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Jun 16, 2019

You've Been Drafted

Passage: Philippians 3:12-14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Philippians--Roots of Joy

Keywords: focus, pursuit, draft, determination, progress, how transformation happens, spiritual grip


If experiencing Jesus in every type of life experience is your goal, this message is critical. Paul tells us HOW that life purpose and passion of his actually became reality for him...and can for us.


You’ve Been Drafted!

Philippians 3:12-15

June 16, 2019


INTRO:  Anyone here been drafted? 

      There are different kinds of drafts, right?  Which kind is most commonMilitary draft—“Selective Service”—all my boys had to register when we filled out the FAFSA for college financial aid.  If you happened to be part of the last group drafted in our country in the early 1970s for the Vietnam War, you were compensated/ paid $115.20/month plus, if you had a wife and kid, you got an additional $90.60/mo for housing.

      Let’s contrast that with the other kind of “draft”—the NFL draft.  If you’re in the last round of that draft (7th) this year, the last guy to be picked (Caleb Wilson from UCLA, #254), how much do you get a month?  ($12,473.92…or $2.594 million over 4 years).  What does the #1 pick get (Kyler Murray, Oklahoma)?  $35 million over 4 years…or $729,166/month!).  That’s before taxes, of course!  J  It’s still a pretty nice draft.

ILL:  Remember being “drafted” as a kid in P.E?  How did that draft work?  (Not so well for me.  I was always close to the last one picked.)

      Being drafted can make you feel pretty good…or pretty bad.  It all depends on

1.)  Which draft you’re in.  WHO drafted you—Uncle Sam or the Utah Jazz.

2.)  What you receive in return—great career, applause, money, or… Basic Training and a rifle!

3.)  How well you actually do on the field, be it football or battle-field. 

That’s what today’s passage is all about—

  • WHO drafted you—a government…or God?
  • For what PURPOSE—a war, fame of a game… or much more?
  • For what kind of PAY—passing money or forever blessing?
  • And what you and I get to DO with that draft?

      Last week Paul in Philippians 3 explained “the meaning of everything” for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers.  He laid out as clearly as possible the PURPOSE for your life and mine.  Let me just read those two short verses in the Amplified Version to remind you what every experience in life is to be about for the Christian. 

Philippians 3:10-11  (Amplified Bible)

“…so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 11so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.”

            In an age where our culture is absolutely and totally confused about the meaning of life, this passage should act as a deep water rudder for the ship of our soul no matter what storms come your way or what calm seas you get to sail.  People in our culture have been told for now several generations that we are simply the product of blind evolutionary forces overseen by the impersonal factors of time and chance.  The result is a sense of meaninglessness and despair about life that is, in my humble opinion, leading our country into a pandemic of drug and alcohol addiction, escalating suicide rates across the board and THE highest ever among our youth, and THE highest STD and out-of-wedlock birth rates.  Tell people long enough that life has no ultimate meaning and our behavior will adapt to conform to that meaninglessness. 

            In sharp contrast, we saw last week that, for the child of God, everything—every experience, every tragedy, every triumph—has purpose for the child of God.  Everything in this life is an opportunity to experience more of Christ in the gamut of experiences we call life.

            So today, the next couple of verses are going to shed some light on HOW to make everything in life a get-to-know-Jesus opportunity.  So let’s read these three verses:

Philippians 3:12-14--Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

      In vss. 12ff, Paul now begins to talk with us a bit about HOW that transformational experience with Christ takes place.  He begins by acknowledging that it is not a point you reach but a journey you take

ILL:  Ever notice any big difference between adults and children when it comes to taking vacationsChildren (and maybe too many adults as well) have the mistaken notion that vacations are really about the destination, not the route.  Barely out of town, most youngsters will be asking what?  “Are we there yet?  How much farther?” 

      But then there are those of us who are more “mature”.  J  We understand what vacations are as much about the process of getting there as they are about the destination!  Just think of all the memories you would have missed out on if Star Treck’s “transporter” had been real-world transportation?  Think of all the airport antics you would have missed….all the luggage you never would have lost…the one night stays in out-of-the-way places you’d never have heard of let alone experienced if your car hadn’t broken down.  (Reminds me of an attempted trip Sandy & I made to Portugal when she was pregnant with Andrew—turned away at the Portuguese border, we took the 2-lane highway north in the dark, had one of closest calls to a head-on collisions I’ve ever had…and spent an hour or more at the hospital in Salamanca as Sandy walked off premature contractions that were just minutes apart.) It’s not just the destination that matters in this life; it’s also about the journey!

      The great giant the Apostle Paul is telling us, “Friends, I haven’t gotten to the destination of experiencing all of Christ in all of life yet…of knowing his resurrection power in everything yet.  I’m mature, but not fully-mature yet.  I’m not complete yet.  But I’m doing what I know has to be done to keep me moving towards the destination of becoming like Christ in everything.” 

APP:  This has a couple of important spiritual truths hidden here

1.  Humble realism acknowledges that growing up in Christ is a life-long process (Phil. 3:12). There will always be room for progress.

Every get disappointed about your lack of progress in growing up into Jesus?  While every one of us should be fighting as hard as possible to get rid of the sin/sins that “so easily entangle us” (Heb. 12:1), until our dying day we should not be afraid to say, “You know, I haven’t got this life-in-Christ thing all figured out.  I still don’t embrace Christ in every part and experience of my life.  I’m still having to strive, sometimes very hard, to get a handle on Christ.” 

      The more we embrace the honest realities about where we still fall short, the better the chance that we will actually experience more of Christ in more of our experiences.

ILL:  I’ve been neck deep in a bathroom re-tiling job for weeks now.  Trust me, it’s enough to lose your sanctification over.  I have…several times.  It’s prompted me to start having some conversations with God about this mouth of mine.  Sanctified speech is not always the first thing to come out when I break or chip or drop something.  But if I just minimize my reactions, I’m not going to be able to maximize Christ…even if I am working all alone in the house!  J

TEXT (Vs. 12):  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal

Just WHAT is it that Paul hadn’t yet attained?  While there are multiple options, I think the most likely is what he has just talked about in this context:  the goals set out in verses 8-11 of becoming like Christ and experientially knowing Christ through all of life.  He could be talking about the ultimate and final end of this race of life—the resurrection (which is the perfection of body and soul). 

      There is in this passage a real sense that Paul is using a runner and race metaphor.  He uses athletic language that is used of a runner on a track, straining to turn every muscle into productive action of crossing the finish line first.  

So now Paul unfolds a little wisdom about the race itself, staying on course, and actually getting what we are after in the life God has given us.   

Vs. 12-- I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

The imagery here is an athletic race, “pressing on” or pursuing and striving persistently and continually for the finish line. It’s in the present tense which means it is an action Paul is constantly involved in; it’s a present pursuit. 

      But the really transformational truth here is not so much that we are trying to take hold of Christ at or after salvation.  It is that Christ has taken hold of us!  We’ve been DRAFTED.

      We like to talk about salvation in terms like, “I accepted Christ.” Or “I put my faith in Jesus.”  But the energizing component of Paul’s relationship with God was not so much what he was trying to do as what Christ had already done to him.  When he met Jesus on the Road to Damascus (found in Acts 9 & 22), Christ “took hold of” him!  There was no question that God was after Saul of Tarsus even as he was after Christians to hunt them down, throw them in prison and eventually kill them. 

APP:   Perhaps your salvation experience wasn’t that dramatic.  You didn’t get knocked off your donkey, blinded by a light or spoken to in a thundering voice.  I certainly didn’t. 

      But that doesn’t mean you are any less “grasped by God” than Paul.  When we finally said “yes” to Jesus, it was simply a realization that God was actually taking hold of us. This life we now have in Christ isn’t so much about how much I can hold on to Jesus; it’s about how tightly, how fully Jesus can hold on to ME!

      In fact, the Greek word used here (katalambano) is an intensive form of the word meaning “to grasp” or “to acquire”.  It implies being in full possession of the object you are seizing.  This is a two-way grasp:  Jesus has reached out to me to take full possession of my life so that now, encountering His love for me, I reach back in response for ALL of Him.

ILL:  If you’ve ever been in love with someone, you know either how painful love can be or how wonderful…or both.  When one person loves another deeply and that love is not returned…when there isn’t an equal “grasping” of the other…it’s one of life’s more painful experiences.  But when that love is returned, when it is two-way and mutual, WOW!  Marriage is great!!!

      I was in love with Sandy long before I knew I should marry her.  (Yes, she’s much smarter and wiser than me!)  We had several wonderful years dating… and waiting (yes, she’s also more patient than me).  It was painful when we weren’t at the same place in terms of commitment during those years.  But, when we both decided to “take hold of” the other in marriage, everything changed.  No more doubting. No more wondering.  No more uncertainty or hesitancy.  Peace replaced uncertainty.  Joy dethroned sorrow.  Communion and partnership overtook singleness and loneliness.  Now I am “pressing on to take hold of” that for which she took hold of me 37 years ago—marriage together under Christ. 

      This is the kind of mutual taking-hold-of that Paul says fired his every day with Christ. That’s really important for fickle and fluctuating people like us.  While my pursuing after Christ may ebb and flow, His taking hold of me never does.  His is a full “grasping,” a full “taking hold of” my life.  That is what gives me rest and hope and peace in this relationship with God, not my fluctuating “taking hold of Him.”  We don’t only have “eternal security” or “security of our salvation” once we belong to Christ; we have “sanctifying security”—the truth that Christ has a hold on you that he’s never going to release.  (That’s great news if you love walking with Him.  It’s horrible news if you are living in rebellion against Him.) 

      Then Paul says, “13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”  Just what is the “it” he is referring to?  Most likely what he has just been talking about—everything from the final resurrection to the daily experience of knowing Christ across the spectrum of life.  Again, Paul admits he has more experiences yet ahead in which he needs to experience Christ in both resurrection power and fellowship of suffering. 

      So now Paul moves to HOW he actually lives this kind of all-consuming life in Christ.  But one thing I do….”  Stop!

2.  If we are going to experience Christ in everything, we must become people of FOCUSED DETERMINATION.         

Frankly, I find being focused a rather difficult challenge.  (You’ve all probably noticed that by now if you’ve been around Mosaic very long.)  Sometimes it takes a loss or huge upset to bring what’s important into focus. 

ILLDwight L. Moody – before the tragedy of the Chicago fire of 1871, Moody was involved in Sunday School promotion, establishing the YMCA, evangelistic meetings and many other activities.  But after the fire, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism.  As a result, millions of people heard the Gospel of Christ. What Moody applied to his ministry focus, Paul says we must apply to our life-focus.

      How did Paul do that?  What does it look like to be a person of “one thing?”  After all, didn’t Paul make nets, preach sermons, cook meals, travel for days on end in boats and on horseback and by foot?  He did lots of things, didn’t he?  Yes, but he did all things with ONE FOCUSED DETERMINATION in life, namely to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” (vs. 12).

       All of us can do and accomplish many things in life, but we can only really live for one?  It doesn’t matter what job you have, whether you’re a student or teacher, a doctor or Uber driver.  But it matters greatly WHAT your goal is IN whatever you are doing. 

      For some, while they work long hours and take good care of their families, it is really a hobby they have that drives all else.  They live for the weekends when they can do it.  They dream about it when work is slow.  They invest their money and attention in it.  It is their “one thing”.

      For others it is a job or, if you are really good at fooling yourself, perhaps a “ministry”.  You may tell yourself you work so hard at it because you want to serve God, but there is little of coming to actually experience Christ in it. 

      But when “experiencing Christ” becomes your “one thing”… your focus, then every hour, ever activity, every relationship, ever accident, every project or assignment or challenge becomes about “knowing Christ.” 

ILL:  This is what Brother Lawrence, a monk of past centuries, wrote about in The Practice of the Presence of God. (Read the book if you haven’t…or reread it if you have.)  Every task and action in life, if surrendered to Christ, can become a place to encounter and get to know Christ better. 

3.  Third, we must also become people of CEASELESS PURSUIT.

This is what Paul twice calls “pressing on” (vs. 12 & 14). 

14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul uses several athletic words in this paragraph, this being one of them.  It is either one of two pictures here:

  • A track race where the athlete strains with every muscle and fiber of his/her being to reach the tape first – I Cor. 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  It’s also used of a hunter in hot pursuit of a deer.
  • A charioteer who is racing round the track in a small chariot which is no more than a platform on wheels. He’s leaning into the wind, balancing his weight, straining every muscle to get the horse to move as fast as possible… because he wants to WIN!

Pressing on like this requires that you know what your objective is, what the goal is.  Too many times we are tempted to run for the same finish line as the rest of our culture – a steady, well-paying job, an active social life, a nice home, a comfortable schedule, a hassle-free life.  None of those things are wrong in themselves…unless they are what we most deeply live for.  Then they have become our god and Christ has simply become one god among many. 

      But “pressing on” is also about dogged determination in Kingdom building.  There is a commitment to rigorous training, a commitment to ordering all of life (from eating to sleeping to socializing) around the one dominating preoccupation of finishing the race in first place. 

Q:  What in life with Christ right now is requiring of you ceaseless, dogged, no-letting-up, pressing forward?  Making Christ our life will take our energy, time, sleep, other entertainments, freedoms of unplanned schedules, privacy and much more.  But it pays rich and eternal dividends in return. 

ILLVince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, wrote about this kind of focus in a statement entitled “What It Takes to Be Number One.”  It’s in hundreds of locker rooms across this country.

      “You’ve got to pay the price.  Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing.  You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time.  Winning is a habit.  Unfortunately, so is losing….

      “Every time a football player goes out to ply his trade, he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head.  Every inch of him has to play.  Some guys play with their heads.  That’s O.K.  You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business.  But more important, you’ve got to play with your heart – with every fiber of your body.  If you…find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.”  [Quoted by David Jeremiah in his commentary on Philippians, p. 125.]

      One of the things I constantly pray for is more clarity of focus and more ceaseless determination to never let up until God takes me home.  Without that, Jesus will simply be one among many relationships in my life.  With that, Jesus will be the center of every relationship and everything I experience in all of life.

  • ILL Dick Shanks was a businessman here in Spokane who lived that way into his 90’s. He touched more people with the Gospel than anyone I’ve ever known from Spokane…and he ran a printing business!  He had a divine encounter with God in his late 50s and spent the next 35 years sharing Christ with as many people as he could. 
    • Good News Shops in Spokane (Valley and STA Bld downtown) and in Africa (6 million decisions for Christ).
    • Tracts and cookies by the thousands.
    • Helped more ministries get started and sustained: Mosaic (initial $25k for our building when he sold his business—Able Label), Mending Fences (Kevin Chen), City Gate, E.E., etc.
    • He bought a cabin at Lake Chatcolet at the end of CDA for pastors, families and ministry team retreats.

Fourth, there must be a FUTURE-ORIENTED DIRECTION if experiencing Christ to the full is my objective.  Vs. 13—But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

      Back to that athletic picture. Any runner knows you are never to look back in a race, are you.  It can be in that split second that you turn your head that another runner passes you on the other side.  Running well requires looking forward, not backward. God has called his children to be future-oriented, not past-bound.

       NOTE:  What the Bible means by “forgetting”:  not “failing to remember.”  God isn’t telling us to do the impossible – to cut out of our memory bank everything we’ve learned or experienced up to today. We’re not being told to do some impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase the sins and mistakes of the past. “To forget” in the Bible means “to no longer be influenced by or affected by.” 

      Heb. 10:17 – God promises to “remember no more” our sins and lawless acts.  God’s not talking about a failure of his omniscience – his ability to know everything past, present and future.  What he means is that our sins will no longer affect or influence our standing with God and his attitude towards us.

      Too many of us are caught up in the past.  It reveals itself in a hundred ways but in two clear DANGERS for each of us. 

  1. The first is perhaps most prevalent: the danger of being driven or burdened down by some failure or sin of the past.  Everything from a missed opportunity to downright failure to obey God. 

Think for a moment.  What comes to mind when I tell you, “God wants to use you to do a great work in this world today, right here in Spokane, right here in this church”???   Anything from the past rear its ugly head? (A broken marriage?  An addiction?  A lack of training?  What?)  We’ve got to let go of past failures if we are to press forward with Christ.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum:

  1. The brother or sister who can’t let go of some positive experience, achievement or position of the past. This is probably even more of what Paul had in mind—all the things he had done since his conversion—all the churches he had planted, people he had led to Christ, things he had suffered for Christ, missionary journeys he had shared with others. 
    • We’re here when we look at what is going on in the present and wish we were back in the “good ol’ days.
    • We’re here when we find ourselves saying, “Well, we used to do this and that in this way. Boy, I sure miss those days.”  When we say that we are really revealing that we think God’s best work is already done, that what He has planned for and is doing today and tomorrow is going to be inferior to what happened in the past.  That’s “backward thinking.” 
    • Let me ask you, “Where are the best years of your experience of knowing Christ? Behind you…or before you???” 

Past victories and successes should be remembered fondly.  But when I start leaning on them for today’s battles and tomorrows races, I’m in trouble.

            Paul says, “The press is worth the prize.”  Pressing forward as a disciplined athlete preparing and competing in the Olympic Games is worth the prize. 

      At the Greek games the winner of a race was summoned from the stadium floor to the seat of the judge.  A wreath of leaves was placed upon his head and, in Athens, the winner was also awarded 500 coins, free meals, and a front row seat at the theater.  (I guess that was the ancient equivalent of ‘corporate sponsorships’ and ‘endorsements’. J)         

ILL:  Vince Lombardi had a few words for athletes that also apply to us.  He said, “I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline.  There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline.  I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear—is that moment when he has worked his heart out…and lies exhausted on the field of battle—victorious.” 

      Friends, sometimes it may feel like the cost is more than you care to pay, the pushing forward is more than the anticipated prize.  What we must never forget is that the “prize” we are running this race of life for is far greater than any prize we have seen awarded in this world.  It’s far, far better than the biggest lottery ever won.  It’s far better than the best job you could imagine having.  It’s far better than even the wonderful marriage or family you dream about…or renewed health…or powerful ministry.  The prize is God himself.  It is eternity full of all He is--goodness, love, beauty, power, justice, kindness—the character of Jesus Christ himself. 

      As Paul reminds us in I Cor. 2:9 (quoting Is. 64:4), “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 


  1. Are you “pressing on” with real determination, real spiritual zeal? Living up to what you once may have attained in the past?  Or do you need to cry out for refreshed spiritual zeal, fervency and determination?  Want it enough to change what you may have been doing or not doing lately?  (Invite to prayer service tonight.)
  2. Need to do some “focusing”, some narrowing down of what you are doing? What “one thing” are you actually living for?  What consumes your dreams, your hopes, your energies, your spare time?  Is it a longing to experience the life of Jesus Christ in every corner of your life…or something else?  Focusing may need to start with confession and repentance.
  3. Do you really believe that the best days with Christ are ahead…or behind? Are you letting the past or the future determine today’s steps of faith, today’s acts of service, today’s hopes and dreams?  Need to let go of some failure of the past or some successes of the past? 
  4. Where are you with Jesus Christ? Is knowing and experiencing God your driving passion in life?  Or is there some other “god” driving you?  Don’t settle for too little real gusto in life.  Surrender to the Savior Jesus and never settle for second best!