The Prize We Seek
Tapawingo family, I hope you are doing well and that the Lord is showing you His ever-present faithfulness at this time. I am so thankful to be writing to you today as we learn about seeking the Lord together.
Picture this with me: You’re at the starting line of a race. Since you could not pay the fee for this race, a sponsor has offered to pay the fee for you to run in their honor. Crouched low with one foot behind the other, you assume your ready position while listening for the firing of the gun. As you glance around, you recall those who have supported your decision to run this race from the start. They supplied you with nutritious meals when you needed them and training techniques that would help you succeed. You even see your sponsor there standing, with water bottles ready, at the starting line. If he could, he would even run the race for you. But only you can run the race for yourself if you wish to earn the prize at the end, what you most desire and long for.
Soon, the gun fires. You take off full speed ahead into a sprint alongside the other racers. You’re feeling confident, energized, and ready to conquer anything that stands between you and the prize!
As you race, you jump over hurdles, you run through sand that slows you down and mud that causes you to slip and fall. But you get up, continue running, and press on. Why? Because of the prize that is promised to you in the end. No, you have not seen the prize but you know its worth. You believe it is waiting there at the finish line truly meant for you. You continue to keep your focus and eyes on the prize.
Though running the same course, the race is different for each person participating. Some hurdles, you stumble over and the other racers gracefully leap over. You keep going with some encouragement from those surrounding you. All of the racers trained in different ways all just to run the course set before them. With a smile and a few beads of sweat on your face, you’ve endured thus far.
At this point, your mouth is feeling dry and you’re feeling a little dehydrated. You look to your left. Your eyes catch those of your sponsor’s. With cold water ready, your sponsor satisfies your thirst by tossing a bottle into your hands. It’s like your sponsor read your mind! No longer thirsty, you continue on.
Later on during the race, you become doubtful. Floods of doubt fill your mind that you’ll never finish the race and win the prize. You think to yourself: is the prize even worth it? Your muscles ache and your feet drag. You lose the joy, passion, and fervor that was helping you to persevere. As you look behind you, you see other racers having a hard time in the thick of it. Easily distracted, you stray off the course and down a path. You start to think that it might be a shortcut despite the uneven terrain of roots, brambles, and jagged rocks. You’ve lost sight of the prize. Your sponsor catches your gaze up ahead. “I left the other racers to come find you,” he says with reassurance.
Though there isn’t a map and you don’t know what lies around every turn, you continue running and trusting that your sponsor, the creator of the course, will be there to guide you through as you seek the prize.
Now, re-read these passages verse by verse while asking the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding. If you’ve never read these passages before, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning and highlight the phrases of most importance. If you have read these passages before, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal new things to you!
Paul has a clear goal here: being in heaven with the Lord. He looks forward to the ultimate reward for his faithful service, meeting with Christ after His life. Paul's teaching was not to look back at the past, but instead to focus on what we can do today and in the days ahead to run the race and live for Christ until we meet with Him. As we read in Phil. 3:7, Paul counts everything gained as loss for the sake of Christ. What could be examples of gains that are actually losses for the sake of Christ? Take a moment to journal. These could be materialistic things that don’t matter in light of eternity and distract us from keeping our focus on God.
What is the worth of knowing Christ as our own personal savior (v.8)?
These earthly, temporary things are of no importance in comparison to salvation which is eternal. Our priceless, eternal salvation allows us to be in communion with God forever and ever. Jesus paid the price for this gift when he died for us on the cross.
What does it mean to be eternally minded?
Keep your focus on God and your eyes heavenward. Being eternally minded helps put suffering in perspective. When we experience trials in this life, we can count it as joy because as we seek the Lord, he will test and strengthen our faith and bless us with perseverance in return (James 1:2-3). Remind yourself of the brevity of our earthly lives and what your purpose is here: to glorify God and point others to Him.
What do you think the prize is (Phil. 3:13-14)?
The prize is knowing Christ fully! The prize is pursued when we pursue a relationship deeper with Christ. The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is knowing Him.
Yes! Heaven is the eternal promise that God will eventually make all things right and that He will one day fulfill our deepest longings.
The prize is an “imperishable wreath.” This “imperishable crown” is the righteousness that finally fits us for heaven. The crown indicates victory! It is an allusion to the crown that was given to the conquerors in the Olympic games. It is called a "crown of life", because it is an everlasting crown. It is a crown of glory that will not fade away. Those that face afflictions and hold out unto the end shall have this crown and shall receive it.
Take some time to reflect.
For Paul, no other reward could have any meaning for him. Would you say this is true for yourself?
What is at stake in the race of the Christian life?
What are your hurdles in this life? What are the distractions, roots, brambles, and rocks in your life that are keeping you from the prize? It’s important to recognize these. Pray and seek the Lord for guidance.
I encourage you to prioritize spending time in God’s presence to deepen your relationship with Him and better know Him fully. The more time you spend with Him, the more He will give you a thirst and desire for Him which only He can satisfy! You can start by taking 5 minute breaks throughout your day to step back and refocus your heart. Work on memorizing one of these verses or passages during those times. As you meditate on His word, you can get to know Him deeper! You can also pray and seek the Lord to help you refocus on the prize. Ask for perseverance, a joyful heart, and steadfast faith.
My prayer for you: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV