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.
Oh the pressure of pressing. Can I get an “Amen”? I am pressing. I am being pressed. I feel the pressure. I cannot say that I do not expect it anymore. Having been a participant in this race of faith for a while now, I know that the Lord uses every possible opportunity to shape me, mold me and change me that I will allow in my life. So when the perfect storm starts brewing, I feel the wind begin ever so gently across the back of my neck, I come to full attention. I thank the Lord daily for the Holy Spirit. With Him, I am never ever alone and that comes in handy when the enemy attempts to shift me like wheat. He begins tugging on my ear, trying to turn my eyes, move my heart with lies and deceptions, but the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is only a test. A trial that I am fully prepared for and able to overcome because Jesus lives in me. It doesn’t mean that I am not cautious. Sometimes I will worry and fret, but if I choose to not be moved. I will overcome in any and every situation arising in my life by the Power of God within me.
I guess it helps just a smidge that I am a very stubborn and headstrong person. Once I made up my mind to give my heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus Christ forever, it was a done deal. However, this in no way exempts me from the process of perfection begun in me by the Lord. In fact, there are some days that I believe that it intensifies the heat of the fire and stirs hunger in the belly of the lion so he roars all the more. Today might just be one of those days.
I am pressing to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. It is called purpose. It is by design. He has a plan for me too good to pass up. I have not arrived until the very last breath leaves my body. The fact that you are breathing today means that your purpose is not yet revealed and promises are still not all attained. There is more because you are here. One thing that I must do is this – forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I have to press for the goal!
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to work in the youth ministry of our church. I love those kids. Just another way that the enemy has been defeated in my life, as we used to be the youth leaders. A series of events long in the past had caused me to walk away. I loved all those kids and when our season ended abruptly, I mourned the loss of each one. I vowed “never” to work with young people again as then my heart would be safe. Ha! Our church is almost an hour from home so I was shanghaied by the Lord into serving again. Driving my daughters to the service, it just was not sensible or economical to drive all the way back home again so I stayed sitting in the back. Well played God! I love these kids. God broke the hard barrier around my heart so that I could live and breathe on purpose again. It was not an easy journey but definitely worth taking.
A couple weeks ago, the Lord laid some things on my heart to share with a very sweet, loving, wonderful, and power-packed kid. She is growing leaps and bounds in the Lord. Her family is in the midst of some trials. One of the things that I shared with her is that the higher we travel in God’s Way by faith the further the ground is so when we look down it is easy to be overwhelmed. As I spoke these words to her, I could feel the Holy Spirit pointing right at me. The Lord is pressing me for new things, new goals, new growth, and new responsibility. I am hesitant. He is using every opportunity to make this a reality in my life so together with my sweet, precious young friend – we are learning to trust the Lord more and more.
Why is our heart not covered in Teflon? Wouldn’t that make more sense? I guess if we were designed to be hardened warriors not called to love. God has given us this great love through His Son, Jesus to share with the world around us. The enemy wants us to forget all that and worry about ourselves for now…tomorrow…and forget forever. We are hard pressed. Jesus will not allow us to be crushed. We are perplexed. The Holy Spirit will not allow us to be in despair. We are persecuted. We are never alone. Though struck down time and time again by our own insufficiencies of faith, the Lord promises that we will not be destroyed but His Grace is enough. So what does it mean that we carry around the death of Jesus? Well, it is the Blood of Jesus that covers our sin allowing us to live in Jesus Christ. Not only should every decision that I make bear this truth in mind, but as I encounter problems, troubles and trials in life it is my confidence that God is not finished with me yet. It takes every detail of my life and He makes something good out of it. (Romans 8:28) I have a whole lot of things that would like to see that good today. Do you?
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I cannot count the number of times as a young person that I gave up when things got too tough. I guess if I were completely honest, I still cannot count the times that I succumbed and buckled under the pressure of life. When our son got sick, my whole world fell apart. My neatly constructed and completely manageable life under my complete and complacent control was shattered like fine china or delicate glass coming in contact with a concrete floor at a high rate of speed. Everything and I mean everything changed in my world the moment a doctor with tear-filled eyes and a pity-filled commentary indicated that our son had cancer. It was the most horrific moment of my life. I couldn’t hold my life together any more. Everything came apart right before my eyes. There are going to be times in our life when the straw comes that will indeed break the camel’s back. When you cannot take on one more thing, carry another burden or breathe one more breath without the Lord’s immediate assistance. It is part of the process. It is part His Plan to take every attack and assault of the enemy against our life and make something good and relevant out of it.
I had finally come to the first battle where retreat was not an option. The first race that I could not give up. I had to make it to the end. I had to have my faith when I got there to attain the promise. Our son had to live and he could not die just as the Lord had promised. If I had to drag his lifeless body to the top of Abraham’s mountain, the Lord was going to heal our son. Nothing less would do. Hear me today! Victory is not always pretty. A win is a win no matter how you look when you cross the line. When a football player lays his all on the field to win the Super Bowl, he says that he is going to Disney world, but the reality is that it will half to wait while he takes care of his tired and hurting body. It took a season of wins to get to the big game and everything he had left to win the trophy. Jesus said that those who “endure to the end will be saved.” You just have to make it there. God will heal your wounds. He will mend your broken heart. He will supply all your needs both inside and out. You must press on. You must dig in your anchor called hope and refuse to give up or give in until you have exactly what the Lord promised you. The enemy will offer substitutes. He will allow compromise. He will pad your comfort zone for you and knock you right back into it. The Lord loves you too much for all that and is pressing you to victory and pushing you to the Kingdom.
The last couple of months have been exciting as we begin the next chapter of our life. Lots of new beginnings that have definitely compromised the comfort zone and will not allow for complacency. I made the mistake of looking at all the details of our life naturally and agree with my young friend that the ground is way down there as the Lord carries me higher. A couple of weeks ago, I began to see the storm rising. Details of life coming together quickly to form a little rain cloud. Too many details for my finite thinking and frail humanity to see through so you know what I did? I had to dump them all on Jesus…again.
The Lord offers to remove our burden and give us rest. Pride and flesh excuses the offer and says, “That’s okay, I’ve got it!” Until that is, the one small detail manages to make us weary and overwhelmed. Jesus offers an exchange. Take my yoke and I will give you rest from the pressure and victory in the process. Why? Why does it have to come to this? Secret is in verse 29 – Jesus says, “Learn from me…” It’s definitely a learning curve. Knowledge is nothing until applied when it becomes wisdom.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
His Grace is sufficient for me. It is more than enough to finish the race and claim the prize awaiting me. However, the process by which grace is applied and accepted is tough. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” We must come to the end of ourselves to accept more of God’s Grace and henceforth, His Power in our life. The stronger you are the longer it takes. The bigger they are the harder they fall. God takes it down to the wire because that is what it takes to get us to the end of our personal strength, knowledge and motivation. Those who are emptied can become filled. Only when we are completely out of options and optimism can the world see that our God reigns and His Glory can break free from those fragile jars called the human heart.
I have witness many photo finishes in my life. In fact, every time I choose faith over fear it seems to take it down to the wire. The phrase comes from horseracing. There used to be a wire that crossed the finish line and when it was too close to call the announcer would say that it was down to the wire. It is used now to imply a tense situation where the outcome is clear only in the last few seconds. Welcome to the life of faith in God. The pressures of this life squeeze the life out of our flesh so we must come to the Lord. When we are empty, His Grace becomes our sustenance. Now all things become possible to those who believe – it is His Grace made complete that gives us maximum power. Are you feeling pressured today? Thinking about giving up? Is your life down to the wire? Is it impossible? Good! You are on the verge of victory and the edge of breakthrough. If your flesh is telling you to stop, press in! Give it all you got! Give every worry, care, burden, fear and doubt to the Lord, find a promise and claim it today. Refuse to move from there. Just tell the enemy, if it is all the same you will wait right here because Jesus is coming. Do not budge an inch.
Psalm 118:5-7 (NIV) When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
The pressure around me is building to a climatic level. The next couple of weeks will be intense. I feel the pressure closing in on me. I am definitely a bit hard pressed. This is how I know that the Lord is bringing me into a spacious place. It is called freedom. Freedom from all barriers in life means a life under construction. In Galatians 5:1, Paul reminds believers that Jesus Christ has set us free and not to let ourselves be yoked in slavery again. This requires daily seeking the Lord, digging in His Word to find our promises, allowing His Spirit to work those seeds of faith found in the Word into our mind, soul and spirit so they will grow into the wonderful purpose our life in Jesus give us. A seed must press to change form and grow. A butterfly must press out of the cocoon to strengthen its wings to fly. You and I, my friend, must press, too.
Some reminders from Paul to the Philippians in the church of Philippi – forget the past. God will bring to the present anything in our past worthy of our future. Do not lug worthless baggage but let the Lord do it for you. Strain toward what is ahead. Keep your faith firmly planted in faith. Hold tightly to the anchor of hope. Lean into the Presence of the Lord and wait as long as it takes for His Word to come to pass. Finally, keep your eyes on the prize. It will take a life of tests, trials, races and battles to settle our soul on the Savior. To hammer out all doubt and disbelief so our faith is secure.
“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.” I used to be all about the things that I “could do” for the Lord. It took a strong dose of reality to change my mind and right my thinking. What we do is not as important as who we are in Jesus Christ. We discover this through the trials and tests of life that break off and burn the insufficiencies and facades of faith in God and if we are lucky a tiny seed the size of a mustard seed will remain. Everything else I once thought was important became worthless garbage when my world fell apart. Those “things” didn’t matter anymore. Faith kept our son alive. It kept me alive. It was the only thing we had to hang on to in the end when the world turned its back on our kid – the price for salvation too high. Jesus didn’t think so. He died to set us free from our sin. After exhausting all natural efforts, the world can only call our son’s life miraculous because there is no other explanation. You can no longer convince me that the Lord is not our Healer. You cannot tell me that His Grace is not enough. This knowledge came in the midst of great pressure and even greater pain but it was worth every moment of it.
Feeling the pressure? Down to the wire? The race is almost over. Victory is finally here, but not if you give up, give in or walk away! Press in today. Faith is worth having and hope worth fighting for. When life presses you, push deeper into the Presence of God. You are about to win!
I Corinthians 15:57-58 (NIV) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.