“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Philippi and in an effort to encourage them in their pursuit of sanctification, he used the phrase “press on.” In the Greek, this word dioko was used to describe a sprinter in a foot race, who was “striving and pressing on to a goal with relentless intensity… and thus refers to aggressive, energetic action” (MacArthur). Sanctification, although imputed through Christ, is still the pursuit of Christ on the part of the believer. As Paul said, our ultimate goal, that “one thing” we desire should be to relentlessly chase sanctification with all our strength, that we might win the prize… to be more like Christ.
When I read this passage, I imagine myself as a sprinter in a race (by the way, I am no sprinter!!). I step to the starting line, a look of determination on my face. I feel prepared, I’m poised. “On your mark, get set, go…” and I take that first step onto the road. As I begin to pick up the pace and get into a rhythm, I feel confident that I will not only finish the race, but win the prize. My heart rate is good, my breathing is good, and my body feels fit and ready for the challenge. Then I come to a hurdle in the road. I watch as other runners sprint past, pressing on and clearing the hurdle. But not me. Instead, I completely stop. And I stand there before the hurdle. I’m still confident that I can finish the race, even win the prize, but I’m annoyed by this hurdle in the road. So I stand there and ask God to move it. “God, please remove this hurdle from before me.” And I wait for God to supernaturally swoop down and lift this hurdle out of my way so I can press on. After all, Jesus did say ask and you shall receive! So I continue to wait and the hurdle remains. By now all the other runners have cleared their hurdle and are pressing on towards the goal. And I stand there getting angrier and angrier. So I question God. “Why won’t you remove this hurdle from before me!? It’s obviously hindering my ability to press on!” With no response, I try yelling at the hurdle. “Get out of the way! I’ve got a race to finish!” Not an inch. So I try crying and pleading with the hurdle. Maybe if God sees how hurt I am by this hurdle and how unfair it actually is, He will wake up and get with the program. Still no change. And so finally I just sit down, bewildered by this hurdle that God will not move for me, and I just sulk for a while. Eventually my coach comes alongside me and tells me, “Jump!” Excuse me!? What if I don’t make it? What if I fall and skin my knee? I can see down the road there are more hurdles; do you expect me to jump all these hurdles? “Jump!” He repeats. Reluctantly and with a major ‘tude, I jump the hurdle. I clear it. And I can feel that confidence coming back to me. I just made it over that hurdle. Maybe I can win this thing. I thank my coach for the encouragement, apologize for my bad attitude, and I begin to press on again. Until I get to the next hurdle. Do I jump it because I’ve already cleared one and I know that I can do it? Nope. I repeat the process yet again!
Does it sound like I would finish the race? Win the prize? Enjoy the run? Absolutely not. If anything, the race would be extremely long and difficult, confusing, emotional, and I’d feel defeated at every obstacle. This is what sanctification has been like for me. The road is my life and the hurdles are trials and temptations that arise. Sadly, instead of pressing on and clearing the hurdles with joy and faith that God has given me everything I need to run this race, I let each hurdle stop me in my tracks. And I beg God to remove it, I get angry, I yell, I cry, and most of the time I give up until someone comes along and reminds me that Jesus has given me the strength and courage to get over that hurdle. Even though God has the power to remove the hurdle completely, and there are times that He is so gracious, most of the time pressing on and jumping the hurdles is what God uses to increase my character and wisdom, to teach me humility and compassion, and to advance His Kingdom. It is how He sanctifies me. When a temptation arises, God doesn’t just remove the temptation but rather He equips me to withstand it. He gives me the tools I need (prayer, Scripture, renewing my mind, fleeing the Devil) to escape it. When a trial arises, God doesn’t just remove the trial but rather He equips me to walk through it. He comforts me and guides me, gives me wisdom and courage, gives our family opportunities to love and support each other. Sure removing the hurdle would make things a lot easier for me, but in the end what would I gain? The treasure is in the time spent trusting and relying on the Lord.
In the healing process, there are a lot of hurdles. Anger, insecurity, doubt, memories, bitterness, temptations. But God has equipped us and given us the tools we need to clear these hurdles and press on towards victory. Some are easier than others. But in the end it’s not about what’s easy or what’s comfortable. MacArthur says that “those who are consumed with their own needs and comfort rarely accomplish much.” Ease and comfort should pale in comparison to my desire to be more like Jesus. If I press on towards my goal of sanctification with relentless intensity, I am confident I will win the prize… Christlikeness.
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: sanctification ""philippians 3:12-14"" race victory christlikeness
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