Paul referred often to running in his writings for his audience was predominantly gentiles from a Greek/Roman culture in which Olympic Games was extremely popular. Fast forward a couple of thousand years and the Olympics are still an exciting experience every four years and beginning later this month. I personally love the games, for one I love sports, and secondly, I love to see the world come together.
In Philippians chapters, 2-3 Paul refers to running in both chapters and so these next two weeks our focus will be running the race. Unlike Olympic runners are prize is not medals of earthly gain but rather eternal reward, not based on individual achievement but Kingdom advancement, becoming like Christ and pointing others to Christ. The older you get the more you realize how fast life passes by. If a runner continues to lose one race after another they will feel all their hard work was in vain. In the Kingdom nobody loses, we all win, in fact, we already won. Our race is to inspire others to get off the sideline and join in the race and encourage those who are stumbling or have fallen to get back up again.
ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE
Your attitude will affect your altitude! One of the biggest obstacles to hurdle in the race of life is bad attitudes. We live in a negative world and if we are not careful negativity will infect us. Here in Philippians 2:1, Paul asks some thought-provoking questions to help the Philippians examine their attitude. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? The conclusion is if we are not in communion with the Lord we will be like the world and in need of an attitude adjustment. Only in the Spirit can we get along and be able to work together with one mind and purpose in the Lord.
Paul now describes bad attitudes as selfish and only concerned with impressing others. He then speaks to them to be humble and put the interest of others ahead of themselves. He now describes Jesus in verses 5-8 who as God humbled Himself taking the position of a slave, to the point of obedience to God, dying a criminal's death on a cross. It says in verse nine it was through this act of humility that Jesus was elevated to the place of highest honor, His name above all names. The way upward is downward! Humility is the attribute necessary to run in the victory of the Lord, to hurdle the obstacle of pride. The bible says God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humility is not a weakness it is a strength. The humble climb higher, run faster, go farther. Jesus won the race of all races, and in Him, through His name, we are positioned as victors.
NOTHING COMES EASY
Those that have won gold in the Olympics can testify that it did not come easy. It takes great sacrifice, hard work, and a never-give-up attitude. Yet, for some reason, it seems Christians don’t always understand this concept and think that changing one’s life doesn’t take any work. WRONG! We are not saved by works but faith is a verb that means action. So if one has faith in God then it will be seen by the fruit of what they do. Just like if one believes they can be a great runner they don’t just enter races if they have not yet first trained for it. The Lord tests us, He allows us to go through trials, like a good coach so that we can gain endurance and become stronger.
The work is not our works but His work in us, as we give God space to move in our lives, we change. We change because He changes our desires to what pleases Him. This is how we grow from having a negative to a positive outlook, from complaining and arguing to praising and giving thanks. Jesus is the light so the more space we give Him, the less darkness remains as our lives become an outpouring of light to God. It is like a runner giving their coach time each day to train them. If they follow the coach's guidance they will run their race not in vain, the hard work won’t be useless, it will pay off when they compete in a race.
BE THE EXAMPLE
What inspires athletes is often other athletes who have accomplished what they desire to achieve. Paul commends two individuals who he was sending to the Philippians as examples of what he was teaching them, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Few people have it in them to push through challenges without being inspired by others. We need motivation from others and we need to be those who motivate others. Paul was sending them Timothy who was the chief example of someone who has proven that he genuinely cares about others more than himself. Sadly, this example is not something often displayed by many Christians, so we need to pray, Lord makes us like you! Now, Epaphroditus had helped Paul greatly in time of need even when he himself was sick to the point of death. We are called to lay down our lives just as Jesus laid down His life for us and both these individuals were examples of God’s love on display.
If you are on the sideline watching life pass you get in the race, advancing the kingdom of God. Let the Lord adjust your attitude by humbling yourself before Him, repenting, and He will transform the way you think and behave. Make a pledge to put the effort like an athlete to give God your coach the time daily to work in and through you, knowing that it will pay off, you will grow. Finally, be the example like Timothy and Epaphroditus of those who genuinely care for the needs of others more than themselves.