The Four Keys To Success
Take a look at Philippians 3:12-14. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
I want to speak to you about The Four Keys To Success. Outside of Jesus, the Apostle Paul was one of the greatest men who ever lived. So, I want to talk about what made Paul the great man that he was.
Paul gives us the secret to his success in the background of the Olympic Games. He says that life is like a race. He often uses athletics to illustrate spiritual truth. I’m glad he did because I like athletics. I think this tells us that the Christian life ought to be exciting.
Some of you folks can go to a ball game and yell like a Comanche, but then you come to church and sit like a wooden Indian! Folks, we are involved in something that’s far more exciting than any athletic event!
I’m going to give you some principles which will help you to be a success in any realm of life. But first, you need to know what success is. Some people think success is spelled M-O-N-E-Y. That’s not success. You can be fabulously wealthy and still be a failure.
Some people think success is found in pleasure…in having everything you want. But pleasure is like snow falling in a river: it’s white for a moment, but then it’s gone forever.
Success is simply finding and doing the will of God. Paul says, “Oh, if I could just apprehend why I’ve been apprehended!” The Lord arrested Paul on the road to Damascus and set him on a new road. Now Paul wants to know and do the will of God…to know success in the fullest sense of the term.
The first key to success is to have a sincere dissatisfaction. Verse 12 says, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Paul wasn’t satisfied. Oh, he was satisfied with the Savior and with salvation, but he wasn’t satisfied with self. A growing Christian is someone with a sincere dissatisfaction. He knows he hasn’t attained. He knows he hasn’t apprehended. He knows he’s not yet what God wants him to be. Someone said, “I ain’t what I ought to be and I ain’t what I’m going to be; but thank God I ain’t what I used to be!”
Paul knew that there was so much more yet to come. He knew he wasn’t perfect yet. Some people believe in the doctrine of sinless perfection. There was a man in a testimony meeting who stood up and began to talk about his sinless perfection, but his wife stood up in the back of the auditorium and said, “Remember John, I’m here.”
You know, and your wife knows, and the Lord knows that you’re not perfect. Not only should you admit that fact, but there ought to be a divine dissatisfaction with that fact. When you become satisfied with yourself, you cease to grow spiritually. You cease to be successful. You cease to learn.
A 14 year old boy dropped out of school and said, “They can’t teach me no more there.” He was probably right! He thought he knew everything there was to know.
If you’re going to have success as a Christian, there must first be a sincere dissatisfaction. One way you can always be satisfied is to compare yourself with other people. Just go out and find a lukewarm, carnal, good-for-nothing, lackadaisical, good Lord, good devil, type of Christian. Then you can lay down in the gutter along side of them and come up satisfied with yourself.
Or, you can become very discouraged if you measure yourself with someone else. They may be so much more talented and have so much more ability than you have.
Stop measuring yourself with other people! The Christian life is a race, but it’s not a race between one another. As far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we’re not in a race; we’re on a pilgrimage. We’re traveling together, not trying to outrun each other.
The Bible says that we are to run the race that is set before us. Your body may be sick and weak, but you can run your race right there in your hospital room. But when you find out what God wants you to do, don’t get satisfied with where you are now. The moment you get satisfied and begin to think you’ve attained, that’s when you’ll cease to grow and you’ll never be a successful saint.
We sing a song that says, “I am satisfied with Jesus, but the question comes to me, as I think of Calvary, is my Master satisfied with me?” Well, if you’re satisfied with you, then He certainly isn’t.
The first key to success is to have a sincere dissatisfaction. The reason I use the word “sincere” is because some people will say, “Oh, yes, I’m not what I ought to be.” But they’re not sincere. The truth is that they’re perfectly smug and complacent about it. They think they’re pretty good.
Are you content with what you are? Do you intend to grow more? Or do you think you did God some kind of wild favor by showing up here at church? Do you show up here with a sign around your neck that says, “Please do not disturb?” That kind of person will never be a successful saint.
But not only must there be a sincere dissatisfaction; there must be a single desire. Verse 13 says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do…” Paul had brought his life into such sharp focus that he had one burning desire. Everyone who’s ever made a mark in this world has done the same thing. They’ve brought they’re entire life into one focused, burning desire.
If you want to be a success, you have to be single-minded. You have to say, “This one thing I do.” Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.” James said, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Paul is thinking about running toward a goal. Can you imagine a runner trying to reach two goals at the same time? Do you think he’d ever win a race? Of course not! If you’re going to run the Christian race, you’re going to have to narrow your interests. Have you ever heard the expression: “He’s a jack of all trades, but a mater of none?” That’s the way many Christians are.
People say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” But a successful person says, “Yes, put all your eggs in one basket….and watch that basket!” Get focused!
A river has great power because it’s channeled between the banks. But many people don’t have channeled lives. Rather than being a mighty river, they’ve become a stagnant swamp. Are you focused like a ray of sunlight in a magnifying glass? Are you saying, “This one thing I do?” If not, you won’t be a success in any realm.
You say, “I’m getting by, Pastor Gary.” Yes, that’s your problem. You don’t have a sincere dissatisfaction. You say, “Nobody can do just one thing. You have to have a job, you have to eat, you have to take care of your family, you have to rest and have some kind of recreation, etc.” Oh, I agree. But your job, your friends, your family, your rest…..all that you do….should move you toward one single goal in your life.
Your job ought to be part of reaching that goal, your family ought to be part of reaching that goal, your recreation ought to be part of reaching that goal, etc. That’s why Paul said in I Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.”
In other words, “There are many things I can do which there is no law against, but they don’t help me reach my goal, so I don’t do them.” The word “expedient” comes from the same word as “expedition.” An expedition is something that’s going somewhere. It’s journey with a destination in mind. So Paul says, “I’m not going to do anything that doesn’t help me reach my goal.”
The way to test everything you’re involved with in life is to ask this: Does it move me toward my goal? Have you ever brought your life into focus and asked, “What matters to me more than anything else?”
Paul was a great man because he said, “This one thing I do.” Jesus said, “If thine eye be single, then is thy body full of light.”
You say, “That’s too narrow for me. I want to be able to fish in many ponds.” Well, that’s your privilege, but I’m telling you the secret to success. You must have a sincere dissatisfaction and a single desire.
I’m not telling you that you have to be a preacher or a missionary, but you’d better know what God’s will for your life is. That’s the only way you’ll ever apprehend that for which you’ve been apprehended. Have you prayed about it? Have you found God’s will for your life?
The third principle is a strong determination. It’s not enough to have a single desire if you’re not determined to fulfill that desire. In verse 12 Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…” Underscore that phrase “follow after.” In verse 14 he said, “I press toward the mark.” The same Greek word is used in both phrases. It means “to pursue.” It’s like a hunter pursuing an animal. It carries with it the idea of intense effort and strong determination.
Paul uses the example of a runner who’s staining every nerve and sinew in his body to reach his goal. Some of you won’t succeed because you don’t have the determination. You have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude….therefore you leave it.
Have you ever noticed that when people start talking about liquor someone will say, “Oh, I can take it or leave it.” Big deal! That’s all anyone can do!
But when I talk about determination, I’m not talking about the strength of your flesh; I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Paul knew what it was to be determined. He fought with lions, he was ship-wrecked three times, he was stoned and left for dead, he was whipped with 195 stripes, he had a long prison record, etc. Now he’s an old man and he’s in prison again.
Let’s talk to him. “Paul, you’ve been on this race track long enough. Why don’t you quit? After all, some of the people here in Arlington have quit. Some of the folks that use to attend faithfully aren’t here anymore. Paul, why don’t you just quit before you reach your goal? There are some people who used to be tithers, but they wanted some luxuries so they quit tithing. There are some who used to teach Sunday school, but they wanted to go fishing for fish on Sunday rather than fishing for men. They didn’t want to be tied down. Paul, there are a lot of modern day Christians who’ve just quit. Why don’t you quit? After all, you’ve had it pretty hard, Paul.”
The old Apostle looks at you like you’ve lost your mind! He says, “I want to let go, but I won’t let go. There are battles to fight by day and by night for God and the right; and I’ll never let go. I want to let go, but I won’t let go. I will never yield. What? Lie down on the field and surrender my shield? No! I’ll never let go. I want to let go, but I won’t let go. I’m sick, tis true, worried and blue, and worn through and through, but I’ll not let go. I want to let go, but I won’t let go. May this be my song amid legions of wrong. Oh, God keep me strong. I’ll never let go!”
That’s the way the old Apostle was. He says, “I press on.” So why aren’t some of us more successful? Some have never become dissatisfied with who and what they are. Others have not gotten that single desire. Others have that single desire, but they’re not determined enough to reach that goal.
Here’s the fourth principle: a steadfast destination. Paul kept his eye on the goal. In verses 13-14 he said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…”
Paul had enough sense to know that you can’t win a race if you’re always looking over your shoulder. So he says, “I forget those things that are behind.” There may have been times when he turned a corner real well, or times when he passed other runners. There may have been times when he even stumbled and fell. But he says, “All that makes no difference. I can’t change the past. If I want to win this race, I’ve got to forget the past. That part of the race has already been run. You can’t win a race by looking over your shoulder.”
That’s why some people won’t win the race today. You’ve got your headlight on the rear bumper. You don’t have your eye on the goal.
Paul forgot about his past glory. It doesn’t matter what you were yesterday: it only matters what you are today. So put away all your press clippings because today is a new game.
Not only is there past glory; there is past guilt. Some of you have made some bad mistakes just like I have. The Apostle Paul had made some bad mistakes. He was the one who held the garments while they stoned Stephen to death. But he buried that sin in the grave of God’s forgetfulness and refused to be haunted by the ghost of guilt.
Maybe you’ve stumbled on the race track, or gotten completely off the track. Get back on it and forget the past!
Not only is there past glory and past guilt; there is past grief. Some of you have suffered terribly. So did Paul. But he refuses to drink from the intoxicating cup of self-pity. He refuses to sit around and lick his wounds. He said in Romans 8:18, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Not only did he forget past grief; he forgot past grudges. If there were such a thing as a right to hold a grudge, Paul had it. He had been mistreated, lied about, falsely accused, misrepresented, etc. As a matter of fact, he’s writing these words from prison. He wasn’t there for what he’d done wrong; he was there for what he’d done right! But he refused to be resentful. Rather than resenting, he said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I’m in therewith to be content.” He wouldn’t let his past grudges keep him from reaching his goal. “Forgetting those things which are behind…”
Then, “Reaching forth.” He kept reaching for his goal. There’s a little country church cemetery at the foot of the Alps in Switzerland. A young Englishman, who died while mountain climbing, is buried there. His name, birth date and date of his death are on the headstone along with these words: “He died climbing.”
I think we’d have to say that about the Apostle Paul. He didn’t quit!
Do you have a sincere dissatisfaction? Are you satisfied? Or, do you hope to do more? Do you want to be a better Christian, or are you content to limp into Heaven like you are?
Is there a single desire in your heart? Do you have any goal in life? Or are you just drifting through life? Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after…”
Do you have the determination to reach the goal? Are you willing to pay the price? Are you willing to drop anything that’s not expedient out of your life?
Are you willing to forget what’s behind you and to start today to press toward the mark? Are you going to press for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?
There’s nothing more exciting than being in the race. I feel sorry for people who are just drawing their breath and drawing their salary. They have no purpose, no goal, no focus and no ambition in their life.
Before I close, I want to make something abundantly clear. When I talk about winning the race, I’m not talking about winning salvation. Salvation is not a reward at the end of the race; it’s a gift that puts you in the race. Paul is talking to people who are already saved.
Until the Lord takes you to Heaven, you can have a wonderful, thrilling time running the race that is set before you. Will you do it?