Norma Jean and I are spending the month of January on the southeast coast of Florida in the area of Ft. Lauderdale, often called the gold coast.
We have been invited to work with the Northside church and their preacher, my good friend, Steve McAllister. I am preaching every Sunday morning and teaching the Bible class. Our theme for the month is “Pressing Toward the Prize” We are studying the book of Philippians in the Bible class and presenting sermons around the theme that encourages us to “press on.”
Here are a few thoughts from yesterday’s lessons.
Although Paul was an aged apostle and confined to a Roman prison twice in Philippians 3 Paul affirmed: “I press.” In verse 14 he penned, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“Press is a verb.” It denotes activity and action. It is a metaphorical word used in a running a race. Thayer says it means “to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing.” To press is to earnestly endeavor and to eagerly seek something. In other passages the word is translated, “pursue,” “follow” and “strive.”
Having traveled to Athens, Corinth, and Rome, Paul was familiar with the Olympic games. Possibly he witnessed a marathon. Maybe he saw runners coming into the stadium running flat-out for the finish line. Giving it all they had. Expending every once of energy they had to win the prize.
This vivid word captures the spirit that should characterize the Christian who is spiritually pressing on to maturity and toward the purpose for which Christ has called him. Just like an athlete trains and competes with dedication, discipline, and determination, we run the Christian race with the same devotion. Our eyes are focused on the goal. And we are not deterred by Satan’s schemes to sidetrack us.
“Keep on running even when you have had a fall,” encouraged the German religious leader Basilea Schlink. “The victory wreath is won by him who does not stay down, but always gets up again, grasps the banner of faith, and keeps on running in the assurance that Jesus is the Victor.”
Remember that running the race is not about being better than others. It’s about being better than you used to be. Too many Christians are running with regrets from the past. They are shackled by the haunting memory of past sins, slights, sorrows, and setbacks. Forget ‘em. Throw aside that weight. And press on.
“Press on,” wrote Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President. “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
You got a problem? Press on.
Had a setback? Press on.
Lost a loved one? Press on.
Feel discouraged? Press on.
Experienced difficulties? Press on.
Struggling with temptation? Press on.
Suffering physical ailments? Press on
Is your heart heavy? Press on.
Is your mind anxious? Press on.
Is your conscience hurting? Press on.
Are you wondering if you can make it and finish the race? The answer is “Yes.” Press on!
Regardless of our age, level of education, position in life, or state of maturity, we can all capture the spirit of Paul’s spiritual vigor and passionately pursue the imperishable heavenly prize that awaits us at the finish line.
–-Ken Weliever, The Preacherman