Philippians 3:7-9 (NIV)
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
It happens about this time of year, when Christmas is upon us with the New Year right around the corner. Planning our Christmas menu and New Year feast, I am already amped up for the Daniel Fast. At the beginning of each New Year, our family begins it with a fast. It’s good to get our mind, body and soul in order for each new chapter. God is always ready to do something new in the life of those who love and seek Him. It is God’s People who do not embrace change and relish our comfort. As God does good things for us and we pass the tests and trials that we face, it is easy to rest on our laurels. Content that we made it this far and our life is better in Christ, we stop pressing for the mark of His High Calling. God’s Standard of Living is much higher than our finite human minds can comprehend. It only gets better and better for those willing to forsake comfort and undergo change. It is not always easy but definitely worth it.
With the Daniel Fast this year, I am ready to stop resting on my laurels. What does that mean? The term means to feel comfortable because you have been successful in the past. To be satisfied with your achievements and not to make an effort to do anything else. I am questioning myself today concerning my comfort. I know, for a fact, that God is calling to do something new that I am not comfortable with at all. It has been confirmed by His Spirit and other people. Why am I so unwilling? We become comfortable and complacent. Complacency is a dangerous position for believers as our eyes shift from our Example, Jesus Christ, to ourselves. We become pleased with our own merits, advantages or current situation often without awareness that there is potential danger in self-satisfaction because we stop seeking God’s Approval. In the absence of opposition, we decide our life is good enough and stop pressing toward the mark. Jesus is talking to me this morning.
“Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things.” To begin the New Year and truly follow Christ means that I am going to have to leave some things behind, namely my comfort zone. After the ordeal our family faced during our son’s illness, I stopped pushing when it was finally over. Laying down my sword and eventually shield, I backed away from the line and stopped fighting the good fight. I did not do it knowingly or willingly. The battle took a lot out of me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced complete helplessness and weakness which made God’s Grace sufficient for me. When you reach the end of yourself, the thought of going back there is not at all inviting…but totally worth it. The Lord let me have my time to rest and recoup. He allowed me to stay in my cave…for a while. It didn’t last long although it seems like an eternity. He handed me my sword. I took it. He gave me back my shield this time it was bigger than I remembered. We built an altar and the fire of praise and worship ignited the flame as I begin to burn the laurels of my past to press on for the mark of high calling Christ has for me.
Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
To follow Jesus is not boring unless you are not following at all. The monotony of life is not the experience of those who are chasing the prize of knowing Christ and the power of His Resurrection. It is an existence of constant engagement as the Body of Christ faces opposition at every turn. Radical obedience evokes constant combat in the Spirit. If I want to truly know Christ, it will be a lifelong endeavor of surrendering my will and plans to live the Will of God and His Plan for my life. These are the sufferings of Christ. He did not come to bring peace to this planet but start a fire in the souls of His People to come back to Him.
The modern day church has stricken the words sacrifice, surrender and selflessness from its message. We no longer talk about violent and unsightly things like the Blood of Jesus or the Cross of Calvary. We have dressed our Lord and Savior in the rags of Santa Claus who keeps a naughty and nice list but gives no matter what. Grace is a doormat that lines each door. Wipe your feet on the way in and do whatever on the way out. No! There are a lot of Christians today being misled. Sadly the blessings of God elude them and they soon walk away when the feel-good messages and elaborate programs do nothing for them, except offer an occasional shot in the arm. There is no healing. There is no deliverance. There is not freedom. They trade one bondage for another. Just a dependency on different people for different things because God is not with them. If you want to follow Jesus, it will cost you something. If you want to know Him, it will cost you everything.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
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.
Many years ago, long before I was born, I was told that my maternal grandfather was in a horrific car accident. It is rumored that people died as a result. He married my grandmother and they moved from Maine all the way south to Florida. No one knows the details because they would never speak of it. I was not close to them as they were bound by alcoholism for most of my life. My grandfather never drove another automobile as a result. He would not allow my grandmother to drive. One tragic event made this man walk everywhere or pay others to drive him for the rest of his life. I cannot help but wonder if it is what caused his descent into a bottle of alcohol that would hold him until the end of his life.
For me, the ordeal of our son’s illness was devastating and tragic. It caused me to face my greatest fear and exposed my innermost vulnerability. The loss of a child. Faith carried us to the realm of hope and our son has been healed of cancer. He has been in remission for more than a year. I think in the back of my mind, I always expected our life to be “normal” again after he was healed. When we entered this stage, I was certain that life would be the same as it was before. I was complete shocked to find that nothing will ever be the same again. In the midst of the battle, I was changed. Change had come whether I wanted it or not.
We all go through “things” of varying degrees. Some people will wander from the Lord. We encounter detours and distractions that take us off course. Others will go through life-changing events that leave them questioning everything they know in their life. When our life does not turn out the way that we expected it to, it is traumatic for our humanity. The enemy will use this to cause us to sit back and stop moving forward in Christ. See we have bought into the lie that just because we know Jesus that we will not go through stuff or have hard times which is not true. The Lord promises that He will work every detail for our good. (Romans 8:28) He says that nothing can separate us from His Love. (Romans 8:38-39) It is up to us if we believe it enough to keep going. Seeking His Glory and then His Glory some more.
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) The Lord has prepared ever-increasing glory for His People. His Spirit guarantees it in our life. It requires a deeper walk with Jesus, greater knowledge of His Word, embracing His Spirit and never resting on our laurels. To know Jesus more will always require surrender and sacrifice. To serve Him will cause us to become selfless. Sin will never ever be okay. Life with Jesus is freedom from all bondage as He moves us closer to His Glorious Standard of Living until we one day enter Eternity. It is not going to be easy. It will not be comfortable. It will require our all. But it will be totally worth 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.” The Lord is ready to do something new in my life. I can see it unfolding. He wants to do something new in you, too. Are you willing to surrender your plans? Will you sacrifice your comfort? The New Year is just around the corner but today is a brand new day – you can start right now. Forgetting what is behind us can be very difficult especially if it has made an impact on your life. Even when the Lord has made you victorious, it still can leave battle scars and apprehension of what might come next. Trust me I know. I was dying inside. Afraid to step out in faith any farther, fearful that the price would be more than I was willing to pay. You know the feeling, don’t you? Anyone who has tried this “faith thing” knows how challenging it can be, but those who have passed a finish line can testify that there is victory in Jesus every time. What will the coming year be like for you? Are you happy with your life? Are you content? Are you satisfied? There is no joy and contentment outside of Jesus. It’s time to burn some laurels and get back in the race!
I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.