Pressing On!

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on 
to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider 
myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and 
straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which 
God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  
Philippians 3:12-14 

One of my favourite movies is called, “A Knights Tale”.  One particular scene has the main characters travelling down a lonely road, when they come upon Geoffrey Chaucer walking past them.  Chaucer is not wearing any clothes* because he has lost them all gambling. They ask him what he is doing and he responds that he is “trudging”.  They don't seem to understand what he is saying so he clarifies it for them by defining it, “To trudge:  the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to soldier on.”
 Have you ever had a day you were trudging through?  I know I have. Sometimes life can be difficult and hard.  There are certain circumstances that you hope when you wake up the next morning they won't be there. It could be a health issue, a loss, or a difficult life situation, but most times although we want them to go away, they remain.  
I think the Apostle Paul did as well, except he didn't the trudge days, he would have called them “Pressing On” days.  They are similar, but with a couple marked differences.  Paul was the one who wrote the above words in Philippians, and from what I have read about him, his “pressing on” days they were pretty extreme.  Listen to what he says in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”  

  If I was him, I  would have been picking up my toys and going home.  Paul was not merely trudging or soldiering on, he was determining to press on.  I have often thought if there was a person I would like to interview or chat with it would be Paul.  I'd want to talk to him about his hardships and whether it ever crossed his mind to just pack it in.  In some regards, these verses in Philippians are that interview. I want to take a little bit of literary license and do that interview.

John: I'm so please to be speaking to the Apostle Paul today.  A man who formally persecuted the church, who miraculously came to faith and believe in Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and now is the father of missions to the Gentiles in the known world.  It's great to have you with us.

Paul:  Thanks for having me, we've been praying that God would give us some open doors for Christ's message.

John: I thought we'd talk a little bit today about some of the difficulties you have endured.  I know if I would have went though any of the stuff you have gone through I would have packed it in.  How do you do it?

Paul:  First, it's not me at all, I can only do anything because of Christ's strength working through me. Sometimes people look at me and think because of all the stuff I've been through that I am somehow a Super Follower of Christ.  Last time I checked I don't have an “S” on my chest.  I am on a journey just like them.  I am not perfect, I have not arrived.  Everyday I get up and I put my cloak on like everyone else.  Everyday is a new day, but the great thing is that God's grace is sufficient for me and you.

John:  But it must be hard, when you have run into so many difficulties…

Paul:  Of course it is, There were some circumstances that I thought this is more than I can handle.  My colleagues and I were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  In our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened for a specific reason, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God.

John:  So instead of caving in, you learned to depend on God?

Paul: I learned this lesson a long time ago, when I am at the end of my strength and resources, that's when God shows up in power.  When I am weak – then He is strong.  I'm not going to lie to you, I have some really good ministry skills.  God has equipped me with lots of great tools and competencies in order to do what I do, but I consider all that stuff garbage in comparison to knowing Christ and having his power.

John: So, what's your word to people who are at the end of their resources?

Paul: Press on!  Keep pressing on!  You will reap a harvest if you don't give up.  Your work and your labour is not in vain, but you have to keep pressing on.  You will truly be amazed at what is available to you if you just keep straining ahead.  I have found joy unspeakable, peace that passes understanding, sufficient grace, strength in time of need, a God who is faithful and so much more.

John: What would be your final words of advice?

Paul:  I always love using the imagery of athletics, because most of us can relate to it.  In order to win in sport it takes incredible focus. Training can be arduous and it takes discipline,  and when you don't feel like doing it, do it any way. Press on!  In life and ministry I want to run to win and there are many days you just want to give up.  Don't!  There is incredible power in focus.  Fix your gaze on Jesus and this one thing you need to do – forget what is behind and strain ahead.  Press on!

I need to be reminded of this daily.  I love the words of Bob Dylan's song “Pressing On” off of his “Saved” album.  I'm not sure if he is still following the words of his song, but I know I want to.

Well I'm pressing on
Yes, I'm pressing on
Well I'm pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need, when it all comes from within
When what's lost has been found , what's to come has already been?

Well I'm pressing on
Yes, I'm pressing on
Well I'm pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Shake the dust off of your feet, don't look back
Nothing can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptations not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it runs in my vein.

Well I'm pressing on
Yes, I'm pressing on
Well I'm pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Pastor John

* Note: in this scene of the movie there is some nudity, so viewer discretion advised.

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