SER # 38Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
17TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY OCTOBER 4TH 2020
TEXTS: PHILIPPIANS 3: 4b – 14
THEME: PURSUING THE ULTIMATE GOAL.
Paul in writing to the church in Philippi is inviting them to remain focused and know the purpose or the final goal in life they wish to achieve. He is encouraging to be focused.
In our everyday life we set goals regardless of what we do in life. If you are farmer, a teacher, doctor, student or whatever you do in life we at one point set out some goals or action points. Here I am thinking of a farmer who set goals even they do not know what mother nature will bring. They know when to plant, when to spray the weed and even when to harvest. A good student will set goals in regards to their studies and what they plan to achieve.
Paul start by sharing his own accomplishment as a person who by all means was what he said he was:
- Was a Jew who went through the rituals
- He was from the tribe of Benjamin of the twelve tribes of Israel son of Rachael the beloved wife of Jacob
- He was a Pharisee which was the religious leaders of the day.
- He was a member of the Sanhedrin the Jewish ruling class of the day
- He was very highly educated
- He was a persecutor of Christians
We can argue that Paul had one of the best resumes of the day but when he turned his life to God all those things became secondary because he had a new goal in life. This new goal is to follow Christ. This meant that his ultimate goal was to do what Christ wanted him to do. When we turn our lives to Jesus, we have to believe it is a very serious business. We have to be willing to stay focused to achieve this ultimate goal. Paul in our passage gives us some tips that might help us achieve this ultimate goal.
- Our human achievements come second: We thank God everyday for what he has enabled us to accomplish in this life. We thank God for our families, friends, the jobs we do, the homes we live in the cars we drive. We thank God for everything. But we can never allow material blessings or personal knowledge or any other achievements take the place of Jesus. As we mentioned above Paul of all the people in his days as a disciple he could have boasted for his past achievements. Unlike poor fishermen who Jesus called to be his disciples Paul was an accomplished person by his ow right. He had achieved what the world expected of him and living a life that was in accordance to his credentials. Persecuting Christians for him was a sense of duty as a pious Pharisees who hated the people who were cheapening the Torah. Paul discovered late in life that all what he was or had did not matter but what was important was to know Christ our crucified savior. When Paul met Jesus on his way Damascus on the Damascus road, everything in his life changed. He needed Christ more than he needed anything else. “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Aggripa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Then I asked, ‘who are you, Lord?” I am Jesus, whom you persecute, the Lord replied” (Acts 26: 12 – 15) From here Paul never turned back but went on to become one of the greatest apostles. He never allowed his previous success to tie him down in serving his God. God has blessed each of us differently which is wonderful but we can never hold back serving God because of these blessings. To some of us, God has blessed us with children, a spouse, a job and they list goes on but we can never allow these blessings make us turn our back to God.
- Avoid looking back: The story of Lot wife looking back and turning to a pillar of salt is well known to many (Genesis 19: 26). “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead” Paul said. Thought history is a good thing and it informs us of the past mistakes, successes, we can’t move forward if we keep looking back. Paul helps us to avoid, focusing on history for it can make us miss the mark. Many of us listening or watching will have heard this statement, “This is how we have always done.” This reminds me of that story of a young girl asking her mother why they cut off the end of the harm before they cooked. The mother told her ‘that what they have always done, and added that she learned it from grandma.’ It so happened that grandma was still alive so, one day while visiting grandma the little girl asked the same question of cutting the end of the ham. Grandma told her that she cut the end because her pan was small and that was the only way it could fit.” There are two dangers on focusing on the past: One, our past successes may make us proud and make mistakes in future. You start living in your past glory. For us advancing in numbers associated with our name, we have to accept we can’t run up the stairs anymore or climb trees. We have to live a life in the present and ask God to guide us. Two, our past failures may discourage us as we go forward. We have to remember that God’s mercy is new everyday. We may have failed in the past but today God being our helper we keep plugging forward for we are not alone.
- Focus toward the goal: The goal is to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection. For us to remain focused on our faith journey we have to avoid going to the rabbit holes. Paul had to make up his mind once he turned his life to Jesus. He did not want anything to hold him back. “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his son in me so that I might preach him among the gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went to Arabia. Later returned to Damascus” (Galatians 1: 11 – 17). Staying focused to our heavenly journey is important for us the people of faith. It is very easy to be distracted by small things of life and forget the major thing. The bible does not tell us to neglect or ignore our earthly responsibilities but as we do that never forget the ultimate goal and that is one day you get to be at the table with Jesus and all the saints that have gone before us. we have to realize that everything we see in this world will pass away and it is only for a short period. The writer of Ecclesiastes called it vanity of vanity and is like chasing the wind
- We are not there yet: This statement always reminds of our experiences when our girls were growing up. We leave the house going to some place and before we turn two corners, we hear from the back from one of them, “Are we there yet.” When you wake up in the morning from your sleep it is a sure way of knowing that you are not there yet. When you wake up next to Jesus then know you are there. Before that time, we have to prepare for the journey by staying focused. The journey is hard and has many detours created by the evil one. You have to stay focused on Jesus who reminds us he is the way the truth and the life. Jesus the true GPS of life. Those who run marathon know that the run is tiring and is not done until you close the finishing line. Our faith journey is the same way we have to keep the course until we achieve the goal. Paul puts it this way; I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). We are heaven bound brothers and sisters. If someone ask you where you bus is heading? tell them you are heaven bound. We can never lose focus of that no matter all the detours that the devil plan to put on our way. We have to allow Jesus to be the driver of this bus if we are going to get to our destination – Heaven. This does not keep us from faithfully taking care of our responsibility on this earth. Taking good care of God’s creation that he entrusted to us.