Philippians 3:14 (NLT)
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Life is full of pressure. It presents problems at our doorstep without asking. Change is pushy always messing up our well-organized and carefully laid out plans. The unexpected has a way of interrupting even when not anticipated. With so many distractions, it seems most days that the hits just keep on coming. Is it me or does it seem worse when we live as believers? I wonder if it is the expectation of a better standard of living in Christ that causes such discontentment with the pressure, problems and change faced on a daily basis. Some days it feels as though I am a wrung out dishrag whose owner is intent on getting every last drop of water out of me. As a natural optimist, this line of thinking with all its emotions is quite uncomfortable. I always believe that the best is yet to come. I do not subscribe to the quitter club. Giving up has never been an option or even a thought. I feel pressed. I feel dry. I feel empty. Yet I still feel pressure. I am so thirsty that there cannot possibly be anything left in me to give but there is. I am empty of me anyway and need something more to go on.
I press on to reach the end of the race…is anybody else with me today? Season after season of tests, trials and refinement – the pressure is beginning to cause a break. It seems as though I used to handle pressure so much better. Mind over matter, right? I just keep running and running but there is no end in sight. When I began exercising, one of my goals was to run…and not die. Don’t laugh. I could not run a block without feeling like my lungs were crawling out of my chest, my heart about to explode and my legs fall off. When I began walking, I would take short sprints along the way. However, when my body rebelled I would stop. When I went to the gym and was introduced to the elliptical machine, I found my trainer. I set the workout routine and start moving. It flashes the results in front of my face and warns me if I slow down, etc. My husband and I try to make it to the gym at least four days a week and I run about 20 to 30 minutes every single time. Now rather than dying I can breathe and learned to pace myself. My legs don’t catch fire after a workout like they used to and amazingly I can walk the next day. My point is this. I am trying to remind myself that even though my flesh wants to stop running the race of faith some days, the Lord will not stop the process if He knows my heart. He is working His Plan and Purpose in my life in every moment and every breath. He is not going to stop because my flesh is throwing a fit because He knows my heart is intent on Him. So commence the fit, your God is constant. The machine at the gym cannot hear my voice of aggravation. It does not care that I am about to give up. It is preprogrammed to facilitate the routine that I choose and continues to do so for the allotted time and will only stop if I choose to get off. The Lord has a preprogrammed destiny for us that we choose by accepting Jesus Christ and making Him Lord of our life. The only way out is to quit or give up. To walk away and abandon it all. Are you sure that’s what you mean? Do you really want to do that? I am not sure if I am asking you these questions or myself.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NLT)
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
I know that Jesus lives inside of me. I know that He has filled my heart and life with the very essence of who He is. It is my flesh that cannot stand the pressure. On those days that my heart is close to breaking, I try to see past all the details to the part where He works them all for my good. It seems the harder that I try to hold on to that promise the more things that come my way to make it seem so impossible. The pressure of life is exposing the cracks in my faith. These are the parts where the Grace of God becomes my sufficiency and strength if I choose to endure. We must be broken to be made whole. Who wants to be broken? Let’s be honest we didn’t have it all together in the first place, we just bought the lie we were telling everyone else. A satisfied person doesn’t need Jesus because they can do it all for themselves. I haven’t met anyone without an issue. Have you? It seems that the more power, money and influence people have the more miserable they become. Why? Power, money and influence only magnify the contents of our heart. Without Jesus Christ to make us complete and whole all these things lead to nothing but more of the same dissatisfaction and discontentment that there was before on a grander level.
When God created each of us it was with purpose. He didn’t just throw some body parts together and turn on your brain and say, “Go forth and multiply.” Your arrival was predetermined and your course predestined which is very difficult to understand when we are born into a world that embraces fate and random living. The power to have all that God promises is not one of any human effort. You can make your life better. Only the Lord can make it perfect. Here is what I have determined based on the Word of God – everything is going according to His Plan even my undoing. I have asked for His Power. I have asked for His Strength. I want live out His Plan and fulfill His Purpose for my life. The changes are by His Hand no matter how much they hurt me now. The readjustments are not unexpected but preplanned. It is okay that I am at the end of my rope – the Lord worked hard to get me here and out of the way. It is okay if I break so He can get back to filling me up. The Lord is going to keep pressing me until I get out of the way and let Him fill my life with the Grace, Goodness and Glory that He has intended for my life all along. I will be at peace. I will have joy. I will be glad. I just have to hang on under the pressure because as long as I am willing to keep following Jesus – He is going to keep pressing my life.
Luke 6:38 (NLT)
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Whatever you give you will receive. I believe that this is not only when it comes to judging others but in every aspect of our life in Jesus Christ. What will you give today? In the beginning, every new believer is selective. It is very hard to lay down the good part of our lives with the not so good. As we walk with the Lord, we are given opportunities to give a little bit more and a little bit more. When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I was devastated. My entire life was turned upside down in a moment. It was then that I gave everything to Christ even though I had been a Christian for many years. Why? I was brokenhearted beyond repair. I realized that my carefully scheduled life had somehow gotten off course. It was subtle. It happened without a noticeable change but in that moment all I wanted, all I needed, the only way that I could survive this horrible ordeal was Christ. I needed to know that He was with me. I had to hear that I could trust Him. I had to recommit every single aspect of my life to the Lord if I would make it through this trial. The giving of our life is not always pretty. For most it is to surrender the ugliest and unthinkable details and doings of our past for something that we feel totally unworthy of expecting. Let’s face it – that’s why it is so hard to believe. No one comes to the Cross with an all or nothing mentality. It is when the pressure becomes too much, the burden just too heavy to bear, and endurance becomes impossible that we are almost there.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh, he believes that it is there to keep him humble. Perhaps this is true. When things were going good in my life would also be the exact time that cancer came calling. It has stayed with us for just over three years now. I have begged and pleaded for God to remove it from our life. He has. But what I have come to realize is even though our son is cancer-free right now, that I am still struggling with pressure. I still feel that there has been no release. I still feel like giving up on some days. I still want the pressure to go away. I want the “good” things that He has promised. But change is still happening and not the way that I planned. The unexpected is challenging me to stop following God so intent on whatever it is that keeps me chasing Him. There are so many things that I still do not understand.
Last night while I was sleeping, I had intermittent dreams. As I tossed and turned, I heard a familiar and comforting voice. I knew it was the Lord speaking to me in the chaos of my thoughts. The Lord reminded me that He has a plan. He promised to keep working it out for my goodness and prosperity while I was deciding whether or not to give up. The Lord told me that even though I was having second thoughts that He was not giving up on me. It was brief and I had not time to respond. The Lord than began to impress these thoughts for today’s encounter with Him. Quitting and giving up is not always really what we as believers are crying out for. Most often we have come too far to turn back now. What we are really asking for is His Strength and Power because we are about to run out. The empty signal is flashing and the alarm is going off. I am panicking but the Lord knows exactly what I need and when I need it. His Power works best in my weakness. His Grace is all that I need. I keep asking God to take these things I don’t want or maybe just don’t understand from my life – but He is not willing to stop prospering my life from the inside out even when I am not sure I want it.
Philippians 3:12-13 (NLT)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…
The deeper we go in our life as a believer and the more that we want of Jesus Christ, the more pressure that we will feel as our flesh is moved out of the way to receive His Grace and Glory. This is why the Word of God tells us that endurance is so very important. What the Lord has planned for us is more than we can even think to ask for so naturally it doesn’t always look like what we expected. The key to all this is faith that He knows us best and loves us the most. When I even consider giving up this pursuit of Christ, my mind quickly grabs hold of it and sighs with relief. Finally, she is coming to her senses. But when the reality of living without the constant and prevailing Presence of Christ in and through me is seriously considered – it is quickly discarded. I cannot give up. I cannot give in. I must have Jesus in my life. He must live in me or surely I would not make it through another day. I just have to forget the past and move forward. But the best news of all is while I was vacillating back and forth contemplating abandoning my faith – the Lord was faithful and just kept pressing like before. He knows me and the battle waged daily with my flesh. That’s why each morning He provides a fresh batch of mercy to get me through the day. I don’t know how much more I can take before my heart breaks. But He knows…and is ready for that day with more grace, strength and power than the last time. Keep pressing me Jesus just like before. I trust you. I love you. I want you in my life both now and forever.
Lamentations 3:21-24 (NLT)
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; His Mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”