“I Do One Thing!”
02/02/14 PM, Sharon OPC
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
Some of you may have seen the movie, “City Slickers,” awhile back, starring, among others, Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. At one point in the movie, Jack Palance’s character says he’s going to tell Billy Crystal’s character about the secret of life. He holds up one finger in the air and says, “This.”
And Billy Crystal says, “Your finger?”
And Jack Palance says, “One thing. You need to do one thing.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken used to have a commercial on TV where they said,
“We do one thing: chicken.” And that’s why they could say, “We do chicken right.”
Many professional athletes will tell you the same thing. To get really good at something, you have to concentrate on that one thing, whether it’s football or soccer or ice skating or gymnastics. You have to give it your all. You have to build your whole life around that one thing.
And isn’t that pretty much true? If you want to be an exceptional athlete, you have to adjust your whole lifestyle in order to focus on that one, particular sport. You have to adjust your eating habits, your sleeping habits, your
clothing, what you read and study, how and when you exercise, even your way of thinking. All of these things have to be geared to that one thing.
Paul was that kind of person as well. He was a man who said, “I do one thing.” Paul had one, all-consuming goal.
And what was that goal? In Philippians 3:12 he says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
And then in vv. 13-14 he says, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s “one thing,” Paul’s goal in life, was to glorify God and enjoy Him
And that’s the very purpose for which God saved Paul: that Paul might glorify and enjoy Him.
And that’s the same purpose for which God saves you and me. We need to have the same goal as Paul. We need to do one thing in life. We need to have one, all-consuming goal and desire, and that is to be what God called us to be, and to receive the prize of eternal life that God has called us to
receive. The very first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts this very clearly: What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
From Romans 8:30, we know that this prize is guaranteed to all those who are called of God. It says, “Those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.”
God sovereignly works all things in our life to that end toward which He has called us. Our salvation is all of God, all of grace.
And yet, Philippians 3 reminds us of man’s responsibility in this matter. The doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints” teaches that every man, woman, and child that God effectually calls to faith in Him will definitely persevere in that faith to the end.
“Perseverance of the Saints” does not mean, “take it easy; the race is fixed; you’re guaranteed to win anyway.”
No, “Perseverance of the Saints” means, “run, work, sweat, press on,”
because those are the means that God has predestined for all His saints to win the prize laid up for them by grace in Christ Jesus.” Your work doesn’t save you or earn the prize. That prize is given to you by grace alone. But your faith and your good works are also given to you by grace as means for you to bring glory to Him. The Bible teaches that your work is never in vain, in the Lord.
Paul knew that unless the Kingdom of God was the one thing in his life that mattered the most, he’d never see it. Sure, Paul believed in election. He taught it. And we’re not talking about the upcoming political elections we see in the media, ad infinitum. In this election, God’s vote is the only vote that counts, and only those whom God votes for are elected unto salvation by His grace.
Paul also believed in predestination. He taught that too. And yet, look at how hard Paul worked! Paul knew he would win the prize. But he also knew how he must win it: through all-out effort and perspiration!
Have you ever noticed how much harder football teams are willing to work and train if they know they have a good shot at winning the national championship or the Superbowl? Think how much harder we should be willing to work for God’s glory, knowing that we not only have a shot at winning the prize, but knowing that the prize is actually guaranteed to us in Christ Jesus! We know that all our effort and sweat and suffering will pay off in the end! We know that none of our hard work is in vain, in the Lord!
The Bible is very clear that we’re not saved by our works; we’re saved by grace alone, apart from works. But the Bible is also very clear that
we are going to be rewarded for all our good works. And the Bible is
also very clear that we win the prize only by means of persevering in the faith.
Well, we can only persevere in the faith by making God’s Kingdom the one thing in our lives that matters most to us.
King David knew that when he wrote Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD, and to seek him in his temple.”
Jesus impressed this same principle on the minds of His disciples in His
Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus also told two parables that illustrate this same principle, in Matthew 13:44. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
In other words, he wanted one thing more than anything else in life. He wanted that one field. And that field, Jesus said, was a symbol of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus went on to tell the other parable, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great
value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
“One thing.” That’s the attitude that every follower of Christ must have. We should all be able to say, “I do one thing. I press on toward the prize laid up for me in Christ Jesus. Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is my one
thing in life.”
In Philippians 3:15-4:1, Paul discusses this in more detail, “15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
Paul’s point is that his attitude of doing one thing in life is an attitude that every mature Christian should have. And if you’re not a mature Christian yet, eventually, God will bring that point home to you, somehow.
Sometimes God reminds us of the one, important thing in life by taking away from us some of those things that we think are more important than seeking His kingdom. He may take our health, or our wealth, or our job, or our husband or wife, or our children or parents, or some other thing that we put first in our lives before Him.
Paul continues in 5:16, 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
What Paul is saying is this: “Be what you already are, in Christ. Act like sons
and daughters of God. That’s what you are through faith in Jesus Christ!
Then Paul pleads with us, in v. 17, 17 Join with others in following my
example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”
So all of us should be able to say, “I do one thing!” It’s not only nuns and priests who should be able to say that. It’s not only ministers and missionaries who should be able to say that. God’s Word clearly commands that all Christians must devote themselves totally and single-mindedly
to God and to His Kingdom. The Scriptures command us, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind.”
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “I press on.” To press on requires effort and devotion and single-mindedness. But at the end of the race track, Paul saw the prize waiting for him. There, at the end of the track, stands Jesus Christ, in all His glory, waiting, with open arms to receive him. And He holds in His hand a crown of glory and blessings abundant!
That same prize awaits for us, people of God. All God’s blessings of salvation are given to us by grace, but God also promises to reward us in accord with our good works. That means all your love and devotion and effort in obeying God and doing His will is going to pay off in wonderful prizes at the end of your race!
But you need to run with one goal in mind. That’s the problem with us. We’re so often tempted to run after earthly goals. V. 19 says of unbelievers, “their mind is on earthly things.”
We sometimes run for the praise of men, or we run for earthly rewards, like money or fame or possessions. Perhaps we run in order to receive the passing pleasures of this world. We may even cheat in order to win these prizes. We lie. We steal. We’re selfish. We hurt others, all to get the one thing we happen to be after at any particular time in our lives.
As Paul reminds us, here, of that course we must run, let’s all take a long, hard look at our goals and see where we’re running. Ask yourself, “What’s the one thing that I structure my whole life around? Is it the same as Paul’s one thing? Is the most important thing – the thing that matters most to you in life – your desire to please God and to glorify God and to enjoy the presence of God in your life?
Is your one goal in life to attain to the resurrection of the dead, so that you can enjoy God forever in His heavenly kingdom?
That’s what should be the most important thing to every true, mature Christian!
So what are we saying then? Are we saying that we can’t ever have any fun or relax or enjoy ourselves? Are we saying we can never buy a new car or have a healthy bank account? Are we saying that a true Christian will always be working, or sharing his faith, or helping the poor, or reading his Bible, or praying, or going to church?
Of course not. If we can go back to the picture of an athlete, let’s say an Olympic runner, for example, we have a good illustration of the Christian life. Everything in that athlete’s life, while he’s working toward an Olympic medal, is geared toward and centered around winning that medal. But that doesn’t mean that all he ever does is run. It does mean, however, that all of his other activities and goals in life are put underneath that one. All are secondary to that overarching goal. They’re sub-goals, if you will.
For example, he reads books and magazines on running and health and things that relate to his overarching goal. He studies in order to be able to run better. He eats in order to maintain his health and to be able to run faster. He sleeps in order to have enough energy to run. He works, in his occupation, in order to get more money to pay for his expenses related to his running. He takes a vacation and enjoys times of relaxation and recreation in
order to keep up his strength, both emotionally and physically. He tends to socialize with those friends who encourage him in his running, and he tries to avoid those friends who oppose his running. And he gives encouragement to his running teammates as well.
In the same way, a Christian Olympic runner has a different overarching goal than an unbelieving Olympic runner in this life. To an unbelieving runner, running and winning the gold medal is his overarching goal, his highest aim in life. To the Christian Olympic runner, however, running in the Olympics is only a sub-goal; it’s a goal that’s underneath his overarching goal. The Christian Olympic runner, just like the Christian banker, the Christian actor, the Christian farmer, and the Christian anything, has as his highest, overarching goal, one thing: to bring glory to God!
If you saw the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” you’ll remember that the Jewish atheist guy’s overarching goal was to win the gold medal, at all costs. The Christian guy, Eric Lidell’s overarching goal was to win the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He wanted to glorify God in his running. He said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”
So Eric Lidell refused to run on Sunday, while that didn’t bother the Jewish guy in the least. For Eric Lidell, running was important, but it was only a sub-goal. For the Jewish guy, running was his whole life. That’s the difference we’re talking about here.
So what’s your one thing? What’s the one thing that motivates you in life?
Is it your greatest desire in life to live to retire a wealthy person and to have it made in the shade in your old age? Is it your burning desire in life to become famous? Do you live primarily for pleasure, whether it’s drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or gambling?
Paul said, “One thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ
What’s your one thing in