Slowing Down but Pressing On
2005 New Year’s Message
Jerry A Collins
What is it we still must attain in our Christian life?
What is it we must lay hold of in our walk with Christ?
What is it we must forget and reach out for as believers?
All of us have known the feel of running in a rat race. Busy people in the fast lane. The pace swift and wild at times as we live our lives. The urgent often demanding attention over the important. Running in circles and putting out fires. We have been enjoying a Christmas vacation but already have begun to feel the push and pull of a busy schedule to come. Some of it is just the way it is. Some of it we have caused by poor decision making, improper priorites or just plain time mismanagement. But surely God does not plan for us to live like this? There is an alternative
to running a race that simply increases speed or that gets us up earlier and keeps us up later. Maybe this year we should consider slowing down—stop running. Take a deep breathe. Rethink our purpose and direction, and then deliberately pursue that. Philippians 3:12-16 tells us what that should be. How can we do that this year?
1. REALIZE THERE IS STILL MORE FOR ME TO GAIN 12
Three times and in three ways it is noted that there is still more to gain. (1) Not that I have already obtained (2) or have already become perfect (3) Brethren I do not regard myself as having laid hold of yet 13a. Here is a spiritual giant in the eyes of many people. And he wants them and us to know that he has not yet attained the goals he mentioned previously in vss 8-11. He admits that there is still much room for further sanctification in his life. His salvation happened nearly thirty years ago. He has won many spiritual and personal battles since then. He has grown much in those years but candidly confesses to us that he has not obtained nor been made mature yet. There are still more spiritual heights to be climbed. Gaining Christ fully and completely, knowing him in maturity still a need. In vs 13 he emphatically states and soberly calculates that he has not reached a state of spiritual perfection in which there is no more need to strive to overcome sin or to know Christ more intimately (Jesus never said this). The lesson for us today is that we must never reach a stalemate in our spiritual development. There must never be a spiritual plateau beyond which we cannot climb. Between Christ’s first coming and His second coming we will know the struggle of our being saved from the penalty of sin and our need to be continuously delivered from the power of sin. Someday we will be completely saved from sin’s presence but until then not one of us can say that we have ‘arrived’. So this year we must realize that there is still more for us in our walk with Christ. That there is still more to learn from the scriptures. That there is still more I can apply from God’s Word. That there is still more I need to change about my life based on this. There is still room for christlikeness in my life. This is the first thing I must do this year.
2. WE MUST PURSUE THIS WITH SINGLEMINDED DEVOTION
There will be many distractions
in our lives this year to tempt us to cut corners in our spiritual maturity. It
is true that we have not arrived spiritually but that does not condone an
apathetic attitude. He repeats the idea “I
press on”. The first time in vs 12 he means to
pursue Christlikeness strenuously and persistently in
the same way a runner may strain toward the finish line. It will require tremendous
effort and focus to do so. To grasp and comprehend and understand all that he
has in Christ and all Christ has for him. It is all about Jesus Christ the
center focus. His person. His work.
His will. It will require a complete effort, a total devotion to this purpose. The second time in vs
13 he means to pursue this with a singlemindedness.
We do not live in a vacuum until Christ returns. We put off certain attitudes
and we put on others. We are focused on only one goal—one single goal in our lives. Like a runner who never looks to
the right or to the left but keeps eyes focused solely on the finish line. Not
turning around diverted by anything that is behind us. Paul never reverted to
his Jewish way of life or achievements. He left all of that behind. You may
have to leave some things behind this year. Things that have been distracting
you and diverting your attention away from your walk with Christ that will effect your judgment. But simultaneously we are reaching out
to other things. A new paradigm for living. The things
ahead include knowing Christ intimately as well as being found by him as one
pleasing to Him. That goal permanently fixed before one’s eyes. How many people waste their lives on temporal pursuits. In
the end of their lives and wondered how many have lived distracted, blinded, and diverted lives.
The third time in vs 14 he means that he is running like this with an ultimate purpose in mind. It is toward the goal of winning a prize. This prize is spiritual in nature and includes the final and complete salvation awaiting him in eternity. That is, knowing Christ perfectly and intimately without any hindrances. To know at the judgment seat of Christ, that he has striven with all he has to become a person worth rewarding in that day (2 Cor ). In the meantime he is going to run by minimizing distractions along the way with a purpose and devotion every single day with this prize in view. For us, then, the Christian life is a disciplined life with a view toward the finishing line. It means that every day this year must be a day lived with eternity in view and my judgment before Christ. I must understand the distractions of the world and my sinful nature and throw them off. Time is short. As long as I am here, I have the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven. Do it now & do it this year. We have started on this race. When we received Jesus Christ as our Savior what began was a race to the finish line. While running this race there will be moments on it’s course when we get winded, begin to ache with the effort. What will keep us going?
3. STAY MOTIVATED WITH A PROPER ATTITUDE 15-16
The plan has not changed. The goal is still the same. The prize is still the same. There should be no disagreement about this. The standard has already been set. Don’t look for something different or something else. To help us maintain the proper attitude and perspective:
(1) The knowledge that God planned to bring you to himself. He has layed hold of your life and you must figure out where that may take you and the role He has for you. (2) The realization that God has equipped you with divine enablements to participate. You are equipped by God for this task. Maybe the greatest need among believers is to live up to what we already have in Christ. To pursue that all of our days.
1. Beware of any form of Christian perfection that includes the idea of sinlessness in our present walk. You will never be fully free from sin.
2. Sinlessness is not our goal. Christlikeness is. Striving to know Christ intimately to please Him fully. But it comes with a struggle.
3. Do not give up pursuing christlikeness and spiritual maturity sinjce Jesus has laid hold of you for this. He is on your side in the fight so come humbly to him for help.