“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)
What do you do when you hit bottom? Despite the depth of the losses I’ve felt, I’m sure I haven’t experienced that. But there are some examples in scripture that can give us insight.
- Joseph suffered the loss of all at the hands of his own brothers. (Gen 37:28).
- A Little maid suffered the loss of all at the hands of a man stealer. (2Kings 5:1-2).
- Jeremiah suffered the loss of all at the hands of his brethren, being dropped into the depths of a pit. (Jer 38:6)
Then there was the Apostle Paul who said,
“…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2Cor 11:23-27).
Read that again and really focus on each of those experiences. Try to see yourself in his place in stripes, prisons, deaths, beaten, stoned, shipwreck, in the deep, journeyings, perils (water, robbers, his own, heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the see, among false brethren), weariness, painfulness, watching, hunger, thirst, fasting, cold and nakedness.
It’s difficult for me to imagine. How did he find the strength to endure such hostility and loss? In the letter to the Philippians, we find a clue, “I PRESS TOWARD THE MARK for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In other words, he had a very large WHY. With a large enough WHY we can endure any HOW. There’s no bigger WHY than being in heaven with Christ.
Paul endured because of his WHY and with his HOW. We can PRESS just as he did.
To understand how, we need to learn about the word PRESS. From Strong’s we learn that the word press means; “to pursue (literally or figuratively); by implication, to persecute:–ensue, follow (after), given to, (suffer) persecute(-ion), press forward.” Did you see it? The word for press is also translated as “PERSECUTE.” (cf. Phil 3:6). Does that give you a better picture as to how Paul could endure? He Pressed, PERSECUTED toward the mark. Think of it as a full court PRESS as in basketball. Paul transferred his prior PERSECUTION of the church into a PERSECUTION to reach heaven.
He said it this way to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2Tim. 4:7)
In his letter to the Corinthians, he makes another illustration. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” (1Cor 9:24). He compares it to a RUNNER in a RACE for a prize that only one receives. Not that only one person can go to heaven, but that we should have the attitude of the RUNNER where only one may win.
Paul also EXERCISED himself unto godliness. “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” (1Tim. 4:7; cf. 1Tim 4:8). This word carries the meaning, ‘to train’ oneself. We are in constant training for godliness.
In another similar illustration Paul says, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1Cor. 9:25). The one that will PRESS toward the mark can be compared to one that STRIVES for mastery. Mastery of what? Mastery of being a faithful Christian. (cf. 2Tim 2:15; 3:16-17)
Along those same lines, he kept his body in SUBJECTION. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27; cf. 7:1-9). His meaning is to practice self-control over the lust of the flesh so as not to be ineligible for heaven.
Much is said in the secular world about goal setting. Our ultimate goal should be in going to heaven where Christ sits. We can do that by keeping our eyes and affections above (Col. 3:1-2). We also PRESS toward the mark. We can either give up or give it all.
spencer is a gospel preacher located in Borger Texas where he has worked with the church on Franklin & Juniper St. since 2014.