Title: Growing with Joy
The Point: Day by day, I can become more and more like Jesus.
Get Into the Study
Begin by asking Question 1 from the Personal Study Guide: “When have you been thankful you didn’t quit?” Invite group members to share their stories.
Next, play the following video to introduce the story of Meb Keflezighi shared in the “Bible Meets Life” section.
Click here for the 2:02 video.
Running a marathon requires dedication. In 2014, the 36,000+ runners of the Boston Marathon carried something extra: the emotion of running the historic event one year after it was marred by tragedy in 2013 when two terrorists’ bombs killed three people and injured 260 others.
Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi would not be deterred from running the 2014 Boston Marathon. As he ran, he had the names of the previous year’s victims written on his bib. Keflezighi ran—and won. He was the first American to win in 29 years, at at age 38, he was the oldest person to win in over 80 years. As he crossed the line, people in the crowd were chanting “U.S.A.” Keflezighi lifted his hands upward with joy and triumph. His dedication and endurance paid off.
In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul used an analogy of a runner competing in a race to capture his passionate, all-consuming desire to pursue Christ. The apostle’s desire to run hard after Christ is a great example of how we strive to become more and more like Jesus.
 “American Meb Keflezighi wins the 2014 Boston Marathon,” cbsnewsonline, 21 April 2014 [cited 20 May 2016]. Available from the internet: http://cbsnews.com/news/american-meb-keflezighi-wins-the-2014-boston-marathon/.
Study the Bible
Use the following illustration to supplement your group’s engagement with Philippians 3:13.
A recent CNN article on multitasking shared that when you’re doing more than one thing at once in order to get through your “to-do” list, you are, on average, getting 50 percent less finished compared to completing the same tasks individually. The distraction makes it so that we are both less focused and more rushed, causing stress to pile on further when we don’t get as much accomplished.
In our workdays, this can be frustrating. In our spiritual lives, this can be devastating. Spiritual multitasking looked like this: concentrating on what happened in the past, obsessing over your mistakes, and slogging along with the weight of those mistakes, and worrying about what mistakes we’ll make in the future while simultaneously trying to “press on towards the goal.”
Imagine running a real race with a 500 pound weight strapped to your back while all the mistakes you’ve made play out on TV screens on the side of the racetrack. That sounds crazy — but how often do we do just that in our spiritual lives? Have you ever wanted to share Christ with someone, but felt too bogged down by a past experience that didn’t go well? Or wanted to answer God’s call on your life but were too afraid of failing to trust Him?
When we lean on our own understanding and our own experience, we become spiritual multitaskers. Our goal is unfocused; we can’t see exactly what the point of it is. But when we focus on Christ, things begin to change. Christ forgave us of our sins. Christ continues to forgive us of our sins. And when we see a ministry opportunity, it’s Christ working through us — not us working for Christ.
Philippians 3:13b reminds us that just as Paul did, we are to forget what’s behind us and focus on the prize: life in Christ. Because, amazingly, it’s a prize we’ve already been given.
— Ashley Emmert wrote this Leader Extra. She is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dogs. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.com or on Twitter @ashgemmert.
- Why does winning at something cause so much joy and excitement?
- Why do some people quit so easily?
- If you had to use an athletic metaphor to describe your life which would you choose?
- How do you celebrate a big accomplishment?
- Why do you believe Paul admitted to not having reached his goal?
- How effective was Paul’s use of a race as an example of spiritual growth?
- Will we ever “arrive” in this life? Why or why not?
- Why do you think it’s important to “forget what lies behind?”
- How can we resist following the wrong people?
- What are some characteristics of earthly-minded people we should avoid?
- Who are some of your role models as Christ-followers?
- What are some patterns of behavior from modern culture that we should avoid emulating?
- How does citizenship on earth compare with citizenship in heaven?
- How can believers maintain a heavenly mindset?
- If you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow what would you do differently today?
- What steps can we take to strive for heavenly values rather than earthly values?
- What comes to mind when you think of heaven?
- Why do you think it’s hard to remember that this world isn’t our final destination?
- What’s one thing that makes you excited about going to heaven one day?
- How can the hope of our citizenship in heaven encourage us as we continue pressing on to finish the race of faith?
Share the following with your group members as either a devotional before the group study or as a follow-up devotional:
Here’s a brief five-minute teaching video about this session: Thrive, Session 4