Running for the Goal Line

 “Burkhead takes the handoff from Martinez and starts off the left side, slips a tackle and cuts back to the right.  He sidesteps a defender and gets a block from Cotton.  He crosses midfield and breaks into the clear.  Rex is at the forty, the thirty-five, thirty. He’s at the twenty, the ten, five… Touchdown!”

            I couldn’t resist.  It is the middle of football season and, as a sports fan, I’m excited.  Saturday afternoons are reserved for watching my Nebraska Cornhuskers play, even though their chances of winning the National Championship this season are slim to none.

Although football hadn’t been invented yet, I would like to think that the Apostle Paul was a sports fan as well.  He used several athletic analogies in his writings.  For example, he told the church in Philippi :

Not that I have already attained or am already 
perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that 
for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 
Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended;
 but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are 
behind and reaching forward to those things which 
are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of 
the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:12-14)

         Here is one of the greatest and most accomplished men whoever lived, expressing both a sincere desire and a sense of dissatisfaction in his spiritual quest.  During his earthly life, Paul was in the “process of becoming” just as we are today.  Yet, like the running back who won’t be tackled, Paul refused to give up the pursuit of his ultimate goal–to be like Jesus.

Just as a head coach taps people to play certain positions on a football team, so God chose Paul– and chooses us– to bring glory to Him.  Isn’t it exciting to know that God picks us to fulfil His purpose?  Doesn’t it make you want to be part of His plan?

In verse 13, Paul reiterates that he still hasn’t attained his goal, “the one thing” he wants, but he remains focused on it. He lets nothing distract him; neither his past successes nor his failures distract him from his purpose in life.

Do you know that a running back gets tackled far more than he scores?  There are even times he fumbles the ball, but he never stops striving for the end zone. Sometimes my fears and failures paralyze me more than the sight of a fast-approaching linebacker. There are times when I feel like giving up but then I remember that Jesus has already covered my failures with His blood, and He has promised to be with me in the midst of my fears.  He will do the same for you if you belong to Him.

If you’ve ever watched football, you may have noticed that once the running back reaches the ten-yard line, it’s harder for the defender to bring him down. It has been said that if the ball-carrier can “sniff” the end zone, he will not be denied.  Likewise, the closer Paul came to the end of his earthly life, the more he wanted the prize. With all that was in him, he wanted to fulfil the purpose for which God had created him. And, as he reached for the end zone of eternity, he said this to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.He goes on to say that a crown of righteousness is waiting for him, given to him by Jesus Himself.

Finally Paul says this crown will also be given “….to all who love His appearing.”(2 Timothy 4:7-8) We are included in that promise. Doesn’t that give you goose bumps?

So friend, I don’t know what yard line of life you are on today, but keep running toward the goal. The prize that awaits you is worth far more than a National Championship, and it lasts for an eternity.

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