Peninsula Community Church
July 21, 2019
Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
The question before us today is “Are you a distracted Christian?” As an athlete, Paul knew the importance of staying focused and keeping his eye on the prize. He knew that he had to stay the course or he would be distracted and would not finish the race as he would have wanted. Specifically, Paul states that the one thing he does is not focus on what is behind but he is straining, he is focused, on what is ahead.
The term distracted in the original Greek means “to be overly occupied about a thing; to be drawn away.” Distraction is therefore the act of shifting our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. The fundamental and most dangerous problem with distraction is when we are being distracted away from God. It is here that we most often sacrifice the best for the good.
The fact is we are a distracted people. We are a busy people. If we are honest we all seem to have a bit of ADD at times. One big distraction in our life is the electronic devices we have and the 24 hour news cycle. In terms of electronic devices rather than talk, we text; we email. While these devices can be used for great purposes they can also become a distraction. The following is a few statistics that are very amazing in terms of cells phones and driving. Using a cell phone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car accidents in the United States in 2018 according to the National Safety Council. The United States Department of Transportation reported that cell phone use while driving kills 3,000 to 6,000 people every year. Texting while driving is a contributing cause in 25% of all car accidents which results in almost 400,000 physical injuries. Texting while driving causes 5 times as many accidents as drunk driving does. A single text results in an average distraction of 5 seconds, during which time a car going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field.
There is a second illustration that is common to all of us who drive. When you get into your car to drive you will find positioned in the center of the windshield a rear view mirror. This is an important tool to be used. If you notice the rear view mirror is a lot smaller than the windshield. The reason is that we are to spend more time looking through the windshield than thorough the mirror. If we spend too much time looking into the rear view mirror we will fail to pay attention to what is ahead. That can have a perverse effect on our lives. When I worked for Grumman, I remember on one occasion I was driving to work when I thought I saw a car on fire. I turned away for not more than 2 or 3 seconds to see what was going on. When I turned around I ran into the back of the car in front of me that had also turned to look to see if the car was on fire. Distracted driving is dangerous but being a distracted Christian is also dangerous.
As we turn to our passage, we find that Paul begins with the idea that he has not perfected this process. He still has a long way to go, but he is making head way. We find that Paul gives us three solutions or helps against distractions. He starts with the observation that we are to forget what is behind. This is critical because we can be distracted by our past and we all have a past. Paul states that we are to forget what is behind and press on to what is ahead of us. As we grow as passionate followers of Christ, it is important that we learn the lesson that Paul is teaching us. We do not forget the past, but we must never allow the past to define who we are. We learn from the past, but the past should not be the thing that guides most of our thinking.
Now granted there are important lessons we learn from our past. For example, from past experiences we gain wisdom. We learn lessons of the heart and mind so that we do not make the same mistake(s) again. From the past, we learn how to navigate the future and navigate the pitfalls of life. The problem, however, is if we stay in the past we will miss future lessons and run the risk that we will be jammed up by the obstacles we face.
With that said, the problem, too often, is that we are looking through the rear view mirror at what is behind us. We look back at the pain we have experienced. We look back at the words that have been spoken. We look back at the divorce and/or destruction caused by an abusive husband or wife. We look back at fathers who were not fathers at all. They conceived us, but they were not dads. We look back to see where our children have rebelled and have tested every boundary set for them. We look back and see the hurts from those closest to us. We look back at the jobs lost and the failures we have experienced. We look back and remember what we do not have rather than what we do have.
The problem with these issues is that they can become a distraction and in so doing they prevent us moving on with life and what we have been called to do and be. Once again, we do not forget the things of the past as a memory, but we do not allow them to dictate who we will be in the present. We can look back to learn the lessons but to stay focused on the past is a dangerous proposition. It causes us to hit bumps in the road and experience struggles that are unnecessary.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I have many, is the story of Joseph. He had every reason to look in the rear view mirror of his life, but he did not. He could have succumbed to the rejection of his brothers when they sold him into slavery. He could have been persuaded by the false accusations made by Pharaoh’s wife and the original ME TOO movement. He could have been effected by the forgotten promises that were made to him. But Joseph did not become distracted by his past, but rather he focused on the premise and the promise that whatever he went through, the Lord was there and God had a better plan.
Secondly, Paul also challenges us to strain toward the goal. While this is an athletic term we understand that distractions are all around us. Life itself can be a distraction. Health, jobs, people, and the busyness of our lives can serve as a distraction. In the process there are sacrifices that are made. Family relationships, job performance, friendships, and more are impacted by the distractions in our life.
I love this quote that I found when I was preparing for this message. Jon Bloom a staff writer for Desiring God wrote We’re becoming conditioned to distraction, and it’s harming our ability to listen and think carefully, to be still, to pray, and to meditate. Which means it is a spiritual danger, an evil from which we need God’s deliverance! The fact is we are conditioned to distractions and we need help. That is why Paul calls us to strain towards the goal. The illustration here is one that an athlete that leans forward to be the first to cross the finish line. We must be intentional in clearing out the distractions and problems we face.
Thirdly, we find that Paul tells us to press forward. Do not settle and do become complacent. The prize we are looking forward to is receiving the crown of righteousness that has been promised to all believers. That is our reward. It is the crown we will receive, but we will not keep the crown as we will cast it at His feet in the end. While this is true we must be careful about being so distracted that we cannot live in the present.
So as we close let me give you a couple of action items that will help you to be less distracted. First, you will only grow if you keep looking forward. You cannot say, “I want it like it was before.” Growth means that you change some things. For Christians, it may be some habits. Do you have habits that lend itself to a distracted life? Change is not a bad thing and is often necessary to move into the future. In fact, change can be necessary as a part of God’s plan.
Second, you will only win the race when you look to Jesus. You can focus on many things, but Jesus must be at the forefront of all that we do. Winning the race means that you work in conjunction with Jesus. He is your coach. He is your cheerleader. He will help you win the race. But you have to keep looking to Him and not to anyone else, or anything else. Jesus needs to be your source. To more forward, you have to be praying, reading His word, and listening to Jesus.
Third, you have to be convinced that the future is brighter than the past. You have to take all of your negative thoughts and submit them to Christ. Christians need to think into the future because God is about the future. God does not stay in the past, neither should you.
Fourth, you have to know that God still loves you right where you are. He does not want you to stay right where you are. God loves us enough that He wants us to grow and mature. God wants to help you with your future. Why? Because He wants you to reach the goal which is eternal life with Him in heaven. You cannot get there by looking back to your past here on earth. There is nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not even your past. There is much more ahead of you in God’s love than behind you.
So keep looking forward. God has big plans for you as a Christian, as a father, as a mother, as a student, as a couple, as a church. God has big plans for you. Keep your head up and keep looking forward.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom