Running With A Viewpoint In Mind

Title: Running With A Viewpoint In Mind

Bible Book: Philippians 3 : 12-14

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Purpose; Attitude


[Editor's Note: It is apparent that this sermon was preached sometime around the New Year, but the content of this sermon is excellent any time and all the time in the local church.]

As I go through the beginning of the New Year, I’m always asking my friends and others if they have any resolutions. People are always telling me, that they want to be doing better in school, lose the weight they gained over the holidays, and an occasional just change my attitude toward people. Now all of those things are good goals that can be accomplished, but as people were telling me their resolutions, one caught my attention. I had one person who told me this, plain and simple, I want to start over. He said I want to get closer to God. (First Focus – January 20, 2011)

I believe that’s how Paul felt. He wanted to run his race in such a way that he got closer to God. And he recognized the blessing of a fresh start; of seeing each day as the first day of the rest of your life.

Last Sunday, we looked at the Old Testament book of Habakkuk where God told Habakkuk in chapter 2, verse 2, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” The message of the verse seems to be that whoever would read this vision and revelation (the written revelation of increasing wickedness and the revelation of the justice and power of the true and living God) should run to God for help. So we should be “Running With A Vision In Mind.”

Today, it’s on my heart to speak to you about “Running With A Viewpoint In Mind.” And I want to draw upon the viewpoint and perspective that Paul manifested in Philippians 3.

Is it enough just to be running the race and going through the motions, or is perspective and attitude important?

Chuck Swindoll wrote…

Several years ago I determined to deal with my attitude. I found myself getting pretty testy, even argumentative at times. Our children were young and often had needs that required my time and attention. More often than I’d like to admit, that irritated me---to the point where my wife said I needed to think about how negative I was becoming, and then I needed to do something about it!

At first, like most husbands would, I resisted her words, but after giving them further thought, I realized that what she was observing was painfully true. To use a popular expression, I was in need of a serious attitude adjustment! I knew that if some of my emotional outbursts didn’t stop, I’d not only alienate all four of my children, I would become a lonely, bitter, and crotchety old man. The realization of all that led me to come to terms with my negative attitude.

I am so grateful I did! Among other things, it led me to sit down and write out a carefully worded statement on the importance of choosing the right attitude every single day. … Here it is:


Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.

I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope.

In the context of this chapter, Paul reveals his own joyful viewpoint and attitude by encouraging his readers to “rejoice in the Lord,” which in itself is striking considering that Paul was in prison when he wrote those words. And this wasn’t just a momentary elation, but Paul refers to joy again and again throughout this epistle. Some have even called Philippians “the book of jailhouse joy.”

Paul mentions his achievements and attainments in life, but then he says that he has let go of those things “that I may win Christ, and be found in Him” (vs. 8-9), and “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable (similar) unto His death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (vs. 10-11). He says that if it takes the experience of dying to self in order to experience resurrection power in Christ, that’s what he wants. He wanted to reach the goal of spiritual resurrection from deadness (vs. 11). And Paul doesn’t assert that he had reached that level of spiritual success yet. He hadn’t “arrived” at that spiritual plateau. But he said, “I follow after” (vs. 12), and “I press toward the mark” (vs. 14).

Warren Wiersbe said that, for Paul, this was…

· A Personal Experience

· A Powerful Experience

· A Painful Experience

And I would add that it was…

A Purging Experience
A Practical Experience

As we read the book of Philippians, we think about Paul and his journey and the race that he was running. Here is this old man sitting in prison. But there is no bitterness, no reservations about what he has given his life in the pursuit of, no retreat from his labor, and not regrets. From Paul’s viewpoint and perspective, he was intent on continuing on. In order to magnify this viewpoint of Paul, I want us to consider Philippians 3:12–14. And we see here that…

I. Paul’s Viewpoint Involved Fulfilling The Purpose

(Philippians 3:12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

The idea of purpose is wrapped up in the phrase “that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” The word “apprehended” is the Greek word katalambano, and it means “to take eagerly, to seize, to possess.” Why did Christ take us eagerly? Why did Christ seize us? Why did Christ possess us? He did all of these things because He and the Father had a purpose in mind. There are a couple of New Testament passages that use the word “predestinate,” meaning predetermined, and these passages reveal God’s purpose in possessing us.

(Romans 8:29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

(Ephesians 1:5-12) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, {6} To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. {7} In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; {8} Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; {9} Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: {10} That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: {11} In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: {12} That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

A. Notice That There Is A Pursuing Of God’s Purpose For Us

(Philippians 3:12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

1. We Are Swiftly Pursuing God’s Purpose With Enthusiasm

follow – Greek 1377. dioko, dee-o'-ko; a prol. (and caus.) form of a prim. verb dio (to flee; comp. the base of G1169 and G1249); to pursue (lit. or fig.):--ensue, follow (after), given to, (suffer) persecute (-ion), press toward.

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that this word “follow” means “to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the word means “to follow zealously.”

2. We Are Steadily Pursuing God’s Purpose With Endurance

Barnes’ Notes says of this phrase…

“But I follow after,” – I pursue the object, striving to obtain it. The prize was seen in the distance, and he diligently sought to obtain it. There is a reference here to the Grecian races, and the meaning is, ‘I steadily pursue my course.’

A. T. Robertson had this to say about the Greek word diookoo…

But I press on ‎diookoo ‎‎de‎. He is not discouraged, but encouraged. He keeps up the chase.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says…

Paul’s salvation experience had taken place about 30 years before he wrote to the Philippians. He had won many spiritual battles in that time. He had grown much in those years, but he candidly confessed he had not obtained all this, nor was he yet made perfect (v. 12). He still had more spiritual heights to climb. This testimony of the apostle reminded the saints at Philippi - and it serves to remind believers today - that there must never be a stalemate in their spiritual growth or a plateau beyond which they cannot climb.

B. There Is A Perceiving Of God’s Purpose For Us

(Philippians 3:12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

1. Paul Wanted To Claim God’s Purpose For His Life

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that this word “apprehend” means “to lay hold of so as to make one’ own, to obtain, to attain to the prize of victory.”

Albert Barnes said…

[If that I may apprehend] If I may obtain, or reach, the heavenly prize. There was a glorious object in view, and he made most strenuous exertions to obtain it. The idea in the word “apprehend” is that of taking hold of, or of seizing suddenly and with eagerness; and, since there is no doubt of its being used in an allusion to the Grecian foot-races, it is not improbable that there is a reference to the laying hold of the pole or post which marked the goal, by the racer who had outstripped the other competitors, and who, by that act, might claim the victory and the reward.

2. Paul Wanted To Comprehend God’s Purpose For His Life

apprehend – Greek 2638. katalambano, meaning to take eagerly, i.e. seize, possess. It is also rendered in the New Testament as “attain, come upon, comprehend, find, obtain, perceive, (over-) take.”

John MacArthur wrote…

Obviously, pursuing the prize of spiritual perfection begins with dissatisfaction with one’s present spiritual condition. Those who think they have reached spiritual perfection will not see the need to pursue a better condition; why should they chase something they believe they already have? Such complacent, contented people are in grave danger of becoming insensitive to their sin and blind to their weaknesses. … It is only those who continue to recognize the need to eliminate sin and cultivate holiness who will make progress in the Christian life. This pursuit by the power of the sanctifying Spirit produces a decreasing frequency of sin and increasing love for holiness, which makes less sin feel like more. The truly mature and godly have the most sensitive awareness of their sins, and are the humblest before God because of it.

II. Paul’s Viewpoint Involved Forgetting The Past

(Philippians 3:13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

A. The Past Involves The Things That Are Behind

(Philippians 3:13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

1. These Things Are Behind Us In Time

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that this word “behind” is “an adverb of place and time.”

2. These Things Are To Be Behind Us In Thought

forgetting – Greek 1950. epilanthanomai, meaning to lose out of mind; by implication it means to neglect. It has the idea of hiding or being ignorant of something that has occurred in a previous time.

Barnes said…

[Forgetting those things which are behind] There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything-not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.

B. The Past Involves The Things That Are Bad

Paul says, “Forgetting those things.” Now we need to answer the question, “What things?” Certainly we are encouraged to remember good things and glorious things. For example…

(Psalms 77:6) I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

(Psalms 105:5) Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

(2 Timothy 1:5) When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Paul then must be referring to the forgetting of bad things.

1. Forget About The Sins Of The Past

Cf. (Romans 5:20) Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

(Isaiah 38:17) Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

(Micah 7:19) He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

The verse in Isaiah indicates that God has put our sin behind Him. And though our sins and our past haunts us at times, as William Cowper wrote, when we go to that “fountain filled with blood,” the “sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains!”

2. Forget About The Sorrows Of The Past

A writer tells how years, long years before, he cut the initials of his name in the bark of a tree, and after many years he came and trod through the tasselled grass to the grey old beech tree where he had whittled his boyish name. The blackbirds were singing among the alders, the green foliage of the branches spread above, the green carpet spread a sward below, and through the interlacing boughs were glimpses of the ancient blue of the firmament; but when he found the tree he could not discover the letters of his name, only a curious scar in the bark. So the scars of the heart heal over; and, indeed, however sorrowful and bitter a man’s experiences, he must be a woeful and a miserable man who, in this world of great interests, can find nothing to talk of but his own griefs, the neglect he has received, the extortions and vexations by which he has suffered. What a petty world such a man must live in; under what a low sky he must walk; in what, a muggy atmosphere he must breathe. Oh, let us remember that hate is transitory, is temporal, like the sear on the bark of a tree; but love, goodwill, is eternal, like the grey old firmament, which, old as it is, was never younger than it is today. “Forget the things which are behind.” There is strength in forgetting; “let the dead bury their dead.” We can only be cheerful while we forget. (Paxton Hood from The Biblical Illustrator)

There is also a danger in looking at other runners as we run our race (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:12,17).

Also, as Rick Warren said, we should “Be aware that many people want you to run THEIR race instead of the one God created you to run.” (From twitter, quoted by Michael Catt)

III. Paul’s Viewpoint Involved Following The Prize

(Philippians 3:13-14) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

A. Let’s Consider The Anticipation Of The Prize

Albert Barnes said…

The prize of the racer was a crown or garland of olive, laurel, pine, or apple. The prize of the Christian is the crown that is incorruptible in heaven.

1. We Are Reaching In Anticipation

(Philippians 3:13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

reaching forth – Greek 1901. epekteinomai, means to stretch (oneself) forward upon.

Warren Wiersbe wrote…

In this paragraph, it is Paul the athlete. Bible students are not agreed as to the exact sport Paul is describing, whether the footrace or the chariot race. Either one will do, but my own preference is the chariot race. The Greek chariot, used in the Olympic Games and other events, was really only a small platform with a wheel on each side. The driver had very little to hold on to as he raced around the course. He had to lean forward and strain every nerve and muscle to maintain balance and control the horses. The verb “reaching forth” in Philippians 3:13 literally means “stretching as in a race.”

2. We Are Running In Anticipation

(Philippians 3:14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

This word “press” in verse 14 is the same Greek word as the word “follow” in verse 12. It is the Greek term dioko, which has the idea of one who runs in a race to reach the goal.

B. Let’s Consider The Aspects Of The Prize

(Philippians 3:14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

1. The Prize Includes The Heavenly Country

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon indicates that…

This word “mark” has the idea of “the distant mark looked at, the goal or end one has in view.”

Albert Barnes wrote…

[I press toward the mark] As he who was running a race did. The “mark” means properly the object set up at a distance at which one looks or aims, and hence the goal, or post which was set up at the end of a race-course, and which was to be reached in order that the prize might be won. Here it means that which is at the end of the Christian race – in heaven. (Barnes’ Notes)

2. The Prize Includes The High Calling

(Philippians 3:14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We have a higher calling than to find satisfaction in this world.

Do we ever reach the mark? Not in this world. As one writer said…

Christian perfection is like those problems in mathematics where we can never find the true answer. We may go on working the sum for years, and though each succeeding figure brings us nearer to it, we can never actually reach it. (H. Melvil from The Biblical Illustrator)

It is like the mathematical constant pi, whose decimal representation never ends or repeats.

pi – noun., 1. The 16th letter of the Greek alphabet. 2. Mathematics. A transcendental number, approximately 3.14159, represented by the symbol p, that expresses the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle and appears as a constant in many mathematical expressions.

As Marvin Vincent wrote, the “high calling” is…

‎Literally (the) “upward” calling. A calling which is from heaven and to heaven.

Craig Keener said…

At the end of each race, officials had their heralds proclaim the winner and call him up to receive his prize (in the Olympic games, a palm branch). … In Paul’s metaphor, the prize is the full revelation of Christ at the resurrection. (From the IVP Bible Background Commentary)

It is the calling from on high that says ‘Come up higher.’

Part of the prize is Christ Himself as Paul said in verse 8, “that I may win Christ.”


During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, the last runner to finish in the marathon was an athlete from Tanzania. He’d had a difficult race, to say the least. He’d stumbled at one point and ended up bruised, bloodied – and with a broken leg!

But he didn’t quit. Even though everyone else had already finished the race and gone home, he kept at it. Finally, at 7 in the evening, he straggled into the near-empty stadium. There were still about 7,000 people on hand to witness his finish, and all 7,000 stood, giving this battered athlete a standing ovation as he finished his last lap.

When this dedicated marathoner was asked, “Why didn’t you quit?” he simply said, “My country did not send me halfway around the world to start the race; they sent me to finish it.” (Rick Warren, “Running the Race”)



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