Run Toward the Goal
by Josh Ortiz
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I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
—Phil. 3:14 NKJV
This verse has the idea of a runner who is engaged in an important race. Paul says, “I press” which means he is going forward with obstacles (troubles/temptations) in his way. In the process of pressing forward, he is not looking back at his former life (Phil. 4:8) or his past accomplishments (Phil. 4:13). Paul goes on to say, “toward the goal.” The original root word for goal means to look carefully. It is where we get our English word scope. This is the only time it is used as a noun in the New Testament, but it still carries the idea of setting his eyes on the finish line. We as Christians are running a race, figuratively speaking. Like Paul, we run knowing our purpose and the end result. What is that end result? It is, as Paul says, “for the prize.” The original word for prize comes from the root word, which means umpire. So it is a reward that is only given after an umpire declares you the winner. Our Divine Umpire is Jesus, who will review how each person ran the race of life (2 Cor. 5:10). 1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. That word prize is the same original word in Philippians 3:14. This word only appears in these two verses and both refer to the prize given after a race.
Now, what is that prize? The prize is the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:7–8). What kind of crown is it? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” In other words, every athlete runs the race with patience to overcome all obstacles. Paul points out how the first century athletes strive to win a crown made of olive plant leaves, which would eventually decay. But our crown is our eternal life in heaven, which will never decay. That’s why Paul ends his statement with, “of the high calling (upward call) of God in Christ Jesus.” God has called us through Jesus (Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:13). Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” The heavenly calling is the same as saying “high calling” because it comes straight from God in heaven. In our race of life, Jesus is the one who directs the way because He has made it to heaven (1 Pet. 3:22). That is one reason He has the right to judge if you followed the rules. Are you running toward the goal?