This message from our pastor is more than meets the eye. I was so concentrated on “pressing onward” that I almost missed a crucial step in the process. As the scripture indicates, Paul encourages us to never feel we are at the point that we’ve arrived and there’s no more to do.
12Not 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. 13Brothers, 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, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14
Saul (later called Paul) thought he had figured it all out and was crucifying Christians in the name of God. On the road to Damascus where he was headed to take prisoners of the followers of Jesus he was encountered by the Lord and that changed everything for him. You can read about this encounter in Acts 9:3-20.
By the time Paul is preaching to the Philistines, he was pressing on. He put the past behind him and was striving for what God had in store for the future. We all must do this. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God, but Jesus made a way for us when he died on the cross.
Each of us must come to the conclusion that we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, that He died for us, was resurrected, and rose to heaven until He comes back for us.
The circumstances surrounding our decision to follow Christ will no doubt be different for each of us. Making the decision to be baptized is not the end, however. It’s just the beginning. We have to put time in reading the Bible, studying with others, and deep prayer with God to learn and grow in our faith.
It’s never too late for you to make this life changing decision, but you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. When I retired from teaching, I joined a bible study with a group of ladies from our church. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I wish I’d done it sooner. I’ve learned so much from the wisdom they’ve gleaned over years of studying together. It’s a place I can safely go to ask questions of things in the Bible that I don’t quite understand. No judgment, no condemnation, just love, support and clarity.
It’s not over when you make the decision to follow Jesus. God is beginning the refining process like a silversmith refines the silver by skimming the dross off over and over until it’s purified. He works in small ways sometimes, depending on our journey and where we are. Praying over meals and at bedtime (like when I was a child) is one thing. But, baring your soul to God in a heartfelt prayer where you end up on the floor in tears is quite another. It’s a sign of maturing when we get to this point.
Jesus sets the standard for how we are to live. Looking backward at the mistakes you’ve made and dwelling on them will slow you down. Acknowledge them to God and press on for what he’s got for you now. We are pressed down during the refining process, but we come out stronger on the other side when we choose to keep pressing on.
Paul gives us a strategy: forget about the past and trust that God has so much more for us! There’s no guarantee there won’t be troubles. God will press down on us so there’s no empty space and we are overflowing with His goodness.
Pressing on toward the prize requires:
- A perspective of hope that we find in our faith
- The church will grow, because its God’s
- God is bigger than all your troubles, so give it to him
- If you feel you’re not getting fed, look at what you’re bringing to the table
- Work ethic and diligence matter
- Be in the Word
- Grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus
- It’s an ongoing commitment.