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Go for the Goal

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GO FOR THE GOAL 

Scripture: Philippians 3:1–21

Memory verse: Philippians 3:14
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”

Lead—In

Introduce the study by playing the following game. Have the students stand in a circle, leaving plenty of room in the centre. Discuss ways different people walk. Some walk fast; others, slowly. Some take small steps while others take long strides. Mention that people at various ages or occupations often walk in different ways. Offer some examples, such as an old man, a tightrope walker, a toddler, and a marching soldier. Then allow volunteers to walk across the centre of the circle imitating the character of their choice. Allow the other students to try to guess who they are imitating. Continue until everyone has had the opportunity to play.

Impress upon the students that the best walk to imitate is Jesus’ spiritual walk. This week’s study will give them more information about how they can “walk like Jesus.”

Hearing God’s Word

Ask: Have you been to a track meet or seen one on TV? (Allow responses.)

It takes a lot of hard work, practice, and willingness to follow the instructions of those who have run the race before.

Paul and the Philippians

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote about running a race. He wanted them, and us, to see the importance of following God’s instructions. He also stressed the need to make Jesus our example as we run life’s race toward the goal of eternal life in heaven.

Ask: Have you ever written a thank-you note? What was the purpose of the note? (Allow responses.)

Paul’s letter expressed his thankfulness for a gift he had received from the Christians at Philippi. It also showed his appreciation for the love they had displayed through their generous giving.

Sometimes a thank-you note grows into a letter as we think of news to share with the reader. As Paul wrote, he was inspired of God to tell his fellow Christians about his own circumstances in prison. Then he advised and taught them concerning steadfastness (loyalty) and humility.

Paul’s letter was addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi (FIHL-uh-pi)” (Philippians 2:2). Philippi was an important city on one of the main trade routes in the Roman Empire. During his second missionary journey, Paul established a church there. Paul visited Philippi three or four times, each time he saw the helpful, generous spirit of the people.

Joy in Trying Circumstances

Ask: Where was Paul when he wrote this letter to the Philippians? (Allow responses. Ask a student to read Philippians 1:12, 13.)

Since Paul mentions his “chains,” we know he was in prison. He was awaiting a sentence for his “crime” of preaching the gospel.

Ask: Why do you think the rulers considered preaching the gospel a criminal offence? (Allow responses.)

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is overflowing with words of joy and gratitude. The mood of the letter is cheerful, encouraging, and hopeful. If you had written a letter to a friend while you were in Paul’s situation, could you have been as joyful and reassuring?

We might easily believe Paul was a better Christian than any of us could hope to be. But Paul stressed to the Philippians that he was not perfect. He was still striving, pressing on, moving toward perfection through Jesus. Paul said, “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 Christ Jesus took hold o me” (Philippians 3:12).

Jesus died for all of us. He wants everyone to become His. He does not leave us helpless. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and make us more like Jesus. One of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. No wonder Paul could be joyful. He had allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his life. Paul was not perfect through his own strength, but he was letting the Holy Spirit perfect him. Shouldn’t that be our goal too?

We are Running a Race

(Ask a student to read Philippians 3:13, 14.) Paul compared his life to running a race. The goal of any race is to finish. In the race of life crossing the goal line means becoming like Jesus and inheriting eternal life. Paul encouraged everyone to run in the race as he did.

In Philippians 3:14, Paul says, “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” This is our memory verse. Paul’s goal should be our goal too. (Say the verse several times together.)

Paul’s “heavenward” call was the gift of eternal life in heaven with Jesus. Can you think of any better goal we could work toward? No goal here on earth—money, fame, possessions, or popularity—can compare with the prize of eternal life. Paul had discovered this and was willing to endure anything in order to reach that prize. He put all of his energy into running the race and finishing it.

In the middle of discouraging circumstances, Paul was faithful to God by preaching the gospel and living a Christian life. Paul is a godly example to everyone who has heard or read his message. He wanted to help others finish the race and reach their goal too.

Finishing the Race

Imagine a track meet. A runner gets into position at the starting block and waits for the starting gun. He begins the race smoothly and takes the lead. About halfway through the race, he suddenly decides he would rather go sit down. He does not want to run anymore.

Now imagine a second runner who also prepared and began the race. After a couple of laps, he falls. The other runners pass him. Instead of quitting, he gets up and begins running again. He does not win the race, but he successfully crosses the finish line.

Ask: Of these two runners, which one most deserves a prize? (Allow responses.)

Our Christian lives are somewhat like this race. Many people may make a decision to serve Jesus. But some get tired and choose not to “press on.” The prize of eternal life is not for those who begin it or who run the fastest; it is just for those who finish the race.

Ask: If Paul could be in our classroom today, what might he tell us? (Allow discussion, then make a list of possible responses.)

“Keep learning more about Jesus.”

“Forget past failures and disappointments.”

“Forget even your successes of the past.”

“Do not sit back in church and fall asleep.”

“Never allow prayer and Bible reading to become routine and meaningless.”

“Keep moving! On your mark, get set, go for the goal!”

Reaching our goal will not always be easy. Just as a runner must jump hurdles in a race, we will also have some hurdles to face. (Discuss the hurdles that must be overcome in a Christian’s life. Point out the “heavenward call”—heaven—at the end of the race.) With God’s help we can cross all hurdles and reach our goal.

Looking to Godly Examples

The Philippians knew Paul well. He was their friend. When he spoke and acted, they listened and watched. They tried to imitate him because he was a godly example.

We cannot personally talk to Paul or watch his life. But we can follow the instructions he gave in Philippians 3:17. (Ask a student to read this verse.)

Ask: Who are some people you admire? (Allow responses. Discuss whether or not the people mentioned are godly examples.)

Ask: Do you know anyone who is a godly example? Why do you think this? (Allow responses.)

God provided good examples to encourage us in our race. If we are striving for the goal Paul wrote about, we will watch those who can help us make it to the finish line. We will not slow down and quit or get “side-tracked by people who are ungodly.

Being Godly Examples

Not only can we follow godly examples, we can be godly examples to others. How can we do this? Let us be good runners in the race of life and start a chain reaction. As we watch and follow godly examples, we will grow stronger and in turn become godly examples to others. With God’s help we can all win the race and receive the prize of eternal l life.

Accepting God’s Word

Paul pictured the Christian life as a race. Each race has a starting line. Remind the students that the starting line for the Christian race is accepting Jesus as their Saviour. Review people’s need for salvation. Ask if there are any who would like to begin their race today. Pray with those who respond. The final goal is seeing Jesus in heaven. Encourage the students to share with someone this week about their decision for Jesus.

Present the information about the Banga tribe in Nigeria given below.

Meet the Banga

The Banga are located in the Sokoto Province of Nigeria. Most Banga raise some livestock and are excellent farmers.

Although some of the Banga have converted to Islam due to Hausa and Fulani influences, most still practice their traditional ethnic religion.

The Banga have few Christian materials available in their language. There are a few known Banga believers. Evangelistic work and much prayer are needed to impact these people with the Gospel of Christ.

REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for the Banga tribe in Nigeria

1. Banga to receive a messenger,
2. The gospel clearly communicated to the 23,000 Banga,
3. The Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and give them courage to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

Prayer Promise

"They (God's messengers) will proclaim my glory among the nations (tribes)" (Isaiah 66:19).

MORE INFORMATION: www.joshuaproject.net

Remember: GO FOR THE GOAL

Memory verse: Philippians 3:14
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”

1. Living for Jesus is like running a race.
2. I will be careful about keeping in good spiritual condition.
3. I want to finish well and make heaven my eternal home.

Pray for the Banga tribe in Nigeria.

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Study 8 | Give to God / Paul Writes | africaatts.org/go-teach

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