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FORGET THE PAST AND REACH FOR THE PRIZE!

by Rev. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, December 30, 2018


I am humbled and honored that Dr. Hymers asked me to speak in his pulpit. I don’t know if you young people realize it, but Dr. Hymers is one of the greatest living preachers in the world today. I am very grateful that Dr. Hymers is taking the time and effort to teach me the art of sermon preparation and sermon delivery. I feel that he is the best teacher of preaching I could ever have, the best teacher of preaching anywhere, in any seminary or any Christian university. Thank you for being my teacher, Dr. Hymers! Now I want you to turn to Philippians, chapter three. It’s on page 1260 of the Scofield Study Bible. The text is Philippians 3:13 and 14. It’s on page 1260.

This was the first sermon I preached, two years ago, from behind the pulpit of our church. I am preaching it again. My subject is really far too vast and important for a young man like me to preach. By God’s grace and the guidance of our pastor, I will preach it here. Please stand as I read the text,

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

You may be seated.

Years ago I was speaking with my mother as I drove her to the City of Hope, a hospital that specializes in cancer treatment. My mother is a medical doctor. We were talking about her time in medical school. She told me that students must choose an area of medicine to go into. My mother told me how nobody wanted to go into oncology. Oncology is the study of cancer. No one wanted to treat cancer. Thirty years ago when you got cancer it was a death sentence. The best that doctors could hope to do was make the patient comfortable. Treating cancer was too depressing. Medical students did not want to watch all their patients die. Medical students wanted to heal people. These words were in the front of my mind. We arrived at a Cancer Treatment reunion of those, like my mother, who had been cured of cancer at the City of Hope.

We were surrounded by thousands of people. They were celebrating. There was much joy and thankfulness all around us. As the program progressed, Dr. Steven Forman, one of the pioneers of cancer research, stood up to speak. The doctor had to quiet the standing ovation. This doctor had begun specializing in cancer treatment nearly forty years ago. So that means Dr. Forman specialized in cancer when it was a death sentence. The doctor knew that but continued to look for ways to cure cancer. My mother and I were there that morning. The doctor said that he came to work every day with a vision. He was thinking, “Cure…cure…cure.” Because of Dr. Forman, and doctors like him, my mother did not die. Because of doctors like him, my mother lived. She is here with us this morning!

Over twenty-five years ago our church nearly died from cancer – the cancer of a great church split. Over 400 people left our church. And that was a cancer that nearly killed our church. We went down to only about 39 adults. And that tiny group of people had to give $16,000 dollars every month. That is sixteen thousand dollars over and above their tithes and offerings. It seemed impossible. Every preacher outside of our church told Dr. Hymers the building could not be saved. One famous pastor told Dr. Hymers he needed to leave. “It’s your last chance to get out,” he said. He even found a church where Dr. Hymers could go, a nice, big church in the suburbs. But Dr. Hymers was like Dr. Forman, the cancer specialist who came to work every day thinking “cure...cure...cure.” That was exactly what Dr. Hymers thought about our dying church – “I have to find a cure...cure...cure.” Because of the leadership of Dr. Forman, many cancer patients are now cured. And because of the leadership of Dr. Hymers our church made it through that split. Men like my father, Dr. Christopher Cagan, and the faithful group stayed, and did the work, but it was Dr. Hymers who had the vision and led the church to victory! And because the older men and women worked so hard and gave so much we have a church here – for you!

We watched Dr. Hymers set fire to the mortgage note when the building was paid. The leaders of our church bled, and toiled, and sweat, and cried to God to help us pay off the mortgage on this building. Because of what Dr. Hymers did in leading the church through that dark time; because of what my parents did; because of what your parents did; because of what the members of our church did; because of what Mrs. Hymers and Mrs. Salazar did; because of what God did through them – our church did not die. And because of what my truly amazing and loving father Dr. Cagan did, in counselling the lost and supporting Dr. Hymers, our church did not die. The cancer of the church split healed, and our church lived! By God’s grace and the guidance of our pastor, our church overcomes church splits!

Yet we must not think only of self-preservation, only of our own safety. We need to look forward and do what the text tells us,

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I. First, forgetting the bad things in the past.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Those dark days of the past church split and the sad days which followed were very important. Those days forged this church into what it needed to be. Those days were full of tribulation and struggle. But those days taught the church patience. Patience not to rush a person into a decision and call it a conversion. But patience to insist on a real trust in Jesus. Patience to wait on God in prayer. Our church became like a weathered warrior. Scarred in battle, but stronger because of it. Dr. Hymers said, “We learned many good things in the wilderness of the great church split. We learned to stick together. We learned to depend on God in prayer. We were refined like gold...We learned how to do evangelism. These were good things to learn.” The Bible says patience develops experience. The church became experienced. Experienced so that the church cannot be easily misled by false doctrine. Experienced in evangelism and discipleship. Experienced so that while other churches are dying, this church is growing. Experienced enough to know that the church itself cannot survive without the presence of God! Experienced enough to know that we must have God’s presence in our church.

We have done well to preserve our church for all these years. We have done well to survive. But is that the end of our story? No, it is not the end of our story. We must look beyond the splits. We must look forward.

I must admit to you that I have had doubts about that. I have prayed prayers that felt like they went unanswered. I also often wanted to do as little as possible. You too may shake your head in disbelief. After all, the evidence indicates that all around us Christianity is dying. Faith is going out of style. Christianity is losing its hold on the people. Most people do not believe that God can change things. Maybe you do not believe it either. So our church is conditioned to endure. To hold on with all of our might in a struggle for existence. To constantly be caught in the tunnel and never see the light at the end of it. To live the same way every year – over and over again – and call it a life. That may seem like the safer way. That may seem like the more comfortable way. But in the long run, there is a better way. It is given in the text.

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

II. Second, reaching forth unto those things that are ahead.

What should we do then? We should “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The highest calling of God in Christ Jesus is to become like Jesus. Jesus went after the lost sheep. Jesus was not concerned about what the lost could offer Him. He went after them because He loved them. He did not pursue them because He needed something from them. He had no agenda except to seek and to save that which was lost. This is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. To seek and to save that which is lost. They are all around us. Some of them are here with us this morning. They wander through the wilderness of their own lives. Many are convinced that they know the way. Pursue them at all costs. As a church, we must give all we can. The church must have an attitude of giving. We are the church. The world has nothing to give us. Our prize is in Christ. Therefore we are free to give all that we have. Press toward the mark! Press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Dr. Hymers reminded me that our church members are some of the finest Christians in the world. He is absolutely right! Those who are faithful, those who fight the good fight, and keep the faith are wonderful Christians. However, many young people like me have only just become adults. Others of you have just come into the church. Our fight is just getting started. As the world loses faith, our faith rests secure in Christ Jesus. Because God promised us eternal life!

But just because the destination is guaranteed does not mean this course will be easy. So many people build their whole lives around avoiding discomfort. They go to great lengths to avoid pain and discomfort. No one wants to be uncomfortable. Yet, consider the value in pressing toward the mark. If a student wants to succeed in school, they must study. They must study when they would rather sleep. If a person wants to lose weight, he will have to exercise and eat a healthy diet. The value of what can be accomplished is more important than the discomfort that is felt. Because there is a prize to be won, and a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

But we cannot manufacture success. Instead we must “reach forth.” We must “reach forth” in prayer. We must “reach forth” in evangelism. We must “reach forth” in Christian love.

Our church will not grow on parties alone. Because friendship can be found in other places. Because parties are everywhere. But the church has something that nobody else can offer. The church has something that the whole world needs. The church has Jesus Christ. Christ is the real attraction. But people cannot see Christ. Because Christ is in Heaven. So lost people have to see Christ’s holy image reflected in you and me! Listen as I sing “Fill All My Vision.”

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
   Let me see only Jesus today;
Though through the valley Thou leadest me,
   Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy Holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy Holy Image reflected in me.
(“Fill All My Vision” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).

Look, we are already reaching the whole world! These sermon manuscripts are being read in 40 languages. The videos of these sermons are being seen on the Internet by tens of thousands of people throughout the earth. And we are bringing strangers in to every service in our church. Strangers become friends. Friends become brothers and sisters through Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ together make up the church. Believe that God can do anything. Come to church thinking that it is possible, and God can make it so. And forty or fifty years from now, in the Kingdom of Heaven, we will have “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Brothers and sisters, forget the past and reach for the prize! Amen.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.sermonsfortheworld.com.
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These sermon manuscripts are not copyrighted. You may use them without Dr. Hymers’
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from our church, are copyrighted and can only be used by permission.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Jack Ngann:
“Fill All My Vision” (by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).


THE OUTLINE OF

FORGET THE PAST AND REACH FOR THE PRIZE!

by Rev. John Samuel Cagan

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I.   First, forgetting the bad things in the past, Romans 5:3-4.

II.  Second, reaching forth unto those things that are ahead,
Philippians 3:13-14.