“I press on to make it my own…straining forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:12-13
Last week I noted the most important truth that enables us to press forward in life is the certain knowledge that God is on our side. We are not left to our own devices. We begin with God and His power in our lives. Abandoning ourselves to Him opens up the possibility of eternal consistency in a fluctuating life.
But the other side of the coin is just as important. We must respond to God’s grace. We must ask, seek, and knock. James wrote, “faith without works is dead.” So the second part of pressing ahead focuses on our effort.
We simply must have a constancy of effort to live well. Paul, the great proponent of grace, understood the important balance of God’s offer and our response. “I am straining forward” depicts a man who simply refuses to let life get him down. Think of it. Perhaps the greatest Christian who ever lived, near the end of his life, still yearning for spiritual horizons he had only glimpsed. With all of his accomplishments, he still wanted to press ahead.
Winston Churchill took leadership of England during one of the darkest periods in its existence. Defeat at the hands of the Nazis seemed imminent, but slowly the tide began to turn and Great Britain achieved a few modest victories. They had reached an intersection. It was at this time, however, that Churchill warned against the tendency to feel an exaggerated sense of accomplishment. On Nov. 2, 1942 he made this famous statement, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Do not feel that you have arrived. Make the commitment to keeping a constant effort of prayer, reading scripture and devotional literature, worshiping, etc. Keep believing! I know it’s hard sometimes. It was hard for Paul in that prison, but determination is a powerful asset.
Constancy of effort is mandatory. Sitting around waiting for God to make you happy is fruitless. Straining forward and pressing on enables you to see the blessings that God has for you.
One of the great passions in my theology is the deep belief that God wants us to be joyful. The challenge is divorcing joy from circumstances. I can’t demand or try to orchestrate pleasant circumstances as a prerequisite for my joy. We may well find ourselves in miserable situations, but that does not preclude joy. Paul was in a miserable situation when he wrote his most joyous letter. But even in prison he was alert to God’s grace and saw it everywhere.
A friend of mine prayed one time, “Lord, we thank you for every evidence of Your love in our lives.” I like the phrasing of that prayer, “every evidence of your love,” because it is a reminder that God’s love is constant. And if we develop a sensitivity to His love then we see it constantly even in the most unlikely circumstances. Life at its best is not something we find at the end of the struggle, but something we find as we struggle. It’s found in pressing ahead, no matter what. In the day to day working out of your faith, God provides reminders of His love and presence to sustain you.
The Christian life is the most exciting way to live! God meets us daily, indwells us, awakens us to eternity in the present moment. We simply have to keep striving. A survey of people over ninety asked this question, “what would you do differently if you had to live your life over again.” One of the most frequent responses was, “I would risk more.” Take the risk of claiming every day for God.
William James, the great philosopher said, “If you have an emotion do something; if you don’t you won’t have it any more.” Give expression to your highest ideals. Live out your faith more fully. Take the challenge from God and respond to it. Do not wait. Ideals, noble impulses are like muscles, if you don’t use them they atrophy.
Press on in 2015. Begin by pressing on today.
Dr. Terry Ellis
January 19, 2015