Paul’s One Passion and Bethel’s Great Need

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.” (Philippians 3:12-15)

Look at the words Paul uses, Run. Press. Strain. Verse 13 is particularly rigorous. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…”

Forgetting all that lies behind

Isn’t this always the danger? It’s like Lot’s wife, looking back. Living in the past. Thinking our Sodom experience was the best. Looking back to some spiritual high point or accomplishment. If you are running, is it wise to run forward and not look behind. Great runners always look forward. All their training and preparation is for this one race; this one moment. The athletes that don’t have this focus, you never hear of them. They don’t win. They don’t make the team, they don’t go the Olympics. They end up preaching sermons in Northwest Indiana on the weekends.

Today’s athletes will discipline themselves and push themselves for maximum performance. Sometimes they start training as children. I remember years ago I had the chance to visit Lake Placid, New York, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. It still has an Olympic training facility. When we visited, the ice rink was filled with very young girls, twirling and jumping who were six, seven, eight years old. They were from all over the country, living there full-time. They were training every day hoping and convinced that they were the next American to win skating gold.

Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 9:25, if athletes will give that effort for a prize that passes away, what kind of service for Christ should we offer for an eternal reward?

Straining forward to what lies ahead

The picture here is vivid. A runner giving all his effort. Eyes focused. Head not moving. Body in motion. Not backwards.

What is Paul reaching for? He says it this way, at the end of his life, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8—“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day.”

Pastor Steve, would you just say what you want to say and quit beating around the biblical bush? OK. Here’s what I want to say. We just birthed triplet campuses. Caring for them has meant sending hundreds of our best people to other campuses. Most of these people were extremely involved here; the kind who do the heavy lifting. These people are easy to spot; they almost have spiritual beads of sweat on the foreheads. Leaders. Servants. Many of them the welcoming type. Hospitable. When there was a need they heard about, they were willing to step in. Faithful. They are taking their energy and helping us reach Gary, Southwest Lake County, and the cities of Hobart and Portage for Christ. We still have lots of people who attend here and we still are blessed with many wonderful servants at this campus, just not as many as we used to.

What is needed now here at Crown Point? More than ever before, we need runners. We need to forget what lies behind and press toward what lies ahead. We need everyone here engaged in quality effort and ministry for Jesus.

I had lunch last week with two brand new families to our church. Both just moved to the area. Both were heavily involved in previous churches. I didn’t tell them, “We’re so awesome we don’t need you.” I said the opposite, “You are coming at a time of tremendous need.” One of the blessings of a multisite church is that it creates so many more opportunities to serve. A single site church has single site needs. Now with four campuses, we have four times the needs and opportunities.

I know we have many seasoned Christians who used to serve with vibrancy but not so much anymore. Can I lovingly say, forgetting what lies behind, press forward to what lies ahead? I once heard Pastor David Jeremiah say, “You can know the vibrancy of your faith by how old your illustrations are.” Today is a new day and a new opportunity.

We need forget about what lies behind. Sometimes people are paralyzed in serving Christ by something in the past. A hurt. A disappointment in a church leader. Forget what lies behind. Maybe you simply rest on an accomplishment of the past or past service or you live vicariously through your adult children who serve for Christ. Forget what lies behind. Today is a new day to strain forward. God is opening doors to us all over Northwest Indiana; it calls for us to give our best effort for Jesus. Press on. Strain. As missionary David Livingstone said, “I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward.”

Realize that we are not planting campuses, we are planting people. The church is people. As people follow God’s leading and serve faithfully in these other campuses, it means God’s people here need to do so as well.

Next week we will talk about what that looks like. Let me remind you of the urgency of this.

Northwest Indiana has half a million people who do not attend any church of any kind. They have no visible faith expression in anything, much less Jesus. Jesus’ final words are guiding us to make disciples. How do we honor him in doing that? Like Paul, to say in my heart, my one thing is “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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