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…[S]training 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 3:14

Listen: Philippians 3


It appears Paul was a sports fan, just like many of us. He borrowed images from athletic competition, perhaps recalling familiarity with the Pan-Hellenic Olympic-style games. He urges the Philippian church to “strain toward what is ahead” (like a runner at the finish line) and “press on” (like near the end of a long road race) in their pursuit of becoming like Jesus. He wants them to be focused and intense.

There is a difference between a morning run and a 5K race. Between a leisurely bike ride observing autumn colors and a road race. Between swimming and a swim meet. Between the family backyard Thanksgiving football game and Friday Night Lights. The difference is focus and intensity. Using powerful sports metaphors, Paul is telling the Philippian believers to get back in the race and pick up the pace.

Paul’s passionate appeal came from thinking about when he’ll be with Christ. Only then, he would fully know Jesus as Paul’s “lowly body” would be transformed to be just like Jesus (Philippians 3:21). He was working toward this day. He stayed focused in the present because he maintained his focus on the future.


Focus and intensity don’t just happen. We must work at it. One way to work at it is to write on a 3×5 card and memorize Philippians 3:14. Place this card where you will see it every morning as you begin your day. Return to Paul’s words when you sense you are becoming unfocused and your intensity is lagging.

Download a printable PDF of the BTW week here.