The Courageous Christian (4)
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 also 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. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind… Philippians 3.12-15
In any endeavor or undertaking, beginning well is important. We want to understand the purpose of our project or task, as well as what our particular role is in bringing that task to completion. What tools will we need? How can we become familiar with their use? What other resources are available? How much time will this effort require?
The same is true in the life of faith. Once we come to believe in Jesus, we need to know what following Him is all about. Where are we headed? What are the best ways of getting there? What should we be doing while we remain in this life? What tools, resources, and disciplines are available to us? How can we best use our time to fulfill our calling as witnesses for Christ unto the glory of God and the progress of His Kingdom?
If we answer those questions according to God’s Word, we’ll be off to a good start. But we need to review these questions frequently, and take stock of our activities and progress toward fulfilling our calling (Prov. 4.20-27). Because it’s not those who begin well who achieve the final, glorious destination of seeing Jesus face and face, and dwelling forever with Him in glory. Rather, it’s those who finish well, who can say with the apostle Paul that we have fought the good fight and finished our course as we began it – eyes forward, lives fully engaged, always in pursuit of that calling to which God has called us (2 Tim. 4.6-8).
Between the beginning well and ending well, we must press on in pursuit of our calling.
It takes courage to press on in a world filled with distractions and obstacles. We need courage not just at the beginning of our walk with the Lord, but every day, and every moment of every day. Pressing on in pursuit of the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12) is a calling that demands total commitment and determination to overcome every obstacle that might hinder us in our race.
We’ll need the courage of God’s Spirit to keep up a winning pace as we run the race that God has set before us in this life (Heb. 12.1, 2).
Make no mistake about it: The world, the flesh, and the devil will strew our path with many obstacles, all of which are designed to discourage, if not defeat us, in our pursuit of our calling in Christ. We need to recognize those obstacles so that, as we encounter them, we’ll know what to do to continue pressing on.
The most obvious obstacle to our course and calling is the world itself – all the things and obligations and conditions that crop up in our path to tangle, detour, discourage, or defeat us. Most common among these I suppose are those that have to do with our everyday responsibilities. We’re so busy making a living, raising a family, and keeping a home that we fail to see how each of these fits into our Kingdom agenda. Mostly, we try to fit our Kingdom lives and work into niches of time around all these other things. But that misses the point of Jesus instructing us to seek the Kingdom first, in everything. The busyness of our worldly lives can lead us to set our Kingdom calling into a minor niche and time slot. If we do that, soon enough we won’t keep most of even that time as we intend.
A second obstacle the world throws at us has to do with all the gewgaws and other shiny stuff it insists we simply must have if we’re to be happy and fulfilled. The world’s mouthpieces insist that we think of our lives in terms of economics, material happiness, and the life of convenience and ease. This way leads to idolatry and a serious sidetrack from our Kingdom course.
Then there are the obstacles thrown up by our own still-sinful flesh. We’re lazy. Unbelieving. Fearful. Snared in some besetting sin. Too easily satisfied with our progress in the Lord. Pressing on can sound a little fanatical and foreboding. We prefer a leisurely pace, in the company of like-minded believers who don’t talk much about fighting the good fight, running our race with gusto, laying down our lives, or taking up our crosses.
In the life of faith, we can be our own worst enemies, talking ourselves out of pressing on in pursuit of the Kingdom and settling for a more comfortable, less demanding walk with the Lord.
Finally, the devil and his minions are out there. They don’t want you to press on in faith, and they offer many “good reasons” why you shouldn’t. You don’t want to offend anybody. You’re already doing enough for your church. A little sin that doesn’t hurt anybody doesn’t really matter. No one’s going to want to hear you talk about Jesus. Your present state of Christian faith is good enough. And so on. Lies. All designed to rob us of the full and abundant life Jesus came to give us (Jn. 10.10), but which we must press on in pursuit of if we are to realize it more and more. The lies of the devil will rob us of the truth that sets us free and sanctifies us for the glory of God (Jn. 8.32; 17.17). We need to recognize these lies and bat them away with the truth of God.
The courage to press on
Rather than hesitate before these and any obstacles that would keep us from a closer and more fruitful and powerful walk with Christ, we need to recognize these as they come, and simply say, “Outta my way! I’m in pursuit of Jesus and His Kingdom, and you’re not going to deter or defeat me.”
We need to seek such courage from the Lord each day, and throughout the day, whenever obstacles arise. And we need to encourage one another in this resolution, lest we fall short and drag others down with us.
I know this sounds like work. It is. And it’s what we must do if we are to realize more of our great salvation, encouraged and empowered by the Spirit of God. Who works in and through us to do of God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2.12, 13). Set goals for your pursuit. Find prayer partners to support you and who will encourage you along your way. Learn all you can about how the Kingdom ought to come in your particular spheres. Commit your time to the Lord each day, then work hard to make the most of it, in the courage of the Spirit and for the Kingdom and glory of God (Ps. 90.12; Eph. 5.15-17).
You have a calling from God that is uniquely yours. The joy, purpose, meaning, excitement, and satisfaction your soul desires are to be found in the pursuit of that calling. You’ll need courage to stay at it for all your life; but the Spirit can give you that courage. And as He does, you can share it with others.
1. What obstacles to your pursuit of Christ and His Kingdom do you most frequently encounter? How can you overcome these?
2. What’s the difference between working for your salvation and working it out? How would you explain this to a new believer?
3. What should your strategy be when you come across some obstacle threatening to sidetrack your pursuit of Christ and His Kingdom?
Next steps – Conversation: Do you have a prayer partner? Talk with your prayer partner about the obstacles you are facing. Pray together for courage for both of you in pressing on in the Lord.
Our new book What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? can help you in setting your mind on Christ. Order your copy by clicking here.
Not sure about where God is calling you to learn and serve Jesus? Watch this brief video and download the accompanying worksheet to discover your own Personal Mission Field.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.