Making disciples who love God, love people, and serve the world!
Crescent City Church of Christ
485 9th Street, PO BOX 752, Crescent City, CA 95531
Office Phone: Monday - Thursday, 10 AM - 2 PM: (707) 464-6312
by Mark Wittenmyer on January 6th, 2018

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
     Welcome everyone to 2018!  I pray that you had a great 2017 and if you didn't I pray that 2018 will be a better year for you.  I decided that I would share with you my Top 17 Scriptures of 2017.  These were some of the Scriptures that gave me hope and encouragement as well as a sense of purpose and mission.  Some of these verses may do the very same for you this year.  It was hard to narrow down 17 Scripture passages out of the over 31,000 verses in the Bible, but these are just a few of the verses that spoke to me and meant something extra special to me this past year.  All of these Scriptures will be from the NIV.  So, let's get on with it!

     The Top 17 Scriptures of 2017 are, starting with:

17.  2 Corinthians 5:17, "17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  Sometimes I get to feeling like a failure because of my mistakes and sins, but this Scripture reminds me that because I am united with Christ, He has made me into a new creation; the old life, full of mistakes and sins is forgiven and gone, and a new life of blessings, opportunities, and restoration is here.

16.  Matthew 11:28, "28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  As a minister, it is easy for me to become weary and burdened as I listen, counsel, pray, and guide the members of the church.  It is easy for me to become weary and burdened because of my wife's health issues.  This Scripture reminds me that I need to go to Jesus all the time, but especially, when I am weary and burdened by the cares and problems of this world and He promises me rest!

15.  Philippians 4:13, "13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  I picked this Scripture next, because it is so closely related to #16.  I am able to do what God calls me to do, regardless of my circumstances, because He gives me the strength to carry it out.  It's not in my strength, but His!

14.  Psalm 42:1-2, "1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"  A deer's life depends upon water, especially when they have been chased by hunters.  Circumstances seemed to keep David from being able to go to the temple n Jerusalem to worship God.  My desire is to depend upon the Lord to bring refreshment and strength to my life.  I desire to draw closer and be in a deeper relationship with God.  Unlike David, I can meet with God anytime I want to in prayer and in His Word and in worship and fellowship with His people.

13.  Micah 6:8, "8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  Whenever I am tempted to ask what God wants of me and my life, I go to this verse as well as others and see that God wants me to do good to all people by acting justly (making right judgments and decisions, living in a manner worthy of God), love mercy (not only to receive it by offer it to others), and to walk humbly with your God (live in submission to God knowing He is God and I am not, considering others better than myself - Philippians 2:3).

12.  Psalm 37:4, "4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Now this is a Scripture that is often misinterpreted.  Most people think that God will give you what ever your heart desires, but that is not the case.  We are to find our happiness and gladness in a relationship with the Lord, not in material possessions.  If we make it our desire to be happy in being in the presence of the Lord, that is what our heart will desire, and that is what He will give us.  That word "desires" in the Hebrew refers to our requests or prayers.  Our prayers should be to find our fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness in Him and He will grant us that prayer!

11.  2 Timothy 1:7, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."  Fear is not of God, but of the devil.  God has given us of His Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13) and causes our spirit to be filled with the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:19-20), and love of God and our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31), and self-discipline, which is really spirit-discipline.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin, and convinces us of what is right.  Self-discipline is having a sound mind.  The Spirit helps us to think and act rightly.

     You've made it to the top ten of the Top 17 Scriptures of 2017 and here's:

10.  2 Corinthians 12:9, "9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."  Sometimes God allows us to go through some hardships that we would like for Him to remove from our life, but He wants to display the completeness of His power at work in our weakness.  We should rejoice in our weaknesses because His grace is enough for us to get through it and His power is displayed in us.

9.  Proverbs 19:21, "21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."  What a reminder that unless my plans, ideas, and thoughts are grounded in His purpose, they will not succeed.  I also need to remember that even if my plans are grounded in His plans and purpose, they may not come to pass as I expect them to; but they will be carried out according to how He wants it to happen.  God is in control of the results, not me!

8.  1 Peter 5:7, "7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  I thank God that He has made me to be a person that is not very anxious or worried about things; I'm pretty laid back, calm and content.  However, every once in a while human nature kicks in and I start to worry.  I can turn all that stress of worrying and fear over to Him because He loves me and cares enough about me to lift that heavy burden of worry off of my shoulders (see #16) and takes care of it for me.  Those worries just distract us from our relationship and service for God.  He wants us to bring Him those cares so that we can draw closer to Him and be useful to Him.

7.  Joshua 1:9, "9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”"  This is an encouragement that I need every day.  I need to be strong and courageous as I preach God's Word and witness for Him.  It is so easy, to give in to fear and discouragement; but we can be filled with faith and encouragement and strength, because God goes with us everywhere we go; we are not in this alone!

6.  Romans 8:28, "28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  This doesn't mean that all things are going to be good in our life, but that God will cause good to come out of it.  Whether it is cancer, financial problems, job loss, etc. those who love God and are trying to live out His purpose and calling in their life despite those difficulties, will see something good come out of it.  That good may be that someone comes to salvation because they see our faithfulness in the midst of trial.  That good may be like Job, who endured his suffering and was rewarded with an even better life than before the suffering, because he was drawn even closer to God because of it.  Often when things are going well, we tend to forget God; but when things are more than we can handle, we tend to turn to God and that is a very good thing indeed!

5.  Jeremiah 29:11, "11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Now, it is important to realize that this was written to the exiles in Babylon that at the end of their 70 year captivity, God would bring them back to Judah.  We have to be careful not to attribute a scripture to ourselves when it is clearly addressed to someone else.  However, I believe that all of the Scriptures make it clear that God does have a plan for us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.  For the Israelites, this was concerning the deliverance of their oppression from the Babylonians; for us, His plan concerns the deliverance of our oppression to sin, Satan, death and Hell, which He accomplished through Jesus' death and resurrection and that is our hope and future, being raised to live eternal life with Him in heaven.

4.  Isaiah 40:30-31, "30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
"  As humans, we are finite, frail, and feeble.  No one, young or old, is exempt from getting tired and weary as well as stumbling and falling.  When we hope or trust in the Lord, He will renew our strength.  He exchanges our weakness for His strength.  He will make up for our weakness and failings.  He will cause us to go on in vigor and strength.  When we are clothed with Christ, He exchanges our sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

3.  Proverbs 3:5-6, "5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  Speaking of trusting in the LORD (#4), this scripture tells us to wholeheartedly trust in God even when things don't seem to make sense and we can't understand why God would be doing something.  In all our ways, our paths in life, our journeys (both physical and spiritual), the way that we converse with others and our actions, acknowledge God, which can have a couple of meanings.  First, it can be that you know Him intimately.  You do what you can to come to know Him better, through prayer and Bible study.  Second, it can mean to confess, teach or tell.  We are to go through life telling others about what God has done, is doing, and will do for us.  When we do both of these, God will direct our paths and make them straight and upright.

2.  Matthew 6:33, "33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  This Scripture is all about our priorities.  Am I putting my kingdom first or His?  When we look to Him and seek out His righteousness and seek to be about kingdom work; He will be faithful to provide us with all the necessities of life: food, water, clothing, shelter, etc.  We do not need to worry about daily provisions, if we are putting God first in our life.

     And finally, my top Scripture of 2017:

1.  Romans 12:1-2, "1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  As I see God daily mercies on my life, I am to offer my life as a living sacrifice, meaning that it is a daily offering, not a one time thing.  I am to be holy and pleasing to God.  I cannot do that apart from Him and I won't be able to be completely holy as He is Holy, but I need to strive to be as holy as I can in humility and submission to Him.  My life is an act or form of worship to God.  How I live my life, what and how I speak, will either bring glory and praise to God or it will bring shame and ridicule to God.  I don't want to do anything that would bring a negative response to Him. I don't need to be like other people; God has created me to be who He wants me to be and to use me as He sees fit.  That requires a transformation in my life that can only occur through the Holy Spirit, who renews my mind to think about heavenly, positive, lovely things instead of evil, worldly things (Philippians 4:8).  Once my mind is focus on God's kingdom and righteousness (see #2), then I will be able to know and do God's will in my life.

     What were your favorite Scriptures for 2017?  Let me know in the comments below.

by Mark Wittenmyer on January 5th, 2018

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash
     In the Men's Bible Study Fellowship group this morning we watched a video lesson focused on Matthew 16:13-18, so I thought I'd do my blog post from that Scripture.

     Sometime around the last year of Jesus' life, He took His disciples about twenty miles northeast of the area where most of His ministry took place in Galilee (Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Korazin) to the foot of Mt. Hermon to Caesarea Philippi.  One of Herod the Great's sons, Herod Philip named this city after Tiberius Caesar and himself.  It was originally called, Paneas, but it is known today as Banias.  It was called Paneas in honor of the Greek god Pan, whose shrine was located there.  The region was especially pagan as earlier in history the Canaanite fertility god, Baal, was worshiped there.

     Matthew 16:13-18 NIV, "13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by fman, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

     Jesus, upon entering this very pagan region, asks His disciples what the popular opinion of the general public is about who He is.  He is contrasting the common people from the Pharisees and religious leaders, who denied Him as being who He claimed to be.  His disciples responded by saying that some people think He is John the Baptist, even though John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River about two years earlier and John had recently been beheaded.  Some had said that He was Elijah.  Others said they thought He was Jeremiah or one of the other prophets of old.  All of these popular opinions or theories viewed Jesus as just a mere man, a great prophet or teacher.

     Then Jesus turns the tables and asks His disciples who they believe Him to be.  Peter, who usually ends up putting his foot in his mouth when he talks, speaks up for all the disciples and says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  In contrast to the popular opinions of the multitudes, the disciples and Peter in particular proclaimed the fact that Jesus is the Christ, which mean's God's anointed.  Kings and priests were anointed as servants of God.  By calling Jesus, the Christ, Peter identified Jesus' role as the Messiah.  The Jews were waiting the coming of the Messiah, whom they viewed as an earthly, political/military leader like David, who would deliver them from their enemies (specifically the Romans).  By calling Jesus, the Son of the living God, Peter identified Jesus as Divine.  By saying, "living God," Peter was contrasting Him as the True and Only God as opposed to the Greek god Pan or other dead idols that the people worshiped in that region.  Both Jesus' humanity and divinity are affirmed in Peter's confession.

     Jesus comments on Peter's confession by giving a blessing, saying, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man [flesh and blood], but by my Father in heaven."  Jesus says that Peter didn't arrive at his profession of faith in who Jesus is through the theories and opinions of man, but that it was spiritually discerned through inspiration of God the Father through the work and words of Jesus.

     Jesus continued by saying, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  There are several implications in this statement.  First, after Peter correctly identifies Jesus' true identity, Jesus identifies Simon's true identity as Peter.  The Greek name "Peter" (petros) means "rock" specifically a small stone or pebble.  This would be like one that you could pick up and skip it on the water.  Notice that Jesus calls Peter, "Simon son of Jonah".  This is directly playing off of Peter's confession of Jesus being the "Son of the living God".  Jesus then switches words after calling Peter the stone.  He says, "upon this rock".  Was Jesus identifying Peter as the one whom He would build His church upon?  No!  If He had, He would have just repeated the word "petros;" or He would have said, "and upon thee I will build my church."  Instead Jesus used a different word (petra), which is a ledge of rock, or bedrock that is used as a foundation.  Second, He says that "I will build my church".  This let's us know that the church is not ours, but His.  He is the one to build, erect, found, and cause it to grow in wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, and blessedness.  The church is Christ's kingdom, and it is a spiritual kingdom.  Third, Jesus contrasts this spiritual kingdom that He will build with the city that is built on a physical rock that represents the kingdom of Hades (Hell).  He says, "and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  The gates of the city was an entrance into the city and where the leaders meet to conduct the business of the city, but it was also used as a defensive element to protect the citizens from attack.  When Jesus says that the gates of Hades will not overcome it or prevail against it, He was saying that Hades cannot overcome the offensive advancement of the kingdom of God, the church.  Most of us have interpreted it the opposite, that the church would be so strong that it would defend itself against the attacks of the devil.  Which ever way, the implication is there; the devil and his kingdom are no match for God and His kingdom which is built upon the foundation of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

     I ask you the same question that Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say Jesus is?"  I say along with Peter, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!"  I have accepted Him as my Savior and Lord, how about you?

by Mark Wittenmyer on January 4th, 2018

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
     As we look around this world we see all kinds of evil: school and church shootings, bullying, corruption, rape, murder, vandalism, theft, etc.  The devil is trying to win us over to his evil influence.  This is something that he has been doing since Adam and Eve were in the garden.
 
     Adam and Eve had perfect fellowship with God and experienced no problems relationally, physically, spiritually, or even in nature.  However, something happened to change all of that.  One day, as Eve was apparently walking alone in the garden, the devil in the form of a serpent questioned her about what God had said to her husband and her, saying, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”.  She said, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”  First, Eve did well to go to God’s Word when questioned by the devil.  She responds by telling him what God said [not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17)], but unfortunately she also added something that God did not say [and you must not touch it].  The serpent then denies what God had said by saying, “You will not surely die.”  
 
     I want to focus on something that we sometimes miss in this account.  God never told Adam or Eve that they couldn’t touch the tree or the fruit of the tree; just don’t eat of it.  Now there is nothing wrong with Eve deciding that if God doesn’t want me eating of it, it would probably be a good idea to not even touch it in the first place.  For example, the Bible tells us not to get drunk.  For me, the best way I know not to get drunk is never to touch it and take a drink.  That is probably the reasoning that she had.  One of her problems was that she attributed what she believed in her mind and heart to God actually saying it.  Sometimes we make the mistake of attributing beliefs, rules, or commands, no matter how good they may be, to God’s Word when they are never actually said by God or at least not in the same manner that we apply it.  The Apostle John is warned in Revelation 22:18-19 NIV, “18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  We see that there are some consequences for adding to or subtracting from God’s Word.  So I would caution you and myself to make sure that when we quote God as saying something—that He actually said it.
 
     Back to the account.  The devil started by questioning God’s Word and then denied God’s Word.  Then he tries undermining God’s Word by saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Now, this is a partial truth.  Yes, God knew that if they would eat of the forbidden fruit, their spiritual eyes would be opened knowing good and evil.  To entice her, he threw the phrase in there about [you will be like God].  Now who wouldn’t want to be like God.  That should be our aim and goal as a Christian, to be more like Him and His Son, Jesus.  But that is not what the devil was wanting her to think.  He wanted her to think that God was somehow withholding this wonderful knowledge from her, because He doesn’t want you to be like Him; He wants to hog it all for Himself.  Another of her mistakes [one that we all make too often] is that she opened herself up to further attack by continuing to listen to the serpent.  And we all know what happened next: she looked, she took, she ate, and she gave to Adam and he ate.  The result of that series of actions is that sin entered the world and God had to curse the woman, the man, the land, and the serpent.  Paul cautions us in Ephesians 4:27 NIV, “27 and do not give the devil a foothold.”  If you give him an inch, he will take a mile and before you know it, you have drifted so far away from God.
 
     So, how do you overcome the devil?
 
     James said in James 4:7-8 NIV, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
 
     The first step is to “submit yourself to God.”  If you’re not submitted to God, it is going to be impossible to overcome the devil’s influence.  Submitting means that you are yielding or giving the right of way to God’s will and authority in your life.  You are voluntarily putting yourself under obedience to His commands.  You are committing yourself to Him and His control of your life.  You are willing to follow Him.
 
     The second step is to “resist the devil.”  First I want you to notice that he doesn’t say, “resist sin,” but “resist the devil.”  All sin comes from the father of lies—Satan [the devil].  If we will resist Satan, then we will be resisting the temptations to sin.  Resisting is to set yourself against or to oppose.  This means that you are taking measures not to allow Satan’s temptations and enticements to overpower you.  For example, if you have a problem with alcohol, staying away from bars, liquor stores, or parties where alcohol is served is a good step in resisting the temptation to drink.
 
     The third step is to “wash your hands and purify your hearts.”  This is a daily habit of living a pure life.  Be cleansed from sin, replacing your desire to sin with your desire to experience God’s purity.  The only way one can be cleansed of his/her sins and have a clean and pure heart is through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior.  He died on the cross, shedding His sinless blood to offer you forgiveness of your sins.  God then raised Him to life to offer you eternal life with Him.  Thus, He won the ultimate victory over Satan, sin, death, and Hell.  With the Holy Spirit’s power we can resist the devil and he will flee from us.

     Are you submitting yourself to God daily?  Are you doing what you can to resist the devil?  Are you living a daily life being cleansed by Jesus?  If not, why not start now?


by Mark Wittenmyer on January 3rd, 2018

Photo by Meghan Duthu on Unsplash
     With the new year upon us, one of the things that we can work on improving in our life is our speech--what we say to others and how we say it.  Pound for pound, our tongue is perhaps the most powerful part of our body.  James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, writes about the power of the tongue in James 3:5-10 NIV, "5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."

     The Apostle Paul wrote about the dangerous outcome of our tongues about two years earlier in Ephesians 4:29 NIV, "29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

     The Greek word for unwholesome means, "rotten; of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless".  Therefore, this is not only talking about vulgar language, but anything that would be in poor taste and not useful or helpful.  Sometimes Christians joke and tease with one another and sometimes we can be just as sarcastic and demeaning in our "joking" as the rest of the world, but that doesn't help build someone up in their faith.  I'm not saying that we can't joke or have fun, but we do need to be careful of the things that we say to others.  Before we speak, we should always ask ourselves, "Will this help the person with what they need?"  If the answer is "no," then don't say it.  However, if the answer is "yes," then say it.

     Colossians 4:5-6 NIV, "5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

     Make sure that your conversations are graceful and flavored with salt.  Salt is a preservative, it keeps things from becoming rotten.  Salt also makes things taste better.  If our conversation is "seasoned with salt" it should encourage further discussion.  People should hunger and thirst for more meaningful conversations with you.  Notice that the way we act and talk will either enhance or diminish our witness to "outsiders" (non-Christians).  Is your conversation with others beneficial to them?  Will they desire to have a relationship with Christ as a result of your words and deeds?  If not, why not start working on that today and throughout this new year?
 

by Mark Wittenmyer on January 2nd, 2018

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
The book of Philippians is a remarkable book that is filled with expressions of joy in spite of the writer being in prison at the time of its writing.  Paul wanted to thank the Philippian Christians for the generous gift they had sent him upon learning of his house arrest in Rome.  The word "joy" in its various forms occurs 16 times in this letter.

Paul reported his own circumstances to the brothers and sisters of the church and then he encourages the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of their circumstances, just as he in fact is doing.

In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul writes, "12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

When Paul states that he hasn't already obtained all this, he is referring back a couple of verses prior to these verses to his determination, resolution, or goal  "10 ...to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

He was not going to let his past failures, imprisonments, or sufferings to disappoint and discourage him from moving forward toward that most impressive goal.  When he uses the words "press on" twice and the words "straining toward" once, he is using forward momentum verbiage.  These are actually athletic words.  When an athlete would run, he would "press on" or run in such a way as to pursue and reach the goal, even though he was gasping for breath and his sides were hurting.  The word "straining toward" indicates that the athlete when he was coming to the final stretch of the race, he would "stretch out or reach out" his body toward the finish line to cross it.  There is a picture of the runner flexing every muscle in his legs and arms, using every bit of energy, strength, and power in his body to complete the race.

Paul says in verse 14, "...forgetting what is behind".  When running a race, you cannot be concerned about what is behind you.  If you keep turning your head to look behind you, you cause yourself to slow down and possibly run out of bounds, which would disqualify you from the race and therefore the prize.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, "24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

When running a race, you have to keep your eyes focused on the finish line and forget about the runners behind you or how well you're doing, just keeping going forward, giving it all you've got!  That is what Paul did in his life.  At the end of his life [his race], he said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

At the end of our race [life], if we have been faithful, we too, will receive that victor's crown of righteousness, eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Will you resolve, determine to run your race like Paul, by forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what is ahead, giving it all that you've got?