Bible Study Lessons

Reaching for the Prize


A man was running the final stretch of a marathon. His friend, who was driving beside him, could see that he was flagging and asked how he was feeling about getting so close to the finish line. "Pretty good, I ran the first third in record time." "But that won't get you to the finish line." "True. I fell and sprained my ankle in the middle and had to limp along for a while." "But that won't keep you from the finish line. The organizer promised a prize to anyone who finishes the race." "Then I will have to forget what I've already done and been through and focus on the prize." With that the runner's eye brightened and his step grew firmer as he set his jaw resolutely - and finished the race. Study Philippians 3:12-16 to learn how a Christian forgets what's in the past and reaches for the prize.



Before opening His Word, ask the Lord to give you understanding so that you can learn from and live it.

Read Focus Verses

Read Philippians 3:12-16 and notice the progression of thought in these verses.


Read Philippians 3:1-11 for context to better understand today's passage.


Who does verse 15 say must reveal the meaning and significance of these verses to us?

Not Yet

Restate what Paul says in the first half of verse 12.

Two Ways

In the second half of verse 12 who else is working toward the same goal as Paul?

Part 1

In verses 13-14 Paul says he does one thing. What is the first part of that in verse 13?

Part 2

What is the second part of that one thing in verse 13?


How does Paul summarize this strategy in verse 14?


How does Paul define the prize for which he is striving?


What kind of calling is the Christian life according to verse 14?


Who does verse 15 especially urge to think this way?

Live and Think

Verse 16 tells Christians to do what with everything they already understand about what these verses have said?

Keyword - Action

Marking the three action words at the heart of today's passage will help them stand out to you every time you come to this verse.

no image


Forgetting, Reaching, Pressing

Mark the three action words in the second half of verse 13 and verse 14 - forgetting, reaching, and pressing.



Take a look at the word Paul uses to say he hasn't yet attained.

Strong's G2983

Greek,lambano [lam-ban'-o]


Origin: a prolonged form of a primary verb, which is use only as an alternate in certain tenses


  1. to take
    1. to take with the hand, lay hold of, any person or thing in order to use it
      1. to take up a thing to be carried
      2. to take upon one's self
    2. to take in order to carry away
      1. without the notion of violence, i,e to remove, take away
    3. to take what is one's own, to take to one's self, to make one's own
      1. to claim, procure, for one's self 1c
    4. to associate with one's self as companion, attendant
      1. of that which when taken is not let go, to seize, to lay hold of, apprehend
      2. to take by craft (our catch, used of hunters, fisherman, etc.), to circumvent one by fraud
      3. to take to one's self, lay hold upon, take possession of, i.e. to appropriate to one's self
      4. catch at, reach after, strive to obtain
      5. to take a thing due, to collect, gather (tribute)
    5. to take
      1. to admit, receive
      2. to receive what is offered
      3. not to refuse or reject
      4. to receive a person, give him access to one's self, 1d
  2. to regard any one's power, rank, external circumstances, and on that account to do some injustice or neglect something
    1. to take, to choose, select
    2. to take beginning, to prove anything, to make a trial of, to experience
  3. to receive (what is given), to gain, get, obtain, to get back


Look at the other word Paul uses to help us further understand his current position as not yet being perfect.

Strong's G5048

Greek,teleioo [tel-i-o'-o]


Origin: from (5046)


  1. to make perfect, complete
    1. to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end
  2. to complete (perfect)
    1. add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full
    2. to be found perfect
  3. to bring to the end (goal) proposed
  4. to accomplish
    1. bring to a close or fulfilment by event
      1. of the prophecies of the scriptures


Read Philippians 3:8-11 to see what Paul has not yet perfectly attained.


What is Paul striving for that he has not yet reached?

Made Like Christ

A few verses later in Philippians 3:20-21 we see what the reality of the resurrection will look like for us.

No Sin in Heaven

This post summarizes what the Bible says about there being no sin in heaven. This means that after a Christian is resurrected, they will not sin anymore - in other words, then they will reach the perfection Paul said he had not yet obtained.

Click To Visit Website

Who Will You Serve

Romans 6 talks about this reality. In Christ believers are free from the bondage of sin, but in this life they still have to choose to serve God instead of their sinful nature. Read Romans 6:6-23 to understand this better.

This Body of Death

Romans 7:22-25 speaks further about this struggle.

Walking with God

1 John 1:5-2:6 explains that even though a Christian may sometimes sin, it is not the pattern of their life and tells us how a Christian deals with their sin.


1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that it is possible for a Christian to do what is right - there is never a time when a Christian can rightly say they had no option but to sin.

In Your Words

In your own words, what do these passages say about a Christian's relationship to sin and God?

Christ's Work

In verse 12 of today's passage, Paul explains that Christ has already laid hold on him to bring him to this goal. Notice what Philippians 1:6 says about this.

Chosen to Obtain

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 we see this concept again. And, like in today's passage, it is linked to action we should take.

How God Works

This is the interesting thing about the way God works with us. He begins a work that He promises to complete. But we must be faithful and persevere according to Hebrews 10:35-39.

To the End

Hebrews 3:12-15 speaks of this too.

Not of Us

1 John 2:19 helps us understand how it can both be true that God will finish the work of salvation He begins and that if you don't continue to believe you are not saved.

In a Few Words

Prayerfully try to briefly express what these verses say about how a Christian strives for the things that Christ has already won for them as it is summarized in verse 12 of today's passage.

Standing Strong

If we look through the book of Philippians, we see that Paul was very godly in his thoughts and life choices. However, in verse 13 he says he does not consider himself to have obtained perfection. Notice how 1 Corinthians 10:12 explains this attitude.

Pride and Destruction

Proverbs 16:18 confirms this.


Why is it important not to slip into thinking you've nearly arrived at perfection?

Forgetting the Good

When Paul says in verse 13 of today's passage that he was forgetting what is behind him, he had good and bad things to leave behind. Read about some of the ones he had previously considered good in Philippians 3:4-7.

Forgetting the Bad

In 1 Timothy 1:12-17 we read about some of the things Paul had to forget which grieved him from his past.

Purposeful Forgetfulness

Why did Paul have to forget what was behind him in order to strive for what God had for him?

A Good Soldier

2 Timothy 2:3-7 speaks of striving for what is ahead.


1 Corinthians 9:24-27 also speaks of this striving.


How do the analogies used in these verses help you understand what it means to reach for the mark?


What is the prize? Notice what Philippians 3:8 says.


Who is the Christian's prize?


Hebrews 11:6 tells us how important it is to remember that Christ will reward His people.

Eternal Life

Romans 6:23 tells us one facet of the things ahead which Christians are striving toward.

Crown of Life

2 Timothy 4:7-8 reveals another facet of this reward.

God's Presence

Revelation 21:3-7 reveals even more.


What lies ahead for a Christian?


Ephesians 4:1-7 also speaks of the calling of a Christian.

Eternal Glory

1 Peter 5:10-11 tells us more about this calling.

Glory and Virtue

2 Peter 1:1-4 adds more detail.

A Christian's Calling

What is a Christian's calling according to these verses?


Paul calls the mature to think this way. What are some of the ways this thinking will be evidenced in a mature Christian's life? Or, in other words, how will you be able to see if someone is thinking as described in today's passage?

Sanctified by Truth

In John 17:17 we learn where we find the truth that helps us live as God intends.


Psalm 119:9 shows us what will cleanse us of thought inconsistent with God's will.

Revealed to Us

How does God reveal to us the ways we are not thinking in accordance with this passage and teach us how to please Him?

A Mirror

Verse 16 of today's passage challenges us to do as much as we know while we continue to learn and grow. James 1:21-25 gives the same challenge.

To Summarize

How would you restate Philippians 3:12-16 in your own words?



What things from your past do you need to leave behind so that you can move forward in living for Christ?


What things has God used this passage to challenge you that you should be doing to reach for the things ahead?


How are you going to make sure you take time in God's Word each day so that He can reveal to you the ways you should be living in the victory of this passage?


As you studied this passage, did something come to mind that you know but haven't been doing when you should? How are you going to make sure you start today?



We hope this study has challenged you to leave the past behind and reach toward the prize God has set before you.


Please take a brief moment to provide us some feedback on this lesson. We're always striving to improve, and, with your help, we will.

Click To Visit Website

Support our Ministry

Please join us in our quest to help the world discover the beauty of the Bible. Consider making a generous donation today.

Click To Visit Website

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *