The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint. You learn perseverance. That’s why I felt the poignancy of Paul’s words: “. . . not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on” (Philippians 3:12). We don’t simply keep on. We press on.
The Greek word translated here as “press” indicates applying force, applying pressure. So how does that apply to us? We desire to live from spiritual high to spiritual high. We hope that we will be sanctified in large doses, all at once. We want to relax and celebrate the victory in the 100-yard dash. But the Christian life is different. You run a 100-yard dash, but as soon as you break the tape you’re exhausted. You fall to the ground, panting and gasping for breath. But then the first thing you hear is, “On your mark, get set, go!” and you have to do it again. You have to press on.
We don’t finish this race quickly and that can feel discouraging. But notice why Paul perseveres: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). It’s as if Paul is testifying, “I’m running a race for heaven. I’m running for the prize that the Father has stored up for His people from the foundation of the world. I’m going to obtain that for which Christ has obtained me. Christ has possessed me that I might possess heaven.”
Paul continues, “I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind . . .” (Philippians 3:13). Paul had no time to waste dwelling on his failures. His concern was always the next step. His vision was fixed on heaven.
God is calling us, even now. We usually think He is calling us to do this or that task—to live in this or that city. And those realities are true. But even further, Christ is standing in heaven calling us to Himself. So we keep our vision on the goal line, on the end point, which is exactly where Paul’s vision was set. The reward for all the pain in our souls and for all our patient endurance is Christ Himself. He is the reason we press on toward the mark.
Are you more likely to see your Christian progress as a sprint or marathon? How do Paul’s words reshape this for you?