fill the need for workers but to build faith muscles through exercise and practical workouts. In our activities, we refuse to be sidetracked or diverted. In our weariness and stumbling, when it seems like a slog, we remind each other that Jesus has hold of us. We persevere, fuelled not by temporary excitement or adrenalin but by a passion powered through knowing Christ day by day.
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
Father, I confess that I fail so often in sustaining the passion that I felt when I started something. As I come to you day by day, please give me the perseverance that Paul is talking about here. Keep me free from distraction, and help me too to press on with grit and focus. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.