Press On Or The Press Is On



Philippians 3:12-16

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.


I have absolutely no doubt, Paul was an avid sports fan. One thing we must consider is that our world is drastically different from Paul’s. I think Paul has two sports in mind, [1] Track and [2] Hunting whereas today we have football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, golf and a thousand others. Here in Philippians 3 and in his other letters, he uses sports terms. Here in chapter 3 Paul is giving a pre-game inspirational message on our approach to the future. Remember our approach is Christian. We look at the future differently from the pagan world.

Last fall, I was called upon a couple of times to do a motivation speech to our High School football team. I wish I had studies this passage before hand because there is a great motivational speech here for a group of athletes or believers.

Paul says in verse 12, Jesus apprehended me on the road to Damascus, He laid hold of me and now my intention is to apprehend or lay hold to that for PURPOSE {teleioō} which He laid hold of me.


FIRST: You need a good attitude.

I am not an NFL fan by any stretch of the imagination but my wife and I watched a little of the Saints verses Chicago last Monday night [My wife is a Saints fan. We lived in New Orleans during our seminary days]. I feel sorry for the Chicago Bears fans. I think Jay Cutler has the sorriest attitude of any athlete I have seen. This man made 22 million dollars this year and his team will not even be in the play offs. He threw three interceptions Monday night but that is the least of his problems: the major problem is that he didn’t care. He was not disgusted with himself, he just goes to the bench and sits alone. No one on the entire team like him. Why? Because he has a stinking attitude.

You know, we have people in our churches, some come every Sunday but they have bad attitudes. We have folks that you could not please if you hung them with a new rope. They come in the door every Sunday looking for something to complain about. Honestly, I wish they would stay at home but misery loves company and they have no intention of letting us off the hook. I am talking about critical, negative, pessimistic people who love to rain on everyone’s parade. It happened to me a few Sundays ago. We had a great service, had two or three professions of faith and we having a celebration at the end of the service when this person comes to me and says, “I have to talk to you now.” I missed the end of the celebration. By the time I got home, my family had already eaten dinner. Don’t dare tell them that they can’t rain on your parade because they will show you.

But there is another attitudinal problem: not only do we have our unhappy critics, we have our retired stock holders who will not disengage from the past. These are those who want to have a say but they don’t want to do anything. They’ve already done their part. I came to my present place of service back in 1979 and there was one particular woman who urged me every Sunday to accept the position. I came as a fill in for two months before accepting the call. She would say something like this: “We need a young pastor. It’s time for the young people to take hold here, those my age have done their part. It is time for the new generation.” One Sunday a man who had attended here forever heard her say all those things about her “having done her part,” and he came up to me and said, “Don’t pay any attention to her, she has never done squat,” only he did not use the word squat. I’m sorry folks but I had to laugh. It is true that I was young and had a lot to learn but I had already encountered these “Retired Christians” who have done their part. You never hear Paul talking like this. Whatever you have done in the past, forget it, time to move on. We don’t live in the past: we move from it toward our goal. You haven’t done your part. There are no rest stops on this pilgrimage. We press on. There is work to do, not excuses to be made.

You have not done your part. If you had done your part, God would have you with HIM. Your being here tells me that you have not done your part. You may be too old to stay in the nursery but you are not too old to pray for those who do. You are not too old to make a phone call or write a card. You may be too selfish but you are not too old. As long as your world revolves around you and your needs: you are going to be unhappy. Negative attitudes; selfish attitudes will keep you from laying hold of your purpose.

SECOND: You need to narrow your focus.

This should come natural for those of us growing old. You cannot do everything but you can do something. Notice what Paul says in verse 13…No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing. This is the secret to progress, learn to focus on one thing. “One thing” comes up in the bible a lot…

  • Jesus said to the Rich Young Ruler…”One thing you lack.”
  • Jesus said to Martha…”One thing is needful.”
  • The Blind man said to the Temple authorities…”One thing I know.”
  • David said in Psalm 27…”The one thing I ask of the Lordthe thing I seek most.”

Here Paul says, “I focus on one thing.” I think Paul is looking forward to the Resurrection. This side of the resurrection, you and I will never know perfection which is what Paul confesses in this passage…I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. {verse 12} Do you hear what Paul is saying? “I am not perfect, I do not claim to be perfect but I am moving toward perfection. When Christ laid hold of me, His intention what that I become like Him [perfect, Teleioo] and my one goal is to lay hold of that perfection that will come with the resurrection. Paul had narrowed his focus. When we narrow our focus, we concentrate on one thing and it gives our focus  this concentrated power like a laser. A laser is focused light. Focused light is powerful and a focused life is powerful.

I young lady told me once, “I envy you. You know exactly what the Lord has called you to do and I don’t have a clue. I don’t know what my purpose is or even if I have a purpose.” I said, “You have a purpose. For one thing you are the mother of three children and you are to guide them to Christ.” If your purpose become your sole interest, you will find your purpose. My mother had a purpose. She was the most influential person in my life.

Dwight L. Moody was into a lot of things but after the great Chicago fire, he begin to think and he decided he was running out of time and he wanted to focus one thing and the one thing he choose was his evangelistic ministry. Before the fire, he was big in the YMCA and the Sunday School movement. When he narrowed his focus, he became the LORD’s laser. Millions of people came to Christ because of Dwight L. Moody.

A river is a powerful source of energy if it is channeled: if not channeled, it can be a source of destruction {flood} or decay {Swamp}.

You cannot do everything but you can do something: find out what it is and get busy. We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails. We cannot do what God does but God will not do what we can. {Oswald Chambers} Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depends on God: work as though everything depends on you.”

THIRD: We need to PRESS ON with intensity.

Paul used the word “Press” twice. Verse 12…But I press on to possess…  I press on to reach {v.14}. This word press is an athletic term: it means to pursue with every ounce of energy. We still use the term in Basketball. Ty plays in an instructional league and they cannot play defense outside the three point circle until the last 2 minutes. Trust me the intensity picks up the last two minutes. Ty thrives during that time because he is naturally intense. To press is to reach for, to stride for, to push for with all our energy. In hunting, it is to be aggressive in the pursuit of the game. It means to move in on and to capture.

We don’t need less intensity in the LORD’s work. I go home on Sunday’s for lunch, eat a bit and then go to bed. I don’t think I am less intense, I hope not; I think I am more intense than I’m ever been.

Sometimes a basketball team will press the entire game but usually, it when they see time is running out. It is for this reason that I think the older we get the more intense we ought to get as we realize that time is running out. Joe David was telling me yesterday that if you make is past 50, odds are you will live to be 80. I think most people expect to live that long. One of my best friends father past away at 90 and he told me that his dad was shooting for 100. Most people think they have plenty of time but not all of us think that way. Kenny told me last week, I just hope I make it to January 1 which is only two weeks away. Kenny lives at a higher level, he is on a plateau that we don’t understand, he knows time is running out. We don’t believe it.