Focusing on the Right Target
The year was 2004 and Olympic shooter Matt Emmons had the gold medal in sight. He was one shot away from claiming the victory in the Olympic 50-meter three-position rifle event. Matt didn't even need a bullseye to win, he merely had to be on his target. Normally, the shot that he made would have received a score of 8.1, more than enough for a gold medal. But in what was described as "an extremely rare mistake in elite competition," Emmons fired at the wrong target. Standing in lane two, he fired at the target in lane three. His score for a good shot at the wrong target – 0. Instead of a medal, Emmons ended up in eighth place. It doesn't matter how accurate you are if you have your sites set on the wrong target.
In Philippians 3, Paul writes to the church urging them to keep their eyes on the prize. He warned them of false teachers that were trying to derail the church by teaching them that they should be keeping the law. He tells the church that their confidence should not be on keeping the works of the flesh and reassured them that if anyone wanted to boast on keeping the law/having confidence in the flesh that he himself could boast. Historically, Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, a heritage greatly esteemed among the Jews. From this tribe came Israel’s first King, Saul (I Samuel 10:20-24) and the tribes of Benjamin and Judah were the only two tribes to return to Israel after the exile (Ezra 4:1). He was also a Pharisee, a member of a very devout Jewish sect; the Jewish listeners would have been impressed by just these credentials. But Paul did not put his confidence in his ability to keep the law. Instead, he put his confidence in the one true Lord and Savior of all. Paul reassures the church that they are the true circumcision and nothing else was needed for them to be God’s people.
Paul focused on what was ahead of him rather than on what he had accomplished in his past; he was encouraging the church to do the same. We need to keep our eyes focused on the prize that lies ahead and not what we are leaving behind. We have a new citizenship that has been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. These are the things in which we put our hope and our confidence and we press on until the day we are all called heavenward in our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus!