January 11, 2009
Rejoice! The End of Joy
Dr. Michael Lawrence
Sometimes our goals are within our grasp. The most important ones seem to always be beyond
our grasp. These goals shape our decisions and mold our character. Paul understood the
importance of goals. His landed him in prison, where he wrote to the Philippians to encourage
them in their goals.
I. Paul lays out a goal and how he’ll reach it (v. 12-14).
What are your goals? What are the stakes if you fail to reach them? What is the prize if you
succeed? Are they the right goals?
The prize is in heaven (not heaven). The prize is the consummation of Paul’s salvation being
made perfect and seeing Christ face to face. We were made for unending fellowship with Christ;
we were made for God. Any other goal is a compromise and won’t satisfy.
The right goal begins with recognizing today that a lot of unworthy goals were set for your life;
they were offensive to God; they replaced God with lesser things. God in His mercy hasn’t left
us to the judgment we deserve for such rebellious decisions. This God, who should have been
our goal, sent His son to live the life we should have lived. The goal of His life was to live
perfectly, which He did. He gave His life as a sacrifice, as a substitute, dying on the cross to take
the penalty we deserve. All who put their faith in Him, who turn away from foolish goals and
instead make it their goal to know Christ and His righteousness, God promises to forgive, to
reconcile and to bring such sinners home to heaven.
What would need to change in your life this week for you to have the disciplined focus of a
spiritual athlete? Is there a failure in your past that is discouraging you? Or a triumph in your
past that you’re trying to recapture? Be focused forward with your eyes on the prize.
Perseverance is victory. Encourage others through asking spiritually meaningful questions.
The source of Paul’s confidence that the race wasn’t in vain was that God had already taken hold
of him. People often want to pit God’s sovereign power against human responsibility and
freedom. Paul never does that. We see God’s sovereign grace taking hold of Paul on the
Damascus road. God sovereignly called Paul heavenward. This gave Paul incredible confidence
in God and boundless energy for God. Knowing that God has taken hold of him doesn’t cause
Paul to lose interest, but to press on.
Knowing that God has taken hold of him also means that Paul doesn’t need to be discouraged by
past failures; he knows the prize is secure.
Look at your life – the sins, the doubt, the disinterest in God. What you need is a God who will
take initiative in your life to sovereignly reach out and take hold of you, long before you ever
thought of taking hold of Him.
When you look at your failures and successes, look past them to the sovereign grace of God.
When you consider your failures, praise the Lord that though we fail Him, He doesn’t fail us, and
He never lets go. Consider your successes – praise the Lord because they are accomplished
through His power.
II. Paul makes an appeal (v. 3:15-4:1).
Paul told the Philippians to imitate him. This wasn’t arrogant because Paul demonstrated that
Christ is his model. He knows that there are many destructive models out there. Fundamental to
a Christian understanding of what it means to be a human is that, for all our dignity, and for all
our pride, we are fundamentally derivative beings created in the image of God. We weren’t
created to give meaning to our existence, but to pattern ourselves after our Creator. In saving us
through Jesus Christ, part of what God is doing is conforming us to Christ. Confident that he is
being conformed to Christ, Paul can say, “Follow me.”
Paul is concerned with the Philippians’ behavior. Pay attention to those you’d imitate. It’s easy
to be impressed by carnal things. Is their life characterized by the humility of the cross or the
pride of this world? Models are powerful; they shape us. The ones you follow show your
In heaven, we’ll be given new bodies that won’t die. In contrast to those who are enemies of the
cross, our destiny is glory. We are called to be like Christ in His humility. Christ will return to
make us like Him in His glory. Is this what you anticipate and eagerly await? Many do not
because their eyes are filled with lesser goals. An obstacle for many is a fear of death. Death is
under God’s bidding. One day God will command death to bring us home. Death won’t be the
enemy then, but a translation from this veil of tears to endless joy. Christian, this is your hope;
eagerly expect it and long for it.
God’s goal is to bring us all home. God’s arm is long and His grasp is sure. You cannot reach
God unless He first takes hold of you. Ask God to take hold of you today.