Reaching for the Prize | New Year Sermon

Read the first sermon on Reaching for the Prize.

A blessed New year to you. It is such a joy to have you back again this evening. God gave us a wonderful start to the new year and believe this year we are all going to go to the next level in our walk with the Lord.

A lot of people have died climbing the Alps, falling off of precipices. At the foot of one of the many mountains that has been attempted a number of times is a little grave, it’s the grave of a man who tried to climb to the pinnacle and fell off a precipice to his death. The tombstone there is very simple. It gives his name and then it says, “He died climbing.” That really should be the epitaph of the tomb of every Christian, “He died running.”

Reaching for the prize was the subject I was speaking to you at the Watch Night Service. We saw that as believers God has done has part in sending Jesus to die for us on the cross and now we have a great part in pursuing the prize that God has for us. We are how we can reach the prize.

4. Spiritual Motivation.

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize.

So there is a goal and there is a prize. For an athlete goal is to come to the finish line, once you finish first you are given a prize. In a Christian race everyone who finishes is given a prize. So what is the goal? To be like Jesus. Then what is the prize? To be made like Jesus. Philippians 3:12  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

When am I going to become like Jesus? When that heavenward call happens? When rapture happens I will be like Jesus. The goal is to strive to be like Christ. I put all my effort and with maximum concentration run my race. The prize is as I continue to do so I will be one day made like him in the rapture.

So what motivates me? The heavenward call. We have to live in the light of being called out of this world in to presence of God and at that particular point we will be given an eternal reward, we will be made like Christ. And if God is so gracious to be willing to give us that prize, how committed should we be to run the race? Wretched. I don’t know about you but that motivates me to run toward the goal.

Paul saw it at the end of his life when he wrote his last letter and he said: 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. What is the crown of righteousness? It’s the crown which is righteousness. What is righteousness? Jesus Christ.

So, reaching for the prize means realizing your need, means making a maximum effort, it means focused concentration and it means being motivated by the greatness of the prize itself.

5. Recognize divine resources.

In reaching for the prize we much recognize the divine recourses available for us to reach our prize. Philippians 3:15a All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.

Paul is telling that if you think you are mature in Christ, you should have only one attitude. What is the attitude? Reaching out for the prize.

My prayer for you is that you’d have that attitude. That your desire would be to pursue the prize, that you’d see your own need, that you’d make maximum effort, that you’d have focused concentration, that you be motivated by the great prize and that you would pursue with all your might that prize.

So look what else he says. Philippians 3:15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

“But if in anything you have a different attitude.” The church is full of people who aren’t interested in pursuing the prize. They’re interested in looking at the past. They’re content with where they are. They do not want to grow. They are content being Sunday Christians. Instead of recognizing their need, instead of making a maximum effort with focused concentration and motivation, they just are content with where they are.

The different attitude is explained in: Philippians 3:18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Paul says, “If you think anything other than what I’ve said about pursuing the prize, and you won’t listen to me,” look what he says, “Then God will reveal that also to you.” Philippians 3:19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 

He simply says I have to leave you to God. If you’re ever going to get the message and you won’t get it from me, then you’ll have to get it from God. And you know how the Lord usually does it? Through trials and suffering. Through some special circumstance of life that plunges us instantly back to spiritual reality.

So recognize the divine resources either you learning from God through the word, church and Spirit or God teaching you in his way.

6. Be Consistent.

Reaching the goal doesn’t happen by intermittent effort, it demands a consistency. Philippians 3:16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 

It’s used of armies marching in battle order, stay in line, be consistent, keep moving forward.

In other words, keep moving along the path that has brought you to where you are in your spiritual progress. That’s the idea. Be consistent. So what he is saying is, spiritually stay in line and keep moving from where you have arrived by the same standard or principle that got you were you are.

Wherever you are spiritually by the same principles that got you there, keep moving ahead. Be Consistent. Live up to the level of your present understanding of God and by the principles that brought you there, keep moving ahead, hold the principle tightly and move down the track. Whatever strength and energy got you where you are, use it to move ahead. If we were talking about the runner metaphor, we would say you’ve run this far in your lane with great effort, it’s gotten you so far, keep that same effort up in that same lane until you hit the finish.

Resources available for pursuing the prize.

1. Word.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. Being constantly in the Word will keep you consistent, it will keep you on track. It will keep you moving, it will keep you pursuing the prize.

2. Prayer.

1 Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Stay in the Word, be in prayer.

3. Walk by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-26 16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

 4. Follow an example.

Philippians 3:17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 

Find somebody to pattern your life after. Get a spiritual mentor who can help you pursue the prize consistently.

5. Trials.

1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

James 1:2-4 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Trials have their perfect work. So, in the pursuit of the prize, it takes the Word, it takes prayer, it takes the Spirit, it takes a model to follow and as you move along and God brings enough trials into your life to perfect you. Paul says, “Look, when I have Christ I have great gain but I have no perfection, so I run to reach for the prize.

Read the first sermon on Reaching for the Prize.