Like it or not, ours is a competitive world where some people live by the motto: winning isn't everything; it's the only thing! We keep score in sports, business, entertainment, relationships, even in ministry.
Some choose not to compete. When my daughter was younger, she played in a church basketball league that didn't keep score. She thought it was silly and so did I. So, I secretly kept score and shared the stats with her after the game.
People who are ragingly successful in business know instinctively how to compete. They know what it takes to win. They set goals and keep score. They measure this year's success against last year's. They also understand that winning at the expense of someone else is not the kind of victory worth celebrating. That's why the best win in the business of life is always a win-win.
As a pastor, I've committed my life to studying and teaching the Scriptures. Over the years I've taken notice of the apostle Paul's many references to the competitive games in his New Testament letters. He must have loved the sporting events. He often used analogies found in sports to convey spiritual truths.
For example, in Philippians 3:12-14, Paul writes these words,
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Did you see the word "win" in verse 14? Paul wanted to win. Four words describe his winning formula. The first word is teachable. In verse 12 he says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal." In verse 13 he says, "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it."
I love Paul's teachable spirit! Winners are people who never stop learning. They remain teachable. Only a loser thinks he knows everything. As soon as you think you've arrived in life, you're on your way to the loser's bracket.
The second word in Paul's winning formula is disciplined. Twice in these verses he says, "I press on." Paul endured difficult circumstances as he wrote from prison. It took discipline and perseverance for him to press on. Winners are people who are steadfast and remain constant in tough times. They understand that tough times don't last but tough people do. Winners never quit. Instead, they press on and press through.
The third word in Paul's winning formula is focus. He says in verse 13, "But one thing I do . . . ." That describes a man with laser-like focus. What was Paul's singular focus? Not the past but the future. He says, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." Paul encourages us to run like an Olympic sprinter who with eyes focused forward leans into the tape as he crosses the finish line. Somebody once turned the word focus into a helpful acronym.
F-O-C-U-S = Following One Course Until Success
The final word in Paul's winning formula is goal-oriented. He uses the word "goal" twice in these verses. In verse 14 he says, "I press on toward the goal." What was Paul's goal? It wasn't more money or a house on the Mediterranean Riviera. No, his goal was much loftier. His goal was to "win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
It doesn't matter how teachable, disciplined or focused you are if you set the wrong goals in life. Yes, make it your goal to win! But make sure you win a heavenly prize by embracing the upward call of God in Jesus Christ. Everyone who follows Jesus is a winner. There are no losers in the kingdom of God.
And so, here's Paul's winning formula . . .
Teachable + Disciplined + Focused + Goal-oriented = WINNERS!