Tag Archives: Press on toward the goal

Happiness is reaching for the prize




I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


Some old carousels had special rings suspended away from the carousel platform. If you leaned out from your perch and really strained while going round and round, you might have grasped a ring. Sometimes you’d reach but miss. Sometimes you’d actually touch the ring but fail to take it. But you kept reaching and straining, focused intently on getting that prize. As you did this, you might have noticed others simply sitting back and enjoying the ride. You think to yourself, maybe that’s what I should do, just let life take me round and round, enjoying the music and the dazzling lights. But your eye was on the rings. Grabbing the iron ring would give you a sense of accomplishment but there was no real prize associated with it. But taking the brass ring gave you a special prize, usually another ride on the carousel.


Does life sometimes seem like one endless merry-go-round, spinning round in the delirium of lights, music, and motion? Have you found yourself straining to reach some prize only to fail to grasp it firmly? Or maybe you’ve found the temporary thrill of grasping so many unfulfilling iron rings.


Perhaps our faith journey is like a carousel ride. Only sometimes it’s more like we are running the opposite direction the carousel is going, still trying to reach the prize. After a while we may be tempted to forget the prize and just sit back on the painted horses and simply enjoy the ride or endure its passing. But our real happiness is found in continually reaching for the prize. Paul counsels us about this in Philippians 3:


Paul knew what his real goal was and kept focused on it. Too much focus on life’s painted horses and dazzling lights lulls us into a sleepy disoriented slumber. Fixing our eyes on Jesus even in the mundane things of life keeps us focused on what truly satisfies and our purpose for being.


Paul kept no confidence in the flesh, no confidence in abilities or traditions, past achievements, or awards. He considered all this as a loss (actually garbage) compared to knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus was his only confidence. When you’ve reached and strained to grasp the brass ring, you realize that Jesus has already taken hold of it for you. And yet, we need to continue pressing on, reaching, persevering, really straining to reach the prize.


It might be okay on a merry-go-round to just sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, it is merely a temporary diversion. But on life’s real carousel we only go around once and we ought to orient our efforts on straining and pressing on to reach the prize that has already been won for us. Keep your eye on the prize and the one who has already won it for you.



One goal to pursue

What’s on your to-do list today? This week? What do you aim to accomplish yet this year? What about before you leave this world? Goals make us examine our hopes and dreams and help us prioritize how we want to invest our time, energy, and financial resources. Of course, all goals are ‘as unto the Lord,’ for we ultimately don’t have as much control as we think we might over our plans and future. As we recently evaluated some of our goals, some rose to a higher position of importance than others.

Paul came to the conclusion that not only his past, but all his future goals fell underneath just one surpassing goal, to know Jesus. In fact everything else fell so short of this one goal that he considered them “garbage” in comparison.

His goal is to be found “in him,” that is, immersed in Christ. When we are immersed in something we are connected in such a way that it becomes our identity, our purpose. Paul recognizes that any good comes not from himself but through faith it comes from Jesus. Oh that we would come to such knowledge, instead of thinking that we bring some inherent goodness on our own power, but rather know that all goodness comes from our trust in God.

Every goal has its reward and its price. Paul writes, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” If we were to examine all the New Testament, we would find such references to suffering in every book. Instead of running away from suffering, Paul makes a goal of pursuing suffering when it leads him to knowing Jesus and making him known.

How about you? Not all suffering is of the Lord. Some suffering is more of inconvenience. I broke my ankle because I was in too much of a hurry on the ice. I wouldn’t call that suffering for the Lord. But there is that suffering that bears witness to Jesus, that advances his gospel, that leads us into deeper relationship with him. We shouldn’t be so quick to pray away that sort of suffering!

Knowing Jesus is a process, isn’t it? It takes more than a lifetime. Can you see all your other goals in their relationship to this one most important one?

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13b-14