Most of us have probably read biographies: books that tell the story of another person’s life. Maybe we were curious, and hoped to discover what made that person great. In Philippians 3, Paul is giving us his own spiritual biography. In verses 1-11, Paul tells us about his past. Here, in verses 12-16, Paul describes his present spiritual journey. He compares it to a race, and he gives us the essentials for winning that race and one day receiving the reward that Christ has promised.
I. DISSATISFACTION (verses 12-13a)
The first essential is dissatisfaction. In verse 12 the apostle Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect”. Paul is not saying hee that he is dissatisfied with Jesus Christ. In verse 8 he talked about “the surpassing value of knowing Christ”. But Paul is dissatisfied with his Christian life. Self-satisfaction is the death of progress. Dissatisfaction with past accomplishments is the mother of invention. Because man was dissatisfied with carrying and lifting loads upon his shoulders, he invented the wheel and the lever. Because he was dissatisfied with walking, he invented vehicles to ride in. Many Christians are self-satisfied with their lives because they compare their spiritual progress with that of other Christians, usually with those Christians who are not making as much progress as themselves. But Paul did not compare himself with others. He compared himself with Jesus Christ! In verse 12, Paul says that he had not arrived at perfection. One mark of spiritual maturity is realizing that we aren’t perfect. The process of becoming like Christ is much like riding a bicycle: either you keep moving forward, or you fall down!
II. DEVOTION (verse 13a)
The second essential for Christian growth and victory is devotion. Paul says in verse 13, “but one thing I do”. “One thing” is a phrase that is very important in our Christian lives. “One thing you lack”, said Jesus to the rich young ruler. “one thing is needful”, He said to Martha. “One thing I know”, said the man who received his sight by the power of Jesus Christ. “One thing I have desired of the Lord”, said the psalmist. Many Christians are to involved in “many things”, when the secret of progress in our lives is to concentrate on “one thing”. For example, the cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. He lives on the plains of Africa, and when he’s hungry he chooses one specific animal in a herd of deer or antelope and goes after it. Ignoring others, this swift cat has been clocked at nearly 70 miles an hour in hot pursuit of its prey until he catches it.
The same kind of determination and single-mindedness has been shown by some people. One of them was a man named Howard Marvin. First a numbness crept into his body. Within hours he was becoming paralyzed. Howard had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that causes paralysis and sometimes causes death. Howard lived, but he was left totally paralyzed. Recalling Howard’s attitude of mind in those months that followed, his son said, “Dad’s one goal was to survive. When he was told that his best friend died, he accepted it and put it out of his mind.” He cared very deeply, but he refused to use up any energy in grieving because he needed every ounce of strength just to get well. Howard Marvin is walking again. Did God do it” Howard would be quick to say yes! But without a single-minded, dogged determination, he might still be helpless.
The prize of becoming like Jesus Christ takes that same kind of devotion. Becoming like Christ is the one thing worth giving up everything else for.
III. FORGETTING THE PAST (verse 13b)