Stephen Caswell © 2004
Runners in the Greek Games
The Olympic Games was a major event in ancient Greece.
Athletes competed in a number of events including wrestling, the chariot race and running.
The foot race was run over a distance of 200 yards which was known as one stadia.
The English word stadium comes from this word.
The runners in the Greek games ran around a semi circular course towards the finish post.
There were three posts between the start and the finish.
On the first post was inscribed /excel/, on the second post /hasten/, on the third post /turn/.
After passing these first three posts athletes would focus on the finish post striving to get their first.
They ran with a purpose and nothing else distracted them.
In his letters, Paul often compares the Christian life with running a race.
Today Paul describes the qualities of a good Christian athlete.
Last week we learned that */Paul the Accountant/* had the */spiritual mind/*.
He totally relied on Christ's righteousness.
We too, like Paul, must count everything in the */past/* to be loss so that we might gain the riches of Christ.
*/But what about the present?/*/
How should we think now?/ */Paul /*considered himself to be an */Athlete/* who was determined to run his race well.
/How did Paul view the Christian race?
/He saw it is the ultimate challenge; like a marathon race./
Paul lists 5 qualities needed to run well/, */Dissatisfaction, Devotion, Direction, Determination & Discipline./*
*Philippians 3:12-13a* /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;/
Last week we saw Paul */count/* his past achievements as loss.
Then he counted all things gain in Jesus Christ.
Today Paul looks at his life and evaluates it once more.
Paul said, /I do not count myself to have apprehended God's purpose for me/.
He realized that he hadn't reached perfection yet.
The word */perfected/* *τελειόω* means */to complete, finish, fulfill or consummate something./*
God hadn't finished with Paul's life yet.
/There was room for further growth./
The */first quality/* of a good athlete is */dissatisfaction.
/*Paul wasn't dissatisfied with Jesus Christ, but his own spiritual attainments.
Unlike many Christians today, Paul didn't compare himself with other believers, but with Jesus Christ.
He saw that God had much to do in his life and therefore was dissatisfied with his present achievements.
/When would Paul be perfect?/
Verse 11 tells us this will happen at the resurrection of the dead.
Paul hasn't attained this yet, so he presses on to finish his race.
The Australian Cricket Team
The Australian cricket team are the current world champions.
Although India gave them a scare recently.
They hold the world cup and are also the top test team in the world.
For a couple of years no one could come near them.
/How did they attain this level of excellence?/
By training hard.
The team coach John Buchanan, sets each player an individual goal for improvement.
They review their past performances on video.
They seek to overcome their weaknesses.
They don’t rest on their past victories, they want to improve.
They have a healthy */dissatisfaction/* of their sporting achievements.
They want to excel still further.
They want to win.
Although Paul had served the Lord for nearly thirty years, he realized that he hadn't arrived.
Paul wasn’t perfect.
His faith had grown so much over those years, but he knew that he hadn't attained the standard that Christ had in mind for him.
Therefore he was /dissatisfied/ with his life.
He would not be content with anything less than God's best for him.
He wanted to know God in a closer way.
He wanted to become more gracious as the Holy Spirit shaped his life.
Paul wanted to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
He wouldn't accept anything less.
He pressed on!
/Are we content with our Christian race?
Are you comparing yourself with other believers who may not be running very well?
Or do you compare yourself with Jesus Christ and strive to be like Him? /Christ is the standard that God uses to measure us by./ Do you want to be conformed to Christ? *Dissatisfaction*/ is the first quality.
*Phil 3:13b* /Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,/
/Devotion/ is the key to success in life.
It is true of sportsmen, musicians, politicians, and most professions in life.
/Devotion/ is concentrating all of your energy to accomplish one purpose./
Nadia Comaneci, the now famous Romanian gymnast first set the World on fire by scoring three perfect 10's and also won the all-round medal at the 1976 Olympics.
Jim McKay, a US Sports Commentator wanted to interview her and discover how she felt about wiping the slate clean with her three individual Gold Medals.
When he was finally able to catch up with her he asked her how she felt about her wins?
She replied, all right!
Not able to understand why she wasn't excited he said, Aren't you thrilled?
You've won the all round competition!
No one has ever done that before, getting three perfect tens!
She replied, I have done that fourteen times before in practice!
Nadia was */devoted/* to one thing, her gymnastics.
Her /devotion/ motivated her to press on to /perfection/.
*/Devotion helped make Nadia perfect!/*
Paul was */devoted/* to his Christian race.
He said, /one thing I do/.
Paul wanted /to lay hold of/ Christ's plan for him.
The word apprehended *καταλαμβάνω* means */to take eagerly, to seize, to possess, to obtain./*
In fact Jesus Christ /had laid hold of/ him to fulfill a great plan in his life.
So Paul says /I am determined to obtain it/.
He was determined to become all that God wanted him to be.
That's what devotion is, commitment to a single purpose.
Few athletes succeed by doing everything.
They specialize in their sport and concentrate on that.
*/Concentration/* is the secret of power in athletics.
Christians can do many things in life but if we would make a mark for Christ we must prioritize.
*/This one thing I do.
/*/One thing/ is a phrase that is important/ /to the Christian life.
/One thing/ thou lackest said Jesus to the self-righteous rich young ruler.