This is a copy of my February church magazine article
Last month I spoke about our motto for 2012, and I want to return to it again this month:
‘I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14).
As I said last month, the apostle Paul is picturing an athlete in a race, always looking ahead to the finish line and straining every muscle and sinew to reach it. There is one problem that I find with this verse, which is that it can be read in a very individualistic way. ‘”I” press on to win the prize……’, as if only one person can win and it is each for themselves.
I don’t think that Paul intends it that way. He is encouraging the church at Philippi with his own example. Then he says to them, ‘Join with others in following my example, brothers and sisters …’ (v17). Perhaps he had in mind the Ancient Olympic Games of his day, which he would have known about and may well have encountered as he went on his missionary journeys. Like our modern Olympics, the crowds would gather to cheer on the athletes and inspire them to greater endeavour. I suspect that Paul would say to us, ‘Don’t just be a part of the crowd, watching others, but join in!’
Perhaps the race that best fits the description of our church motto is today’s marathon. I thought that the marathon was an ancient race revived for the modern Olympics. It turns out that it wasn’t, although it does have its origin in ancient Greek history. A Greek messenger named Pheidippides, was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated. Legend says that he ran the entire distance (roughly 26 miles) without stopping and burst into the assembly exclaiming ‘We have won’ before collapsing and dying! The end of our lives may not be so dramatic, but we can know that we have won the prize before we die. It can be so because God in Christ has already won the victory over sin and death. When we believe in him we achieve the promise of the prize. I believe, however, that the Lord does not wish us merely to coast towards the finish line, but to press on through thick and thin, serving others and serving him.
Let’s encourage one another in this as we run the race together as God’s people!
Keep on running!