Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
It had been a long while since I put myself in position to go on an intense, strenuous hike. If I were to approximate, it’s probably been at least 15 years and 30 pounds ago that I enjoyed a nice, long journey in the great outdoors.
Recently, I had a class activity that involved a 7-mile hike in Orange County. I bypassed the fact that many seasoned hikers labeled this as a “hard” hike with the other descriptive options being “easy” or “moderate.” I also overlooked the fact that the 7 miles included a very rocky terrain which would involve the need to jump from rocks and boulders back and forth for over a mile. Sometimes our memory gives us a false confidence that we could do something today that we use to do in the past.
What exactly would prompt or even motivate someone that is far removed from their physical “prime” to set themselves on such a journey? My simple answer to that is –THE WATERFALL. You see, upon researching various hiking spots, there was one thing I was looking for; one thing that would undoubtedly catch my eye, and that was the destination.
I’m not much of a trail hiker. I need more than just a dirt path to get me excited. I need more than just beautiful plants and nice weather. My idea of a perfect hike is having a special goal to achieve, or a special landmark to explore. The hike I went on with my class was at a place called the Black Star Canyon, and the main attraction of this strenuous 7 mile hike has got to be the waterfall – which happened to be at the very end.
One of my favorite things to do is to find spiritual applications from every situation or experience that God allows in my life. During and especially after this hike, one passage of Scripture that came to my mind over and over again is found in Philippians 3:14 which states, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians is a favorite book of mine to find life applications. As a matter of fact, you can preach a whole sermon series on Philippians chapter 3. However, for the sake of brevity, I do want to highlight one thought from verse 14, and that is to “press toward God’s perfect will.”
Pressing requires action, it requires effort. Pressing is not for the lazy, it is not for the lethargic and it is definitely not for the faint hearted. There are so many things that come to mind when we think of pressing. It could be compared to how a weight lifter is bench “pressing” over 300 pounds for several repetitions, all for the purpose of getting stronger or perhaps setting new personal records. It could be compared to how a police interrogator is pressing a suspect in the interrogation room constantly and strategically, in hopes of getting more information that could help solve a crime.
Regardless of what illustrations come to mind when we think of pressing, we can all agree that pressing must be intentional, and it must have a goal in mind. For my hike, though it was hard, though it was long, the fact that we knew we were pressing toward a beautiful waterfall gave us the confidence that what we were doing and where we were going was totally worth it! That waterfall could only be found through the 7 miles of tough terrain.
Yet even on a greater scale, the highest calling we can ever have in life can only be found through God. This calling should be the greatest goal we set out to achieve. Every fiber of our being ought to be applied and accessed as we press toward this worthy goal.
This action of “pressing toward a goal” comes natural for many even Christians. They aren’t lazy. They aren’t lethargic. They are fully ready to “press toward the mark.” Unfortunately, the mark they are pressing toward often has nothing to do with God, or more specifically, His high calling on their life.
Then you have others that know what is right, they know what is best, and they believe God knows what is best for them. However, their problem is the quite the opposite, and that is they are just lazy and/or not willing to put forth the effort in pursuing God.
To press or to pursue toward God takes work – as we mentioned. But it’s a work that God blesses along the way. I’m far from what I should be, and definitely not by any means have I “arrived.” But one thing I can say is that regardless of the sweat, tears, and energy needed to press toward God’s perfect will, it is abundantly clear that God takes care of us along the way.
The joy of walking with Him. The fulfillment in serving Him in ministry. The honor of discipling others toward Him has built-in blessings of their own. For the new Christian, pursuing God can seem quite intimidating. We think about what we have to “give up.” We think about what we have to “do without.” Little do we realize that what we actually “give up” or “do without” are things that either have built in negative consequences or things that only bring temporary happiness that often fades away very quickly.
The joy of pressing toward God and His calling brings a lasting fulfillment that only gets sweeter and deeper and more refined as we continue to serve Him. The encouragement this morning is that out of all the decisions we have to make today, this week, or even this month, may it be said that we made “a worthy pursuit” – which is clearly, and only the pursuit of God’s perfect will in our lives.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE DAY
Philippians 3:14 - I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let us not make the mistake of making any move, or taking any action, unless we have gone to God and gotten some counsel about it.
A biblical template I use and that I have been taught when it comes to proving my music.