Running to a higher goal
January 20 — Philippians 3:7-11; January 27 — Philippians 3:12-16By June Galle Krehbiel
Watching runners or skaters race fascinates me. Why do some have the stamina and endurance to push themselves while others lag behind?
I am always amazed when one individual can, in the final meters, come from far back in the pack to cross the finish line first. I’m equally amazed when apparent winners lose the energy to finish strong.
In Paul’s pre-Damascus Road days, anyone would have called him a winner. He had it all.
Born a Jew and into the elite tribe of Benjamin, he had the right lineage. He’d been circumcised eight days after his birth, according to Jewish law. He’d been a devoted Pharisee, which meant he was part of the spiritual elite in Israel. He still spoke the Hebrew language of his parents, another bragging point.
Above all, he was zealous, a virtue that many Jews held high. His track record as a Jew had been flawless.
Then about halfway through his race, a competition many considered him to be winning, he fell down blind on the heaven-lit road to Damascus (Acts 9). All of his upbringing, elitism and zealousness — everything he had gained in his race to be the perfect Jew — fell away, and he began proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God.
If anyone had been following the races Paul ran prior to his Damascus Road experience and after, the fan might have been surprised to see Paul’s events change. After his conversion, Paul was no longer running individual races. He was entered in relays, with Jesus as the final runner.
To Paul, knowing Christ as his Lord is all-important. Everything else, including the religious law, he considers worthless or “rubbish” (Phil. 3:8, NIV), which was a vulgar term for human or animal dung.
His language of “knowing” (8) Christ Jesus is two-fold. It links present and future faith. Paul already considers Jesus “my Lord,” so that would refer to Paul’s past acceptance of all that Jesus represented on Earth. But Paul also wants to “know” (10) Christ so that he can share in his death and resurrection.
Paul likens the strength needed in a Grecian athletic competition, especially a foot race, to the strength needed in the Christian faith.
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