Dear PRCW-ers and readers of this post: Have you ever entered a marathon? There are many basic yet important things that you need to do to run in one. You have to have the attitude of wanting to win the race. That takes training, time, a lot of effort and discipline. You also need to be determined to win. Winners in marathons don’t just jog for exercise. They’re in it for the top prize. They set goals for themselves. They train hard. They push themselves toward the goal.
It is very obvious from the Bible that the Apostle Paul loved athletics, or at least had a love for athletic analogies and metaphors. They’re all over the pages of the New Testament. One of those analogies is that of a runner running a race. The runner to him is the picture of the Christian. Frequently he turned to this picture of the runner moving toward the finish line. That is essentially the underlying picture in Philippians 2:12-13 —
“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; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
“I press on”. That word in the original is very vigourous. It means he pressed on like one who in a race runs to reach the goal. Paul was like a man running along the road – taking step after step.
You may get a picture in mind of Terry Fox from Thunder Bay, Ontario and his run for cancer several years ago. Some of us are maybe old enough to remember the evening news coverage. Everyday he plodded forward. Step by step. And each day the news would report his progress, if he had arrived at a certain village or had come to a certain place. The man had drive – and he is still admired for that today. That is the imagery here. We read elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
Why press on? Why continue in the race of Christian growth? In verse 12 Paul says “That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”.
The word for “I may lay hold” is an intensified word that means to apprehend or seize something after a pursuit. It is used of a demon seizing a boy and throwing him to the ground (in Mark 9). If a policeman chased a robber and apprehended him, he would have an unyielding grip on the thief. Here it means: “To lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to take into one’s self, to appropriate”
The motto of The Pastor’s College founded by C. H. Spurgeon in London, England is a phrase in Latin “Et Teneo, Et Teneor” which means: “I hold and I am held.”
In other words our position doesn’t change. Jesus already called us. Christ holds on to us. But we are to lay hold of what Christ has laid hold of for us. Our position in Christ doesn’t change. It’s our condition that needs to change. And that exhortation is there for all of us.
There is a very subtle temptation that comes to Christians in their mid-years or toward the end of their spiritual journey to feel that they have made some reasonable distance.
But the Christian life is not a brief sprint; it’s a marathon over a life-long course. In it there is a lot of difficult terrain to be covered.
Paul was likely in his late 40’s early 50’s when he wrote this – but note his resolve and his strong desire just from these few words. We also need to be making the same efforts as he did. Not in our own strength because it is God who holds us. It is a Christ who has attained our perfection.
That’s an encouragement in these uncertain times when we don’t know the duration of the virus and its effects on the world. We are, it appears, being called to run in a marathon as it were. We have to keep up the pace day by day. How do we do that? Making the Scriptures our delight, feeding our hearts on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving God’s preached Word, being in prayer often throughout the day, praying without ceasing, trusting God and enduring in our Christian faith with all perseverance: “that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”.
Pastor Rich Anjema