Pressing on Toward the Goal

Pressing on Toward the Goal

Is this really worth it? Have you ever asked this question after repeatedly pursuing a task only for it to yield little to no results? Perhaps you are walking a difficult journey with someone trying to help bring their life together, but you find them progressing backwards instead of forward. Or maybe you are struggling in your own walk with the Lord, trying to find that motivation you once had or see others having. Are we called to just persevere in our Christian lives aimlessly or is there something that can be impressed upon our hearts for which we can say with absolute certainty that it was all worth it at the end.

The Apostle Paul helps us in these moments when he exhorts the believers in Philippians 3:12-14.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

What is the “this” and the “it” in verse 12 that Paul is referring to? In the previous verse (v11), Paul mentions that it is knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection and that he may attain the resurrection from the dead by any means possible. So it is quite relieving when Paul states here that he has not already obtained this or is already perfect. In other words, Paul himself knew that on this side of eternity, there is no perfection nor is there reaching some sort of spiritual state where you are mature enough to feel confident. Perhaps we look at the more mature Christians around us and wonder if they ever feel the way we do with our spiritual walk. Beloved, sanctification is one of the means that God uses to make us more like Christ but it is a gradual process – maybe much slower than you would have possibly desired. But be assured of this – Christ is working in us. Phil 1:6 says,

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.

But when we grow weary between now and then, Paul encourages us to press on. Interestingly the Greek word used for “press on” is the same word used to describe his persecution of the church (v6). Before Paul’s conversion, he single-mindedly pursued the persecution of Christians, but after his conversion, Paul single-mindedly pursues knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection that he longs to attain.

Here are three reasons why we are called to press on in our spiritual walk:

  1. Press on because Christ Jesus has made us His own (v12) – For every step we take in our walk, it is Christ who has first gone before us. We love Him because He first loved us. We persevere because it is Christ who holds on to us. Knowing Jesus has made us His own should be a daily reminder that we can press on for this task. John Piper says it well when he says, “our security is not based finally on our grip on Christ, but his grip on us. The crucial thing to see is that the firmness of Christ’s grip on us produces our pursuit of him”.
  2. Press on by forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead (v13) – using the imagery of a relay race, it would be foolish to look behind while we run, as that would cause us to stumble and fall. So it is with our walks (or runs!). Don’t let anything slow you down in this race – distractions are ever before us. We are always one click away from going down the rabbit hole of endless distractions that keep us away from pursuing our task. Aim for what lies ahead. Aim for the finish line. Aim for the heavenly prize.
  3. Press on toward the eternal prize in Christ Jesus (v14) – the motivation that we need as we run this race is that one day this race will end and we will see Jesus face to face. He has promised us of His coming and on that day, we will be like Him with glorified bodies and more importantly sinless perfection. Let us then set our minds on things above for there is nothing else of greater value in this life that can surpass the infinite worth of knowing Christ and attaining our resurrection with Him.

John Macarthur recently completed 55 years of ministry. In a recent interview, he was asked what it was that helped him persevere after all these years of ministry. He responded,

I understand that even after fifty-five years of faithful blessing, we’re only one spiritual disaster away from undoing the history. We’ve all seen that people who are faithful over a long period of time, but they don’t end well. So I think about the words of Paul, “Having done all to stand.” A lot of people have done all, but when the smoke clears, they’re not standing. So I just encourage you all to pray for the continued enduring faithfulness of all of us and all those who serve with us”.

Beloved, as you journey through each day in your walk with the Lord and are faced with the question “Is this really worth it?”, I imagine that great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1 who have run this race before us will testify with a resounding “Yes”. May we likewise run with endurance the race that is set before us and with Paul exclaim,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.

Onward and Upward!

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