Philippians 3:13-21 on Excellence.
Introduction: Christians should be recognized for excellence in their character and their work, but the opposite is more often true. Let us learn this important virtue of striving for excellence from Paul in his letter to the Philippians - the principles of which are also of great value.
Lessons from Philippians 3:3-21:
V13 I do not consider that I have made it on my own, but this one thing I do - Because Paul realized that the human mind can only focus on one thing at a time, he was single-minded, set his priorities in order and would allow nothing to distract his attention from achieving what he had set out to do.
forgetting those things which are behind - Though it is good to look back so that we can thank God for His goodness and also to learn from our mistakes, there is a great danger in looking back if we are not careful. Paul was an elderly man when he wrote this epistle and could, at this time of his life, look back with well-deserved satisfaction & achievements for the Lord. However, he knew the dangers of doing so - having been familiar with the disasters that followed. Grecian athletes who were foolish enough to look backwards at those runners they left behind before the finishing line was reached There is a great tendency to be complacent when we look back on our achievements. Are we looking at our achievements (eg better prayer times, more understanding of the Word, our ministries of the word) Another danger of looking back is that we will tend to use the standards of the past as the standards for the future. Are we looking at our past Christian character as our standard for our future Christian development? Or are we using our Christian character of the past as standard for our future achievements? Another danger of looking back is that we may be discouraged by the failures of the past.
and reaching forth unto those things which are before- Instead of complacently looking at the past we should "reach forth" to the "mark" (v14) - this describes an athlete straining to do his utmost, of aiming high and finishing his work. Paul himself had achieved what no other Christian had done yet he was now in his old age "reaching forth" to the "impossible" - namely, to convert "Caesar's household. The Christian life must be one of dreaming the "impossible" for the Lord just as Christ,
V14 I press toward the goal - "Impossible" dreams will remain as mere dreams if they are not followed up with determined persistence & Consistency- which is only possible by strict discipline.
Edison said that his success was due to 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
For the prize of the heavenly -for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus - Though Christians are indebted to God for His love, this indebtedness is insufficient by itself to motivate us to great achievements. Knowing this, Paul instructs us to focus on the "prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". Most Christians are not motivated to do great things for God because they have never really pondered the sure, exceeding high and eternal rewards that God has promised to his servants as a result of their salvation and for their labours for His sake
V15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind - All those who are matured should set the example of striving high for the Lord,
and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.- Though the younger members may not yet feel inclined to strive for excellence they will soon be encouraged by the example of the mature members.
V16 Only let us hold fast to what to what we have attained - Whether we are mature or young Christians we should all strive high for the Lord.
V17 Brethren, join in imitating me & observe all those who live according to the example who have given us. - We should all aim to be like Paul!
V18,19 For many .. the enemies of the cross of Christ - Not all who claim to be Christians are really Christians - this probably accounts for the reason why the average "Christian" has such low standards - which we unrealsingly assume to be acceptable Christian standards!