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Put On Your Running Shoes
Philippians 3:12-16
Skip Heitzig

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Philippians 3 (NKJV™)
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

Though I prefer cycling to running, I appreciate the disciplined runner who has trained long hours and has conditioned his/her body to reach its maximum potential. One of Paul’s favorite metaphors for Christian living was the race. In this passage, he pictured the believer as an athlete competing in a footrace pushing towards the finish line. To become winning champions in this race towards Christlikeness, there are five essentials:

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

Outline

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  1. A Winner Needs Dissatisfaction (vv. 12a, 13a)

  2. A Winner Needs Concentration (v. 13)

  3. A Winner Needs Direction (v. 13b)

  4. A Winner Needs Dedication (v. 14)

  5. A Winner Needs Collaboration (vv. 15-16)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: November 5, 2017
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Put On Your Running Shoes"
Text: Philippians 3:12-16

Path

We all can appreciate the disciplined runner who has trained long hours and has conditioned his/her body to reach its maximum potential. One of Paul's favorite metaphors for Christian living was the race. In this passage, he pictured the believer as an athlete competing in a footrace pushing toward the finish line. To become winning champions in this race toward Christlikeness, Pastor Skip gave five essentials:
  1. A Winner Needs Dissatisfaction (vv. 12a, 13a)
  2. A Winner Needs Concentration (v. 13)
  3. A Winner Needs Direction (v. 13b)
  4. A Winner Needs Dedication (v. 14)
  5. A Winner Needs Collaboration (vv. 15-16)

Points

A Winner Needs Dissatisfaction
  • Paul was a sports fan: he used many sports analogies in his writings. Verses 12-16 describe an amazing race, calling us to put on our running shoes. We can think of our life as a race toward Christlikeness.
  • Though Paul experienced power, he had a sanctified dissatisfaction. No one can reach perfection this side of heaven. Imperfection drives us onward: self-satisfaction is the biggest barrier to growth.
    • If you compare your running with others, you slow down.
    • A divine dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress.
  • Probe: Discuss times when you felt satisfied and dissatisfied with your walk with Christ. What were the circumstances for both? How can you improve your run?
A Winner Needs Concentration
  • "One thing I do" (v. 13) is an important phrase that is used in several places in the New Testament. The point is that you are to act, do, and run.
  • Winners are winners because they concentrate on one thing and let nothing distract them from it. One of the greatest problems in life is spreading yourself too thin to be effective.
  • For Paul, his relationship with Christ was his main focus. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • Probe: Discuss your priorities in life. Knowing that your relationship with Christ comes first, how would your prioritize the rest of the things in your life? What is your life like when your priorities get mixed up?
A Winner Needs Direction
  • Pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson described discipleship as "a long obedience in the same direction." We can add that it's a long obedience in the right direction.
  • Paul said he was "reaching forward" (v. 13). To be effective in the present, you must let go of the past.
  • In the Bible, to forget isn't failing to remember; it's not allowing the past to influence the present.
  • If you want to be miserable, live life looking over your shoulder.
  • Probe: Why is it important to not dwell on the past—either your failures or achievements? Why should all Christians continually reach forward toward the prize in Christ?
A Winner Needs Dedication
  • The idea of pressing on is to exert, giving every fiber of your body and strength to succeed in your spiritual run.
  • No one becomes a winning athlete just by listening, but through practice and training.
  • We should all run for the prize: knowing life's purpose (see v. 12) and knowing eternal joy (see v. 14).
  • Probe: As Pastor Skip asked, what would the outcome be if you put as much dedication into your spiritual life as you do the peripheral things of life? What are some areas of your spiritual life to which you can dedicate more time (Bible study, prayer, service, etc.)?
A Winner Needs Collaboration
  • Though some in church teach sinless perfection (that a Christian in this life can live perfectly), the Bible doesn't teach this. But the Bible does not want us to be apathetic, either. To bring balance, Paul encouraged us to run at our own pace.
  • Think about this truth: runners do better in packs—with other runners.
  • Most Americans watch sports, but the challenge is to participate, to get in the race. 
  • Put on your running shoes and either get in the race or get back on track.
  • Probe: If you have a favorite sport, what is it? What are some of the qualities of a good athlete? How can you mimic some of those qualities in your spiritual life?
Practice

Connect Up: God created you as a unified person made of physical (mind/body) and spiritual parts (spirit/soul). How can you train your entire body to run your race well? Consider the following:
  • Spiritual: Bible study, prayer, fellowship, communion, and evangelism (see Acts 2:40-47)
  • Physical: Eat right (see 1 Corinthians 10:31), exercise (see 1 Timothy 4:8), and empathize (have compassion)
Connect In: Running with others in your spiritual race will help you enjoy the run more. Enjoy the company God has given you because your outlook will help sharpen your in-look. Put another way, the way you view life will influence the way you value life. Your attitude is important. Discuss the role attitude has in your relationships. Why is having a healthy attitude essential to running a good race with fellow Christians?

Connect Out: To empathize is to understand and sympathize with others. There are two types of empathy: cognitive and affective. Cognitive empathy is the ability to identify what others think and/or feel. Affective empathy is the ability to respond appropriately.  Biblically, empathy plays out as compassion, servanthood, mercy, and most importantly, love. How can empathy help us run a better race, particularly when serving people and sharing the gospel?

Transcript

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[MUSIC PLAYING]

Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. If this message encourages you, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

As we continue our series Technicolor Joy, we learn about one of Paul's favorite metaphors for Christian living, the race. In the message Put on Your Running Shoes, Skip shares five essential to becoming champions in this race toward Christlikeness. Now, please turn in your Bible to Philippians chapter 3 as he begins.

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Philippians, the third chapter. We're going to be in Philippians chapter 3. Again, we have a couple more weeks before we finish that out.

I think it's safe to say that the most famous Christian song ever written and recorded multiple times is the song Amazing Grace. It was written by a former slave trader by the name of John Newton who legitimately and honestly was celebrating God's grace in his life. But about 16 years ago, CBS hijacked the term "Amazing Grace" for a show that they called The Amazing Race.

Now, The Amazing Race, which has been airing since that time, is all about sending teams around the world, 10 or 11 teams of 2 people. They travel the world in a month. They collect clues. They compete in different exercises. And they have to meet at checkpoints along the way.

And the way it works is, the last team to arrive at a checkpoint is eliminated from the race altogether. So there's not much amazing grace in The Amazing Race. But I suppose that if there were a section of scripture that could be called The Amazing Race in the New Testament, it is Philippians chapter 3, beginning in verse 12, because the metaphor is rich from the athletic world that Paul is writing with. So in this section, Paul would say, put your running shoes on and get on the track. Let's look at verse 12.

He says, "Not that I have already attained or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward"-- picture a runner, now, in the race-- "reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, let us, as many as are in mature, have this mind. And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind."

From my reading of the New Testament, I have always believed that Paul the Apostle was sort of a sports fan. He obviously knew the Olympics that was going on during his time, or he was familiar with what are called the Isthmian Games, the games similar to the Olympics that took place around Corinth. And I don't know if he was watching Monday night chariot races or things like that. But if he were alive today, I think he would probably have watched the World Series the other night. And he would have rooted for the Dodgers, by the way.

But nonetheless, in his day and age, he was a sports fan, because he writes with the analogies of the athletic world on many occasions to describe the Christian life. For example, he employs the analogy of boxing. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, he says, "I fight"-- that is, I box-- "not as one who beats the air." In other words, I'm not shadow boxing. I'm not just going after the air. I'm really in the ring, and I am fighting the good fight.

At the end of his life, that's what he said. 2 Timothy chapter 4, "I have fought the good fight." Also, he speaks of wrestling. Ephesians chapter 6, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers."

But by far, his favorite analogy in scripture of the Christian life is the race, the foot race. In the 5th chapter of Galatians, he writes to them and says, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you?"-- or who hindered you? In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, "Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Now, in that show, The Amazing Race, there is a prize. It's a million bucks. If you happen to be the team that gets through all the checkpoints, and you get to the very end, you will get a million dollar check. On one occasion, they even gave a $2 million check.

But to Paul the Apostle, there's a much greater prize than that. Listen to what he writes in 1 Corinthians 9, a chapter I already mentioned. "All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away. We do it for an eternal prize."

Did you know that you will be rewarded one day based on how you ran the race of a Christian life? Paul says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Corinthians chapter 5, to be judged. We will receive whatever we deserve for the good or the evil we have done in this earthly body.

So think today of your life as a race course. You are running a race toward Christlikeness. Think of today as an aid station. Aid stations in races are those places where athletes get water or power bars or medical attention. So see today as the aid station on your long marathon of the Christian life, because even if you've fallen, even if you've struggled, we want to see you not eliminated, but invigorated to keep going.

Back in 1992, there was a gal named Beth Anne DeCiantis. She wanted to qualify for the Olympics that year. The qualifying time for a marathon-- a marathon, as some of you know, is around 27 miles. The female qualifying time for the Olympic was 2 hours and 45 minutes. You have to get that time or below.

So she ran her qualifying race. And she was doing well. She started out strong. But she started having trouble around mile 23.

Now, I've got to laugh at that, because I would have trouble before mile three. She's at mile 23, and she's experiencing a little bit of trouble. As she rounds the corner into the last straightaway, she's got two minutes left to qualify. She's 200 yards from the finish line.

Beth Anne collapses on the ground, falls to the ground. She's dazed, dizzy. She was down there for about 20 seconds. She gets back up. She continues to run.

Five yards short of the finish line with 10 seconds left to go, she falls again. This time, on her hands and knees, she crawls across the finish line. And her time-- 2 hours, 44 minutes, 57 seconds. She qualified by three seconds on her hands and knees.

So maybe you feel strong in this race. Others of you feel like, I'm not so strong. I've fallen a few times. I've stumbled.

Well, you may have fallen, but you can get up. And you need to get up and keep going. And all of us are rooting for you, because none of us are perfect, as we will see.

What I want to show you, and looking at the text we looked at and are going to drill down in, are five essentials, five things you and I need to do to run this race well, to run toward the prize, to finish a winning race. First of all, a winner needs dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction. Look at verse 12. Paul says, "Not that I have already attained or am already perfected."

Look down at verse 13. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended." Boy, am I glad Paul wrote that. It's so relieving to hear. It's a breath of fresh air.

Here's the confession of a man who has walked with Christ for 30 years saying, haven't arrived, haven't attained. I'm not perfect. I think you would agree, Paul the Apostle, by any standard, was one of the greatest men of history. He was brilliant. He was spiritual. He was highly motivated. He planted churches around the world.

In Acts chapter 19, while he was in Ephesus, listen to what it says. "And unusual miracles were wrought by the hands of Paul." That's quite a race he's run.

Unusual miracles were wrought by the hands of Paul. One of the usual miracles wrought by Paul in the book of Acts is when he went down to Troas and he was preaching a message, and he preached a little too long, like some preachers do. Don't look at me that way.

[LAUGHTER]

And he was going long into the night. And there was a young man by the name of Tychicus, who was in a window and just was getting tired. He fell asleep fell, fell out the window, hit the street, died. Paul interrupts the sermon-- hold on, he says, just hold on-- goes downstairs, raises him from the dead, brings him back inside to a very thankful crowd, and keeps preaching through the night. Aren't you glad I don't do that?

[LAUGHTER]

Now, Paul says, I haven't already attained. In previous statements, he has made up to this point could make his audience think he had attained, because he talks about profit and loss. The things that I thought were so important to me, I've counted as lost. But what I've gained is so much better. I've gained so much.

And he says, his previous statement, "And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness that comes by faith from God that I might know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if by any means, I may attain the resurrection of the dead." They could read that and go, oh, my goodness, who is this guy? He has made it. He has arrived. He has attained.

And so he immediately says, "Not that I have already attained or am already perfected. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended." Now, this tells me a couple of things. Number one, it tells me that none of us, none of us reach perfection this side of heaven.

You'll never arrive, though I have met people who think they have arrived. And they're always a pain to be around, because they think they have attained this special class of Christian maturity, and they're trying to convince everybody that they have. But everybody really knows them knows they haven't.

Somebody once said, a perfectionist is one who takes great pains and gives them to everybody else. And there are people who believe in perfectionism. There are Christians who believe in what is called total sanctification, or complete sanctification, or the second blessing. They come to a place where they are morally perfect.

Charles Spurgeon said he met a couple of young men who walked up to him one day, claimed that they were morally perfect, that they had attained the second blessing, that they were sinlessly perfect. Spurgeon happened to have a pitcher of water in his hand, the story goes. And he just couldn't resist the temptation, and he poured the pitcher of water on the two sinlessly perfect ones. And he noticed their reaction was the same as anybody else's reaction. And when they reacted hostilely and violently, he said, I thought so.

[LAUGHTER]

MR DeHaan wrote, "Self satisfaction is the death of progress. The most boring people I ever meet are the ones who take up my time telling me what they have done, when they ought to be doing." So none of us reaches perfection this side of heaven.

The other thing this shows me, though, is that it is imperfection that drives us onward and upward. If you think about it, probably every invention that has ever been invented in history is the result of men and women not being satisfied with the way things are. They don't like this condition.

Why does it have to be this way? Maybe we should figure out a way to make it different. I'm sure the wheel was invented by some dude who just got tired of carrying stuff on his back. But there's got to be a better way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist author, said, "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." Now, this is the essential in a race. If a runner running down the track is absolutely satisfied with their performance up to this point, there's going to be a tendency to slow down, especially if they find other runners that they're passing.

Oh, I'm better than that. Oh, I'm better than that one. Yeah, but you may not be better than the one coming behind you at a fast pace.

So it is in the Christian race. If you are looking around at other Christians, you're going to slow down. And here's why-- we have a tendency, when we compare ourselves with other people, to find people who aren't doing as well as we are. That's the ones we find to compare ourselves to. Oh, I'm a better Christian than they are. Oh, I do this much better.

So we need a healthy sense that says, I haven't arrived. I haven't attained. Imagine if Paul were to compare his own running with everybody else. Who could match him?

He had a vision of Christ on the Damascus road. He saw miracles of healing. He was caught up into the third heaven. He had seen and experienced so much.

So for this guy to say, "I haven't attained," shows us that a divine dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress. So that's first. A winner needs dissatisfaction.

A second essential is, a winner needs concentration. In verse 13, he says something I find fascinating. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do"-- stop right there. The words "I do" are in italics, meaning they're not in the original.

So it actually reads this, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing"-- one thing-- "forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." That phrase, "one thing," is a very important Biblical phrase.

Example-- a rich young ruler came to Jesus one day and said, you I have kept all the commandments from my youth. Jesus said, well, there's one thing you lack. Go sell what you have, give it to the poor, and then follow Me.

Martha, who had invited Jesus over to their house-- Mary and Martha-- Martha was cooking, she was busy. Mary's sitting on the floor, just listening to Jesus, giving a Bible study. She's just stoked to be in His presence. Martha gets tiffed that Mary isn't sharing the work and complains to Jesus. And He responds saying, Martha, you are distracted by many things, but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the better part.

A blind man was healed in the temple. The religious elite came to him and said, the one who healed you is a sinner. And the blind man said, "Whether He's a sinner or not, I don't know. But one thing I know, I was blind, and now I see."

David, in Psalm 27:4, said, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after." Here's the point-- winners become winners because they concentrate on one thing, one thing. They narrow their focus on one thing.

I've discovered something in watching athletes over the years. Those who are professional athletes, very proficient, they typically are proficient at only one thing. Rarely do you find athletes that can do as well in multiple sports.

Example-- when you hear the name Charles Barkley, what sport do you think of? Basketball, great basket-- he's good at that one thing. Have you ever seen his golf swing?

So don't do it now, please, but go home and Google "Charles Barkley golf swing," and watch it. You'll get the point. You'll go, oh, my goodness. Yeah, this is why he's not in the golf circuit. But he is great at what he did. That one thing, he excels at.

Michael Jordan, same thing, excellent. But he decided after he retired basketball that he was going to try his hand at baseball. Can I just put it this way, a less than impressive record. Few athletes are good at multiple sports. And it's best, they have discovered, if they concentrate on one thing.

Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, understood this principle. When he came to Jerusalem, he came to do one thing, to build the wall. There was a lot of other things that required his attention, but he didn't care. He focused on one thing.

He was tempted to meet with different people who wanted to voice their concerns, meet with enemies who wanted to have private meetings with him. And here is his response, "I am doing a great work. I cannot stop to come down and meet with you," to which they probably thought, how rude. I need to meet with Nehemiah. I need to talk to Nehemiah. And Nehemiah said, no, I'm about one thing, and that is building this wall.

One of the greatest problems we all have in life is that we tend to spread ourselves so thin, and we fail to be effective at one thing. E. Stanley Jones, the great missionary and theologian, said, "Your capacity to say no will determine your capacity to say yes to greater things."

I've discovered that "no" is a holy word. Skip, can you do this? No. [GASPS] Why not? Because I'm doing that one thing.

So picture this-- college class in a business college, the professor wants to teach time management to his students. So he goes up to the lectern on a class day and he says, class, we're going to have a quiz. He reaches down, gets a gallon, large-mouth Mason jar, sets it on the lectern.

Then he takes about a dozen fist-sized rocks and places them inside the gallon Mason jar, filling it all the way up to the top. The students watch him. The professor then said, students, is this jar full? And they said, yes. He said, really?

He reached down, took a little bucket of pebbles, and began to pour the gravel, the gravel pebbles, over the rocks. The rocks, the pebbles, found the spaces between the large rocks. And he did that, filled it all the way up to the top.

And then he asked them again, is the jar full? Well, they were catching on by now. They said, no. And he said, good.

He reached down again. This time, he took sand and poured the sand over the pebbles and over the large rocks all the way up to the brim. And it held quite a bit.

And he asked again, he goes, class, is the jar full? And they all, in unison, said, no. And he said, good.

This time, he reached down, took some water in a pitcher, and poured the water till it went all the way up to the top. Now, he said, do you understand what my point is in this little analogy? And one very energetic student said, yes. That no matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit more in.

[LAUGHTER]

He said, no, that is not the point of this exercise. The point is this, if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all. He was teaching them time management and the priority of putting first things first.

So for Paul the Apostle, Jesus Christ and His will for his life, those are the big rocks. That came first. I'm going to place those first. Everything else takes a back seat.

So my question is, what things do you need to say no to so that you can say yes to what He has for you? Because the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. So a winner needs dissatisfaction. A winner needs concentration.

A third essential is that a winner needs direction. Back again to verse 13, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing"-- and here it is-- "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching"-- where?-- "forward"-- moving forward-- "to those things which are ahead."

Over the years, you've heard me quote a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It's become a Christian classic. I just love the title, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I thought that just epitomizes the Christian life.

However, I might add by saying, you need not just a long obedience in the same direction, you need a long obedience in the right direction, because you can go a long distance in the wrong direction. A few years ago, in 2013, January, a 67-year-old Belgian woman by the name of Sabine Moreau drove to Brussels, Belgium, 90 miles away to pick up her friend. She entered the GPS coordinates in her little unit, and then she drove, and drove, and drove all the way to Croatia, 1,000 miles away, crossing 5 international borders, stopping for gas, stopping to rest, stopping for gas. And she drove and drove.

Then she got to Zagreb, Croatia, the capital. And she thought, I think I should turn around. She'd been going a long time in the wrong direction. You need to make sure you're traveling on the right road in the right direction.

So Paul is reaching forward, or reaching ahead, to what he calls later on the upward call, or the heavenward call. Now, to do that effectively, notice what he says, "forgetting those things which are behind." To run effectively into the future, you need to let go of your past. You need to let go of it.

Can you imagine a runner trying to go forward in one direction while looking that way the whole time? What's going to happen? Fall flat. You can't run the Christian race always thinking about your past.

And so he says, "forgetting those things." Now, in the Bible, forget doesn't mean to lose your memory. It doesn't mean a failure to recall. It actually means, don't let it influence you. When it says, forget about it-- fuhgeddaboudit-- it means, don't let that past influence you your present.

Here's an example, God says in the Bible, "Their sins and their iniquities, I will remember no more." That does not mean that God has a bad memory, that He has a memory lapse. It simply means that He no longer is influenced by their past in dealing with them in the present. He doesn't hold their sins against them any longer.

So your past is your past. All of the king's horses and all of the king's men can't put your past back together again. You've fallen, you've blown it, you've made mistakes. OK, leave it, learn from it, and go forward, forgetting those things which are behind.

If there's one person in the Bible that epitomizes this better than anybody else, it's Joseph. Joseph had been maltreated by his brothers. They were jealous. They sold him to the Midianites.

The Midianites took him to Egypt. He was falsely accused. He spent time in jail. You know the story. Eventually, he becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt.

And the day comes when his brothers meet him face to face, the day when Joseph could have looked at them and thought, you guys have been waiting for a long time for this day. And now you're going to get yours. No, Joseph had forgotten the past. And he said to them, "But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive."

If you want to be miserable, live your life looking back over your shoulder. If you want to live well, look forward, reach forward, forget the past. So you need dissatisfaction, concentration. You need direction.

A fourth essential is dedication. Verse 12, you'll notice what he says. "Not that I've already attained, nor am already perfected, but I"-- notice the word, I what?-- "I press." "I press on." "I press on that I may lay hold of Christ," or that which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.

Verse 14, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." The idea of press means, I exert myself. I work up a sweat.

So think of the Olympics, when the camera zooms into the face of the runner, sweat pouring down his or her face, that grueling look. Am I doing it right? Is that grueling enough?

You can see, they're pressing. Man, they're working hard. They're exerting themselves, every fiber of their body, every bit of their strength.

But there's something else. I want you to see how this fits. The word he uses for press twice-- I press, I press-- is the same word he uses back in verse 6.

So look at verse 6 for a moment. He's describing his previous life. He's going through the little litany of his pedigree. And in verse 6, he says, "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church."

You see that? The word persecuting is the exact same word as I press, I press. It's the word diókó or diókón. And so here it's translated, I persecuted the church.

Now he's saying, I press. What he is saying is this, the same energy that I once put into ruining the church I now put into running the church. The same level of energy I had before I was an unbeliever and all the stuff I was into I expend now in the right direction.

No one becomes a winning athlete by attending lectures from the coach or looking at YouTube videos. At some point, you've got to actually get on the track and train and exert and press. to be a winning athlete. I wonder if our lives would be different if we put as much dedication into our spiritual life as we put into golfing, fishing, shopping, social media. I wonder if would be any different at all or oh, no, it'd be the same. Pulsing saying, all of the energy I once put into that I now put into this. I press. I press.

And what does he press for? He says, the prize. Verse 14, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus."

Now, in The Amazing Race, they got a million bucks for the prize. In the Olympics 2,000 years ago, you know what they got for winning the race? They got a plant stuck on their head.

[LAUGHTER]

Now, they've got a piece of ivy, an ivy branch made into a little crown. It was a little laurel-wreathed crown. They put the crown on the head. And everybody went, [CLAPPING] awesome, good job. See ya, bye. You got a plant. Go home.

What kind of a prize do we get? A twofold prize-- the prize of knowing our life purpose. Verse 12, he says, "That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me."

I'm pursuing, says Paul, the reason for which Christ once pursued me. I want to know why I was saved on the Damascus road and fully realized in my life the reason that I am on this earth. That's the idea. I want to lay hold of that for which He's laid hold of me.

So it's been said the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discovered what you were born for. There is a real prize into knowing why I exist on this earth. What is God's plan for my life?

The second prize is the prize of knowing eternal joy. Verse 14, he calls it the upward call or the heavenward call in Christ Jesus. He is called to glory.

One day, you're going to cross the ultimate finish line by death or by rapture. And you're going to be met there by your coach, Jesus, who will receive you into His eternal home. That's a good prize, the prize of knowing why I'm here on the earth and the prize of eternal joy in heaven.

So you need dissatisfaction, concentration, direction, dedication. Finally, you need collaboration, collaboration. Look at verse 15.

"Therefore, let us"-- I'm going to emphasize a few words here-- "as many are as mature, have this mind. And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind."

So he's writing to the Philippians, including them in the running now-- us, we, us, us. Now we don't exactly know what Paul was referring to when he says, look, there's people who think otherwise, but God will reveal this to them. It could be that he was talking to them about Judaizers, perfectionists who said, you can, by your own works, become morally perfect.

Or on the other hand, some commentators think there were Christians who had grown apathetic. They had gotten off the race track. They're in the bleachers.

They said, look, I've fallen enough times. I'm just going to let go and let God. I'm not going to exert any energy. I'm just going to mosey my life through, maybe attend church from time to time, and hope I go to heaven. So Paul says, if they think otherwise, I trust that God is big enough to reveal that to them.

But the point I want to make is the usage of the word "us" and "we," "us" and "us." And here's the truth-- runners do better with other runners. You can run alone and you can train alone, but you will always do better-- you will up your game, so to speak-- when you have other runners who are there to inspire you, encourage you, train you by the way they run, hold you accountable-- come on, pick it up. You can do a little bit better than that. You'll always do better with other runners.

Now, some believers have gotten off the track altogether. Their thinking is, you know what? I've tried it. I'm not good at the Christian life. I've stumbled. I've fallen.

So now I'm just going to be a spectator from the side of the track watching you guys run. And not only will I watch you guys run, but if you don't run very well, I'll criticize the way you run, because I'm really good at observing how people ought to live. I can't do that myself, and I won't, but I'll make sure you know that you didn't do it right.

So that's how Americans do sports, by the way. One sports fan said, sports like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey develop your muscles, and that's why Americans have the strongest eyes in the world. We're good at watching. We're good at being a spectator.

And we're the dude who says, if that guy strikes out, you're a loser, while we eat our popcorn and the batter gets struck out. Well he's on the field, buckaroo. You're not.

So put on your running shoes, get in the race, or for some of you, get back on the track, and stay on track. And just keep going. Oh, but I've fallen. It's OK, just keep going. Oh, but I'm disqualified. Just get up and keep going.

I'm going to close with the most fascinating illustration-- and by the way, a true story. Did you know that the world's longest and toughest race is an ultramarathon that is 543.7 miles, running 543.7 miles? It's the ultramarathon that begins in Sydney, Australia, and ends in Melbourne, Australia.

So in 1983, 150 world-class athletes converge on Sydney to begin this race. They're in shape, man. They've get the gear on. You could look at them and go, these guys are super fit.

Up walks-- into the crowd walks a 61-year-old toothless potato farmer, shepherd potato farmer, 61-years-old, no teeth, overalls, galoshes over his work boots. And he comes walking up. And people thought, OK, he's a local guy to watch the race.

Oh no, no, no, no. He wants to run the race. He walks up to the table, demands a number. And they looked at him like, you've got to be kidding, right? I mean, you won't make it a mile. They give him number 64. And the gun goes off.

Now his name was Cliff Young. Cliff Young-- here's the back story-- grew up on a farm, 2,000-acre farm, and was in charge, as a young guy, of watching out and keeping in check 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. On that farm, they did not have four-wheel-drive vehicles. They didn't even have horses. When storms came in, Cliff would go out there and run to herd those sheep. It sometimes took him two to three days of running around out there to get them all where they need to be.

So the race begins. Cliff Young starts the race. Gun goes off. Now, when he begins, everybody starts laughing, because this is how they described it-- he looked like he had this leisurely, odd shuffle. That's how he was running.

[LAUGHTER]

This is Cliff Young running 500 miles in galoshes over work boots. This leisurely, odd shuffle, that's how they described it. 5 days, 15 hours, 4 minutes later, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line in first place. He won the race.

Now, he didn't win it by a few seconds. He didn't win it by a few minutes. The nearest runner behind him was 9 hours and 56 minutes behind him, almost 10 hours behind him.

Pray tell, how did he win this race? Well, to run this ultramarathon, the runners had been conditioned to run 18 hours, 18 hours. Some of us can't run 18 minutes.

[LAUGHTER]

They would run 18 straight hours, and then go to sleep for 6 hours, do that for 5 days. 18, 6, 18, 6, 18, 6-- that's how they'd train. Well, nobody told Cliff Young.

[LAUGHTER]

So he ran straight without sleeping for 5 days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes, and crossed the finish line in first place, became a national hero. Interestingly, professional runners began to study and experiment with Cliff's shuffle.

[LAUGHTER]

How did he do that? That's the weirdest thing ever. And he won doing that. And so they started studying it. Many long-distance runners now have adopted it for its aerodynamic and energy efficiency.

[LAUGHTER]

Go figure. What's my point? Victory comes by endurance. Hebrews chapter 12, "Let us lay aside every weight and send that easily besets us, and let's run with endurance the race that is set before us."

The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash. It's not even a marathon. Baby, it's an ultramarathon.

And if all you've got is this, that's OK. Just keep doing that. I mean, you don't have to impress us with Nike and all this kind of cool stuff. Just do that and just keep going. Just keep going.

[APPLAUSE]

So on your mark, get set, let's pray. Father, we love all of these analogies that the audience of that time, even our time, can relate to. Those of us who admire a well-trained athlete, but more than that, a determined one, who, whether they can have an incredible pace or it's a shuffle, to make it over the long haul. Going in the right direction is what counts.

Lord, I can't help but think that there are people who are running their race of life, but they are going in the wrong direction. And to that, the Bible has a word. It's the word "repent," which means to turn around or to change direction.

And I believe You're calling many who have come to turn around. They're running, they're pursuing their life, their plans, their career, but they're going in the wrong direction. And I pray, Lord, that they would change direction, get on Your track, stay on track, and pursue the Christ who is pursuing them.

I pray they will discover why it is You love them, why You have chosen them when they say yes to You. I pray that You would give them the joy of heaven as the ultimate prize. And I pray, Lord, that You would show those who aren't even in the game yet the sheer joy of living a life running the race, because at the end, will be the coach welcoming them into His eternal glory.

Lord, I pray that You would save some, wash them of their sin, cleanse them of their past, and change their lives forever. With our heads bowed, as we continue to pray, closing this service, if you're here today and you have never surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you have never personally said yes to the Savior, you've come to church, you've come to events, you have relatives and friends, you've gone along with them, you're just a church-going person, perhaps, but you've never given your life to Christ, you've never surrendered to Him, you've never turned from what you know is wrong and turned to the Christ who loves you and died for you on the cross, I want to invite you to do that this morning.

And if you are willing to do that or if you need to come back home to Him after running off the track onto another direction, I want to pray for you. But I need to know who I'm praying for. So if you are willing to come back to Him or come to Christ for the first time, I want you to raise your hand in the air. And I'll notice your hand. And just keep it up for a few moments so I can notice it.

God bless you, and you, and you, and you, right here on my left and in the back, several of you right over here to my right, in the middle, and toward the very back, right here on the side, a couple of you. That's right. Anybody else over here? Anybody in the family room? Just raise your hand up.

God bless you on my left here, a couple of you up in the front. If you're in the balcony, just slip your hand up, raise it up. I'll bless you. That's awesome.

Father, we do pray for each one and pray You'd strengthen them. Lord, oh, the joy that they're going to discover as they get into this game on this track and have a walk with Christ that turns into a run all the way to the finish line. I pray that they will experience Your pleasure as they run not only in the right direction, but with You by their side. In Jesus's name, amen.

Let's all stand. We're going to close in a song. And if you raised your hand-- I saw hands in the balcony, in the back, in the middle, toward the front-- I'm going to ask you now to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, make your way right up in the front, where I'm going to lead you, in a moment when you come, in a prayer to receive Christ as your Savior.

We're going to seal the deal. We're going to close the contract. And you're going to say yes to Him and invite Him into your life.

I'll lead you in that prayer. But you come. If you raised your hand, we'll give you a moment to find your way right up here to the front.

[APPLAUSE]

We don't do this to embarrass you, but we do this to encourage you. We do it to encourage you.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC - "COME AS YOU ARE"]

(SINGING) Lay down your burdens.

Come right on up.

(SINGING) Lay down your shame. All who are broken, lift up your face.

Awesome, God.

(SINGING) Oh, wanderer come home. You're not too far. So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, and come as you are.

We're going to give you time to make your way here. If you're in the balcony, just come down those steps. If you're in the family room, if you're outside, you can make your way here. We'll give you a few moments.

Let me just say that making this decision to say yes to Jesus, you're making the devil very mad and you're making God very glad. This is why He made you. He made you to have a relationship with Him, a personal relationship.

[APPLAUSE]

(SINGING) Oh, wanderer, come home. You're not too far. So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, and come as you are.

Even if you didn't raise your hand, if God's doing a work in your heart and you want to be a part of this moment, you make your way. You come. We'll wait for you.

[APPLAUSE]

(SINGING) Come as you are. Come as you are. Oh. Oh, come on.

I love that, because I can't help but thinking that God had this whole day in mind just for you, that all of this service and all of this music and all of this message is for you. He loves you that much. He wanted to bring you here to hear this and have you respond to His love and begin a journey of following Jesus Christ that begins today.

Anybody else before we pray? Anyone else? Just get up and come. Well, those of you who are here, can we kind of scooch in a little bit here?

[APPLAUSE]

Awesome. God bless you. Come on up.

[APPLAUSE]

Welcome. There's a lot of you here. And I'm glad for each one of you.

Jesus loves you. He knows all about you. He knows what you've done. He knows where you have fallen and how you failed. But We has so much love in His heart.

And the past is the past. And the future is bright. So I'm going to lead you now in a prayer.

I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud after me. Say them from your heart. Mean them as you say them to God, because this is you giving your life to Jesus. So let's pray.

Say, Lord, I give You my life.

Lord, I give You my life.

I know that I'm a sinner.

I know that I'm a sinner.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe that He came to earth--

I believe that He came to earth--

--that He died on a cross--

--that He died on a cross--

--that He shed His blood for me--

--that He shed His blood for me--

--and that He rose again from the dead.

--and that He rose again from the dead.

I turn from my sin.

I turn from my sins.

I turn to Jesus Christ--

I turn to Jesus Christ--

--as Lord and Savior.

--as Lord and Savior.

It's in His name I pray.

It's in His name I pray.

Amen.

Amen.

Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Just as a disciplined runner trains long hours to reach maximum potential, we must live our life with a finish line in mind. Did this message encourage you to run your race and finish well? We'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org.

And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Q Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Additional Messages in this Series

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11/19/2017
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Show Me Your Passport, Please!
Philippians 3:17-21
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Anytime you travel overseas, a passport is required. Your passport is a document of citizenship, denoting your country of origin and permanent residence. Your name is written on that document along with your place and date of birth. Jesus said that our names are written in heaven (see Luke 10:20) because we have been born again. That makes us tourists and foreigners here on earth. In this section of Philippians, Paul gave us four distinguishing characteristics of heavenly citizens.
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10/29/2017
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Benefits of Being Believers
Philippians 3:8-11
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Being a Christian believer cost Paul a lot. He lost his status, he lost his prestige among former peers, and he landed in a foreign prison cell, facing possible execution. So what did he gain from his choice? What are the rewards and benefits of believing in Christ if the world hates you and most people misunderstand you? Today, we look at five of the benefits that offset any loss we might incur. These gains (or profits) make up for any momentary afflictions.
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10/15/2017
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Get a Real Testimony!
Philippians 3:4-8
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I have heard various people give their testimony over the years. A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. What is your story? Could you tell it to someone? You should be able to trace the steps you took in your life’s journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. These verses are Paul’s personal testimony. Let’s consider three essential ingredients to building a real testimony.
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10/8/2017
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Has Your Joy Sprung a Leak?
Philippians 3:1-3
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I have a bicycle pump in my garage that stands constant guard to reinflate my tires. It seems that I have a slow leak in one of them. Perhaps from a very small thorn or a defect in the tube, the air slowly leaks out, leaving the ride spongy. Spiritual thorns that deflate joy can also threaten our Christian experience. Let’s consider some simple principles that firm up our life journey and keep "the joy of the Lord" intact.
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10/1/2017
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How to Treat Good (but Imperfect) People
Philippians 2:25-30
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Some of the greatest people I have ever met have been relatively unknown individuals. They serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the limelight. Their names are not known to men, yet they are known to God. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. We all have our blemishes, shortfalls, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. Paul gave us an excellent way to treat such people in his words about his friend Epaphroditus.
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9/17/2017
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A Little Help from My Friends
Philippians 2:19-24
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Life without friendship is like the sky without the sun. Paul knew the value of having true friends who stuck with him during difficult times. And right in the middle of this letter, he mentioned two of them—Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two guys helped shoulder the burdens for the apostle and brought him great joy. As we consider Timothy's friendship profile, see how many of these qualities are present in your own life.
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8/27/2017
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Glow in the Dark!
Philippians 2:14-18
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To make an object glow in the dark, a phosphor that will energize by ambient light and have a very long persistence (like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate) must be applied. For a Christian to glow (shine the light of truth and salvation) in a dark culture, there are four considerations that will energize us. Today let’s study how we can penetrate a murky world.
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8/20/2017
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How to Have a Great Workout
Philippians 2:12-13
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Every day in every city, people go to the gym to get in a workout. Running on a treadmill, spinning on a cycle, working the stair-climber, and lifting weights are becoming more and more frequent in our health-conscious culture. But money spent on a gym membership is pointless unless we take the right approach. In this message, I want to consider what it means to have a healthy spiritual life by showing you what it means to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." Let's be determined to stay in top spiritual shape.
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8/13/2017
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Be Humble or You'll Stumble
Philippians 2:8-11
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Humility is that slippery quality that once you think you have it, you don't! Also, the pathway of humility is a hard one. For Jesus, it meant the cross. But humility will always be rewarded. Using Christ as our ultimate example, Paul demonstrates how Jesus' voluntary humiliation was compensated by the Father’s lavish exaltation. So even though humility doesn't come without a price, without it, there will be no harmony, no unity.
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8/6/2017
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What Would Jesus Do?
Philippians 2:5-8
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The campaign What Would Jesus Do? has been around for years, challenging Christians to think about what Christ might actually do in any given situation so they might do likewise. Before us, we have an example of what Jesus actually did do. His example of humility and self-sacrifice is Paul’s illustration to fortify his exhortation of loving people through lowering ourselves.
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7/30/2017
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Being Around People--While Still Being Sane!
Philippians 2:1-4
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Relationships are hard. They take a lot of work. If you think about it, every person in the world is incompatible with every other person. Enough time together would reveal this truth. Because of this, tensions rise, emotions flare, and bad responses ensue. Every friendship, every marriage, every family, and every organization (including every church) has its relational challenges. The church at Philippi did, too, and it was that disunity that tested Paul’s joy. Let’s consider the basics and the basis of successful relationships, and move from surviving them to thriving in them.
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
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The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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7/9/2017
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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
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Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
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If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
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Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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5/21/2017
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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
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What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
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Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
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No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
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You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
Skip Heitzig
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Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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There are 20 additional messages in this series.