Paul saw Christians as being athletes for Jesus. They were competing in the arena while they were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). They were individuals in a race which must be run according to rules (2 Tim. 2:5). They were fighters/boxers who were not just “punching into the air” but had precise blows planned for the enemy (1 Cor. 9:24). Like Paul, they intended to run the race and finish the course, knowing that a crown awaited them (2 Tim. 4:7).
As we look ahead for the new year consider how Paul described the Christian’s race and how it should be run. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on . . . 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” (Phil. 3:12-14). Herein lies the key to a successful life and a successful new year.
The success in the race involves dealing with the past. We all struggle with the past. Some never overcome the guilt of past mistakes, but the godly live knowing the magnitude of the His grace and casting all those concerns on the One who cares for them (1 Pet. 5:7).
Others struggle with the successes of the past and are filled with pride. Paul did not see himself as one who had reached perfection (maturity). He who brought the gospel to Europe and throughout Asia Minor did not glory in what had been accomplished. How foolishly many glory in what they have done for Him today!
How do you deal with the past? With its mistakes and accomplishments? Two words answer the question—forget it!
The success in the race involves dealing with the future. How did Paul deal with the unknown future. Look at his words. “I press on.” He also uses the expression “reaching forward,” which in the original Greek indicates the forward lean a runner gives as he approaches the finish line! Such an effort demanded the supreme exertion of energy. The past means nothing and the entire focus is on the prize promised by the Lord. Jesus has run the race and has finished it! He is waiting at the finish line to crown us.
Your race involves dealing with 2012. All this church has ever accomplished is past. The race has not been finished! Let us work together as never before and reach that finish line together. “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).