On Sunday, we were looking at Philippians 3:12-21 where Paul describes his life as a race to know Christ and make Him known. Paul then tells us to follow the example that we have in him and in others who similarly treasure the gospel and run hard after Christ.
Other than Jesus himself, no human—including the Apostle Paul (Phil 3:12-13)—has ever achieved perfection on this side of the resurrection, so we are not looking to follow the example of people who think they have it all together. Rather, we are looking to follow imperfect people who treasure Christ and the Gospel and put no confidence in their own efforts (Phil 3:3). People who treasure the Gospel will find freedom to admit their need to grow and will find fuel to run hard after knowing Christ. The finish line of the race is the end of your earthly life and the subsequent resurrection. The prize is Christ—to know Him fully, even as we are fully known (1 Cor 13:12).
In the sermon, I mentioned three categories of people that we should “imitate” and “keep our eyes on” as we treasure the Gospel and run hard after Christ: (1) people in the Bible who treasured God’s glory, (2) People in church history who ran well and finished well, and (3) people in our own church community who are running hard after Christ.
- Examples from the Bible – Hebrews 11 gives a good starting point for examples of people who walked by faith. I am often amazed by the people that made this list—this ‘Hall of Faith’. The reality is, many of these people who demonstrate amazing faith also demonstrate gross failures. This is one of the things that I love about the Bible, aside from a couple of exceptions, even the greatest “heroes of the faith” are portrayed as mere men and women with their own struggles and failures and their dependence of the grace of God. The book of Acts also gives great examples of people who were fueled by faith in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, and driven to lay down their lives for the Gospel and for others. As Paul said, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17)
- Examples from Church History – One place to whet your appetite for good examples is to listen to John Piper’s biographical lecture series entitled “Men of Whom The World Was Not Worthy“. Here Piper explores the lives (both strengths and weaknesses) of people who laid down their lives for Christ and His Kingdom. Over the years, Piper has spoken on Jonathan Edwards, Charles Simeon, David Brainerd, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, William Cowper, J. Gresham Machen, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, John Bunyan, John G. Paton, John Newton, William Wilberforce, and Adoniram Judson. Piper’s wife, Noël, has written a book entitled Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God (available for free online) in which she explores the lives of five faithful women: Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare. Each of these men and women have strengths and weaknesses, but what holds them in common is their faithfulness and commitment to the cause of Christ even in the midst of opposition and suffering. Pick individuals that intrigue you, read their biographies, and follow their example of faith. “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)
- Examples from our own community – Look to surround yourself with people who treasure the gospel, repent from sin, and run hard after knowing Jesus. Follow those people, and become one of them, so that you can say with integrity and true humility, “I’m not there yet, but I am learning to treasure the gospel and run hard after Christ. Follow me as I follow Jesus.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2