The median salary for an NBA coach today is about $3.5 million. NFL coaches make an average of $8.5M. That’s an insane amount of money. Regardless of the sport, or the personality, these coaches all have one thing in common – the desire to win it all.
In full disclosure, I’m wired as a competitive person. My wife, kids, and friends probably all have stories that they could share. I try to avoid “game nights” as church activities so I can keep my testimony! Yet, in all seriousness, when it comes to the Christian life, I want to win.
Paul gives us a great perspective as a player-coach – a strategy for winning in Philippians 3.
Winning Requires the Right Focus
In the opening of the chapter, Paul discusses his pedigree. If there were any human reason to boast, he had a legitimate claim. Yet, Paul makes a striking statement: He counted all that but dung so he could win Christ. All of the awards, all the accomplishments – these were worthless compared to what really mattered.
To put it bluntly, Paul’s focus shifted from activities, accolades, and accomplishments to Christ. He could say that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He could invite people to follow him as he followed Christ. Paul was focused.
In the arena of athletics, fans appreciate single focus in their player. The workouts of Walter Payton – legendary. The “Mamba Mentality” of Kobe Bryant, the “flu game” of Michael Jordan, the shooting regiment of Steph Curry…these stories and so many more show us a level of dedication people can have to a game. What type of dedication do we have to Christ – and how does it show to others?
Winning Requires the Right Fellowship
In 3.10, Paul strives “to know Him.” We like to stop there, but Paul continues with “…and the fellowship of his sufferings.” We want to know Christ – but we’d like to do it absent the suffering. Paul understood that intimacy with Christ included a fellowship of suffering.
In the athletic world, the slogan is “No pain, no gain.” In the Christian world, we could say “True spiritual growth through suffering…” It’s not as catchy; it doesn’t sound like a strong recruiting tool. These aren’t the words we would use as we invite people to trust Christ as Savior. Yet, for those who’ve walked with Christ long enough, we have to admit that we learn more about Him and ourselves during the difficult seasons of life.
Shifting metaphors for a moment, perhaps you’ve heard that “Smooth seas never made a great sailor.” This is simply another variation on the same truth. Fellowshipping with the Man of Sorrows deepens our walk with Christ. As the roots go deep, the fruit can abound.
We don’t sign up for suffering, but when difficulties arise, these are great times to allow God’s grace to shine forth as a testimony to His goodness. Those who “win Christ” learn to mature through this type of fellowship.
Winning Requires the Right Finish
Paul was focused. That intensity carried him through all difficulties. Why? He had decided to press toward the mark, the goal, the finish line. People don’t talk about how we start; they remember how we finish. Even in the first century, the Christian race had its share of castaways – quitters and disqualified contestants. Unfortunately, those numbers have continued to grow for 2000 years.
The player-coach, Paul, writing under the inspiration of God’s Spirit gives us a game-plan to avoid being a castaway. We need the right focus – Christ not us. We need to right fellowship – the grace to hold up during difficulties. We need the right finish – a decision to not quit, but to keep our eyes on the prize.
Sometimes, our motivation for running our race may seem like it’s not as compelling as it should be. In moments like that, a good look at Calvary is usually a good remedy to help us re-focus and get our eyes back on the prize.
Let’s finish our race well…