You might not know this about me: I am a hockey goalie. Well, after my performance last night, I may have some teammates who would contest that. You see, I let in a bunch of goals–and ‘a bunch’ is no exaggeration! Nothing seemed to go right–goals from the top of the circle, goals from the edge of the crease, goals up high and goals down low, through ‘the five hole’–I even had a couple pucks deflect off people and into the net. As a goaltender, I detest goals. And yet, isn’t this how sport is designed? In order to have a winner there needs to be a corresponding loser. In order for me to accomplish my ‘goals’ while playing hockey, baseball, etc., someone else needs to be thwarted in their goal pursuit in the process. Last evening, I was the loser. I know, that sounds harsh, but that’s what happened (I have 20 guys who can vouch for that!).
I don’t mind competition; sometimes I think I thrive on it. That being said, I am very thankful that competition is not a part of my Christian pursuit. Now, don’t get me wrong–the Christian’s pursuit takes immense striving–the Bible likens the journey to a competitive race and a boxing match (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). But here’s the cool thing: Nobody needs to lose for me to advance as a Christian. I can actually help myself advance as a Christian while I endeavour to help others enlisted in the same race.
This begs a question: What is the supreme goal for the Christian? What is it that we are to be pressing towards in this race? Simply put, it is Christ-likeness. We should be orienting and ordering our life in such a way that we gradually become more and more like Jesus. As we ‘strive’, ‘fight’, ‘run’ towards this goal we find that we begin to think differently, talk differently, and act differently. I know what you are thinking–there is a massive gap between where you are and where Jesus is. I get that. He’s perfect. I’m far, far from that. Shouldn’t I settle for a lesser standard? The apostle Paul must have anticipated my screwy logic, because he clarifies both the goal and the game-plan when he writes to the Philippians.
First, he admits that perfection, total Christ-likeness, is not something he currently possesses (Philippians 3:12). The suggestion is that perfection is not even possible on this side of heaven. And yet, perfection remains as the standard (2 Corinthians 13:11). Christ-likeness is our supreme goal.
Paul then goes on to state the game-plan simply: “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 3:13, 14).
Did you get all that? Forget where you have been. Forget what you did in the past. Forget how you used to have messed up priorities. Dwelling on your past will not help you become more Christ-like. That’s sports competition, class 101. When I’m done this post, I need to forget that let in a ton of goals last night. I need to forget last night ever happened–my advancement as a goaltender depends on it.
Forgetting, however, isn’t enough on its own. We need to focus on, and pursue, the right thing. Paul speaks as if he always has the goal in view. I need that. I need to always be considering and striving towards becoming the person Jesus wants me to be.
For the Christian, the goal is ‘Christ-likeness’. But what’s the prize? It’s the same–the goal is Christ-likeness, and the prize in Christ-likeness. When the Lord calls me heavenward, I will not regress to the person I used to be, but I will advance to become the person I was designed to be. In heaven, I will act in a manner perfectly consistent with the character of Christ. On one hand, that is hard for me to imagine, but on the other hand, by faith, I totally believe that!
Last evening, I was a loser. Plain and simple. I stunk the joint out (as the saying goes). Hockey is like that. You have winners and you have losers. I am delighted to know that heaven is NOT like that. Every follower of Jesus gets the prize; every follower gets the crown–Every Christian wins!
I pray that encourages you as you press on toward the goal of Christ-likeness today.