What’s Your Game Plan? 6/6/99

Philippians 3:12-14

Jesus Christ constantly looked for the teachable moment. That is, He seized the moment and used it to dramatize a spiritual truth. He used the language of the people and incorporated events with which they were familiar to imprint His point on their reasoning.

Throughout Scripture this same principle is used. Many of the metaphors were agricultural. Today our urban society doesn’t often use those terms. Contemporary speakers employ the language of today to communicate ancient truths.

This is done in Philippians 3 where there is a personal spiritual biography given. Three figures of speech are used.
PAST is represented by “the accountant” (vss. 1-11),
PRESENT is illustrated by “the athlete” (vss. 12-16),
FUTURE is depicted by “the alien” (vss. 17-21).

In Philippians, Paul uses four vivid illustrations:
MILITARY “whole armor”
ARCHITECTURE “temple of God”
AGRICULTURE “sow…reap” now, the

Most conscientious Christians will admit:
(1) Past failure, that is, they have not reached the goal God has set for them,
(2) Dissatisfaction to remain at their present spiritual level. Those who feel they have arrived – cease growing.

Paul had achieved much, traveled extensively, had significant accomplishments BUT was on no ego trip. He had not attained. This was an explosive disclaimer. There is always room for growth and improvement.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).

There are many examples of the better team losing to a team not as good as a result of overconfidence. Our Lord wants us to be confident but not overconfident.

To strut is sweet but it can lead to defeat.

When an athlete becomes overconfident and starts slacking off in practice, neglecting personal discipline, losing mental sharpness, or not giving attention to little details he or she is setting up self for a let down.

When a Christian becomes overconfident because of a significant spiritual accomplishment and neglects regimented Bible reading, consistent prayer time, and becomes egocentric spiritual defeat is imminent.

That is true athletically and spiritually. Live up to your potential by living as unto the Lord.

This balanced spiritual equilibrium is noted:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The “I” indicates personal responsibility for doing ones best. The “through Christ” means Christ is the power that motivates and enables the achievement.

Paul was satisfied with Christ (vs. 10), but not himself. He did not compare himself with others BUT with Christ.

Though imperfect, Paul was enthusiastically in pursuit.

“I PRESS ON” (NKJ), “FOLLOW AFTER” (AKJ) = TO PURSUE, a term used for sports competition.

“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. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air” (I Corinthians 9:26).

The finish line is perfection. This is not a sprint, a quick burst of brisk energy. It is a marathon. “Run with patience” (Hebrews 12:1).

May I remind you that the author of a book entitled “Finishing Strong” offers this studied conclusion. Of those who start out strong in the Christian experience only one out of ten finishes strong at the age of retirement. Commit yourself to being that one.

“That I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended.” There was purpose in this pursuit. He wanted to live out his purpose. APPREHEND = “to seize and take possession of.”

We use the word “apprehended” to speak of law enforcement officials catching a person. Christ literally arrests us in salvation.

In another state in another day law enforcement officials put out an all points bulletin showing the three dimensions of a wanted person. It showed a left and right profile and a straight ahead likeness.

Soon they got a reply from a Barney Fife type law enforcement official in another state reading: “We caught the one on the left and the one on the right and have a good lead on the one in the middle.”

Christ knows your I.D. and in love He wants to apprehend you for your good.

The verb tense speaks of a specific time in which this happened. The moment of transformation in the life of Paul occurred on the road to Damascus when he encountered Christ. He left Jerusalem as emissary of the high priest. He entered Damascus a servant of the Lord Jesus.

Christ wants to “lay hold on” you not just to forgive you, but to give you a new character, a new nature.

God used certain things to apprehend Paul. Paul was appointed by the Sanhedrin to investigate the resurrection. He concluded, “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain.” He heard those he sought to intimidate say, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” He watched as Stephen was stoned in triumph. The final factor was when Ananias, one of those he was hunting, put his hand on his shoulder and called him “Brother.”

Paul wanted to “lay hold on” that for which he was “laid hold of.” What was it? He had just noted it in verse 10.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

ONE THING possessed Paul. He avoided all diversion. During the exciting Olympic competition athlete after athlete has been heard to say, “I have to stay focused.” Undivided and undiverted attention to the task at hand is essential for victory.

At Jesus’ feet Martha criticized Mary. Of her He said, “One thing is needful” (Luke 10:42).

Nehemiah, the wall-building governor, replied to distracting invitations, “I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down!” (Nehemiah 6:3).

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

“One thing” is the inspiring unspoken theme running through every achieving life. We are not to limp between two opinions. We must learn to say both “yes” and “no.” Yes, to the things of Christ and no to the things of the world. Concentration is essential.

Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help displayers by providing booths and decorations.

Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth “look flashy.” These guys were evidently under capitalized entrepreneurs. Egan offered to rent them what they wanted. They explained they were low on cash but offered him stock in their new company of which he had never heard. Having such brash young men come and go Egan said he would accept only hard cash. So Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs kept their stock in their small company they called Apple Computer. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash only.

Apple Computer was successful because they did one thing and did it well. They have faltered in the market because they drifted from that single mindedness.

Another true story from the business world illustrates how essential it is to have a single minded purpose. Domino’s Pizza was founded by Thomas S. Monaghan who owned 97% of the stock. He borrowed $900 on which to start. The company grew so fast that in one year alone, 1985, it opened 900 stores. Suddenly Tom became a multi-millionaire. He bought the Detroit Tigers, he purchased airplanes and about 200 cars. He bought a north woods lodge located on 3,000 acres that was worth over $30,000,000.

He was so busy chasing multiple visions he failed to notice one thing. The business was slipping and Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s were growing. His sales dropped and stores had to close. He said, “I’d taken my eye off the ball.”

After reading C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity he came to realize he was full of false pride. God got his attention. He said he then began to focus on God, his family, and Domino’s. He once again prioritized his life. Once again the business prospered and profits rose to $3 million a month. He said, “I feel good about having gotten the distractions out of my system…”

If you get them out of your system and focus on Christ you too will feel good about life.

One thing should motivate us above all else. As one who delights to travel in the Bible Land I try to be observant. Shepherds and their dogs can teach us much. As Christians we should be like sheep dogs. When a shepherd is in the process of giving a command the dog lies down at the shepherd’s feet and looks intently into the shepherd’s eyes. The dog listens without moving until the command is given. When the dog knows the mind of the master he jumps to his feet to carry out the command. There is another characteristic of the sheep dog. He never stops wagging his tail at any moment. He delights to hear and do his master’s will. So must we.

FORGETTING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND. A runner who leads in a race must concentrate on what is before NOT the competitors and distance behind. Paul had balance. He remembered the good (Philippians 1:3) and put behind him that which would hinder. “The load of tomorrow added to that of yesterday, and carried today, makes the strongest falter.”

A distance runner never considers the laps run, only what is ahead. That must be our preoccupation. Keep focused on what is yet to be done and do it.

In overcoming the hurdles in our lives we need to consider Olympic hurdlers. They do not allow themselves a split second to think of a hurdle they just knocked over, they focus on the next one to jump. We must divert our attention from past failures and direct it to the next challenge. The past one can motivate us in our approach of the next, but it must not retain our attention.

He had been cleared by the courts of heaven and though he didn’t forget the lessons learned, he did not dwell on the past. We break the power of the past by living in the present for the good of the future.


Time flows from the FUTURE to the PRESENT and into the PAST. LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT.

We need to keep before us at all times a standard, an objective, a goal. The motto of the Olympic Games is: CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS, meaning “swifter, higher, stronger.”

Spiritually applied that is what it means to “press.” There is a drive to excel.

I PRESS, same verb translated “I follow” in verse 12. Intent endeavor. Two dangers:
(1) “I must do it all” (activist) and
(2) “God must do it all” (quietest). Some stay so involved “dying to self” they never “exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (I Timothy 4:7, 8). It is the individual who must “strive…reach forth…press.”

It would be absurd for a quarterback to say, “OK, fellows let’s let the coach do it all.” Equally absurd, “Listen to me and forget what the coach says.” Both are wrong. “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The believer does but with Christ’s enabling grace.

MARK = goal on which to set ones attention.

What is the “prize” that motivates you. We are at our best when there is a goal to be reached and a reward to be received. Olympic competitors have inspired us by their stories of self- sacrifice and discipline in order to “Go for the gold.” The gold is performance enhancement at its best.

When our goal is to please Christ and conform to His image we are motivated thereby.

Don’t be like the character in “Pilgrim’s Progress” that could look no way but downward with a muckrake in his hand.

AN APPEAL (Vss. 15, 16). Some day you will stand before the “judgement seat” (BEMA). The same term used for where the Olympic judges gave out prizes.

“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14: 10 – 12).

BE PERFECT. In verse 12 the verb is in the perfect tense, but here a noun. In verse 12 he had said he wasn’t “perfect.” Now he refers to “as many as are perfect.” In verse 15 he is not speaking of absolute perfection but relative perfection.

A peach tree illustrates the relativity of the word. In April peaches are green but for that state, perfect. In June they must have matured to another state for perfection. “Become like Christ” is a life-long process.

One problem is we set standards too low for us. Looking at our old self we see we are better than we were and exercise pride. We look at many of those around us and get a superiority complex.

For this reason it is good to stay around mature believers. They challenge us by their example. However, the ever present example is the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. Spend your life getting to “know” Him better and more intimately.

The expression “follow after” means this is a continual process. It should be our life long pursuit. Throughout life we must “press forward.” The reality we are to press on indicates the Christian life is not a passive life.

Do you have a sense of personal discontent? That is, are you satisfied with your state of spiritual maturity or are you ambitious to grow spiritually?