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.