The Prize Awaits
Written by Bronwyn Cardwell (First 5 Ministries)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
My 3-year-old granddaughter greeted me at the door as I returned from a birthday lunch with friends. Two little baby bites of cake were hidden in my hands behind my back. I told her that I brought her a prize and asked her to guess what it was. She gleefully answered, “A zebra?” Only a 3-year-old, I thought! Needless to say, the yummy bites of cake were a little disappointing.
Paul talked about a prize in his letter to the Philippians – a prize that would never disappoint. Some scholars think that Paul was speaking of Christ Himself while others think that Paul was speaking of the glories of heaven. Either way, Paul created the familiar image of a public athletic competition in which a wreath, garland or crown would await the winner at the finish. Even though Paul was in prison, he told his fellow believers that he was pressing on toward “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Paul’s purpose in this imagery was to produce a yearning for Christ and for His eternal glory that awaits those who believe. In Philippians 3:12-13, Paul gave three personal insights as he pressed on toward the goal: (1) he had not yet attained the goal; (2) he pursued Christ because Christ had first pursued him; and (3) he practiced forgetting the past in order to reach forward.
In these three statements in verses 12-13, there are three subtle yet profound warnings for us today:
Beware of spiritual relaxation. Salvation is not the finish line, but rather the starting point. We should be seeking to grow in our faith every day.
Beware of pursuing the wrong goal. This world is not our home, and the prizes offered by the world are merely dust compared to the “glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). Pursuing Jesus is of eternal value.
Beware of allowing the past to rule our thoughts. It is difficult to run forward when looking backward.
As believers, for our inspiration we need only focus on Jesus, seated at the right hand of the throne of God, ready to welcome us into His glorious heaven. It is this singular focus that gives us the perspective and perseverance to press on. The writer of Hebrews said it like this: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith … and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The more we mature in our faith, the more precious this image becomes.
Thankfully, we are not alone as we press on toward our prize, for His Word tells us that He is with us, (Matthew 28:20) He is in us (Colossians 1:27) and He will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Because of His power and His presence, we can press on and finish faithfully.