Press On

Mt. Baker, WA - Railroad Grade

My Mt. Baker summit climb with teens from YD Adventures in August 2014

“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 which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:12-14

“Press on.” Keep going. It’s what you tell students who are struggling on a long hike. It’s what you tell your friend who is going through a hard time. It’s what the Apostle Paul tells us he is doing here in his letter to the church at Phillipi. Paul has accomplished some significant things at this point in his life. He is under house arrest in Rome. It’s been almost 30 years since his conversion on the Road to Damascus. He’s traveled around the Middle East several times planting churches and encouraging believers. He’s written 10 books of the New Testament by now. At almost 60, Paul is an old man for his day, and he is unaware that it’s actually only a few more years until he is beheaded during Nero’s reign.

But he’s not content. He is not stopping now. He has not arrived yet. The finish line is still a ways off in his mind. The beginning of the race is important, but the race is almost meaningless if you don’t finish. When I read his famous line, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” I automatically think of the pain he has had to go through to get to this point. The shipwreck he survived, the three times he’s been rocked and left for dead. “Forget about the pain, let’s finish strong,” is the first thing I imagine him saying to me. But it’s not just about the pain and the memory of it, that has the potential to hold him back. It’s also the victories he has already seen, the miracles he’s watched firsthand, and the growth of the church from its infancy to its expansion from just a few handful of believers to likely tens of thousands of Christ-followers in cities scattered around the Mediterranean from Jerusalem to Rome. But victories can be just as debilitating as pain. “I’ve done enough already,” “I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I would”; these thoughts can be the quicksand that prevents you from moving forward. Have you ever seen someone do this? It’s so sad to watch unfold.

In my 49 years, I have seen God do some amazing things, and conversely have slogged through some very painful times. Your personal history is no different. You have experienced both highs and lows. I imagine that right now there are people reading this who are at both ends of the spectrum; some who are experiencing some miracle of God currently, and others who are walking through a very difficult stretch of trail. I don’t know where you are at this moment, but wherever you find yourself, Paul’s message is the same: “Press on.”  But look carefully at what Paul says in Corinthians. We are just not pressing on in our own power. It’s not us, pulling up our bootstraps and moving ahead.

2 Cor 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

This is God’s work. He’s doing something in you. Be encouraged.

Press in and press on.


October 2014

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