Friday, May 6, 2011

On Toward the Goal

St. Paul wrote, "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" (Phil. 3:12b-14).

Paul knew something of ancient sporting events, which included distance races from which our modern marathon is descended. Every marathon has its share of dropouts. Some fall due to injury. Some tire prematurely because they try to run all out rather than pacing themselves. A few get called out to tend to emergencies. Some just quit because they decide it's too hard. And some, sad to say, turn aside to more attractive things on the sidelines.

They all have their counterparts in the spiritual race of life. Many a Christian has burnt out from ignoring God's command to rest regularly, or has fallen prey to the lures of this world. Then there are those who drag their feet and grumble, "No one told me it would be this much work." As Jerry Bridges noted (in Trusting God Even When Life Hurts), the marathon isn't really an adequate metaphor: "The Christian life could better be described as an obstacle course of marathon length." At least real-life marathons are run over smooth ground, without continued training after the race starts, without an enemy constantly waiting the chance to trip us.

Nonetheless, those who persevere in the Christian race will finish. A clue for those seeking encouragement when the going gets tough is found in Paul's words above: "Straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal." In other words, keep your eyes on the Heavenly vision.

Those who have the reward in clear focus waste little time bemoaning the distance between.

We are not yet made perfect, though growing;
We are not yet completely made whole;
But, as Christ made us His and works in us,
Let us press ever on toward the goal.

We have things in our past that are shameful,
But Christ’s blood cleans the filthiest soul:
So, forgetting what now lies behind us,
Let us press ever on toward the goal.

We grow tired time to time, and discouraged,
But all things still are in God’s control:
So, renewed in our faith and thus strengthened,
Let us press ever on toward the goal.

Our reward will be waiting in Heaven,
Where all things are completely made whole:
So, with eyes on the One Who has called us,
Let us press ever on toward the goal!


Janet Ann Collins said...

Beautiful poem. Most people who write traditional, rhyming poetry now seem to bend the grammar and force the rhymes, but you never do that. The message is good, too.

carol said...

A great message! Living as we are called to live does require surrendering our will for His. Yesterday as I was sitting in the sun for a few minutes saoking up the sunshine, the Lord showed me that it's when I disappear that He can be seen. It's about dying to self to gain and win the race.

Davalynn Spencer said...

Great encouragement. One of the easiest things to forget is perseverance. Don't quit! It's a whisper we hear in the light of god's presence and forget in the dark of adversity. Thanks for your encouraging words.

Katherine Swarts said...

Jan-- Thanks for the comment. (You write children's books: if you network with picture book publishers, ask them someday how many manuscripts they get with forced, amateurish rhyme--then stand by for fifteen minutes of horror stories!)

Carol-- Well said. And how often it does feel, literally, like dying!

Davalynn-- I like the way you describe God's encouragement as a "whisper." It often seems as though no one could hear that whisper over the noise of the world; but when you know someone intimately, your ears can pick up on his voice even in the middle of a bustling crowd.