What does 'Pressing On' mean?
When you hear the phrase 'pressing on', it could mean a number of things. Does it mean pressing a button? Does it mean mustering your determination so that you can do something, despite the difficulties and hurdles? Does it mean making decisions despite a whole range of possibilities? Does is mean putting the past behind you and stepping into a different future?
I think it probably means, to one degree or another, all of those things. What I wanted to look at with the guys in the YFC conference was the particular implications of the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi about 'pressing on'. They are recorded for us in Philippians Chapter 3 - so why not grab a bible and read the passage now, before then reflecting on some of the points that I made with the YFC guys. A great bunch of people, by the way!
I won't let anyone who has given up on their dream convince me to give up on mine.
The first thing I wantes to say was that I was not willing to give up on my dream because someone who had given up on theirs told me I should! It strikes me that one of the greatest blights on faith and hope and expectation is cynicism. You know what I mean - the kind of naysayers who tell you that no matter what your idea might be, they had it once and it did't work for them, so it won;t work for you either.
There is not very much that is more discouraging than seeing the etched lines of disappointment and cynicism on the face of another human being. If you are not careful, that cynicism can become the air that you breathe. Whatever happens don't let that happen. We have each got one shot at life - so make it count. Leave your mark. Do what you love. Find out what you can do with your life. DOn;t let your hopes and dreams and longings for changing the world be dumbed down or diluted by the discouragements and objections of others. In twenty or thirty years someone else will be sitting where you sit now. They will be the 'young generation' with fire in their bellies and longing in their hearts. So grab the life that you have the opportunities that God is giving you with both hands.
The Desire to Move Forward has Got to outstrip every other desire.
You will not 'press on' until the desire to move forward outstrips every other desire in your life. Paul learnt that lesson - and you can hear it in his words in Philippians 3. His leadership was under attack and his credentials were under question. But he doesn't just defend himself with the people he is writing to, instead he turns their whole argument on his head by proving his credentials and then changing the whole argument and saying that what they think is important is NOT the most important thing to him. When you read the first section of Philippians 3 you realise that for PAul, self reliance was not the strongest motivator (v3); his heritage was not his strongest motivator (vv4-6); his achievements were not his strongest motivator (v7). In fact everything else (v8) was less important for him than having Jesus at the centre of his whole life. This man, who was well eductaed, well-connected and exceptionally clever, had such an encounter with God by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus now stood at the centre of everything he was and everything he did. So much so, that he describes everything else that he had once thought important as 'rubbish' (NIV). In fact the Greek wod is much stronger - he says everything else he once thought important was nothing but a load of crap. Sorry to offend you, but that's what the word is. Paul's desire to kow Christ and to have Jesus at the centre of his life was so strong that everything else felt like crap! Wow. That is a challenging thought for us, when we become comfortable or rest on our laurels, or rely on our own strength, cleverness or ideas. As long as we take our credentials, our significance or our value from something other than Jesus, we are taking it from the wrong place.
You have got to change the culture of your life.
Here's the second thing that we see from Philippians 3. In verses 8-12, Paul makes clear that he now has a new centre in his life - and that new centre is Jesus and knowing Him. Where once he was defined by all the things he mentions in verses 3-7. He is now defined by Jesus and his relationship with Him. I am preaching some of this in my own church (www.goldhill.org) on Sunday nights in a series we have just started, but the reality is that unless we change the culture of our lives, we will continue to assess ourselves wrongly and fall fould of the same mistakes. Paul was able to face anything and emerge from it determined to keep going (see 2 Corinthins 4:8-12) precisely because he had a new centre and a new culture shaping his life and his thinking. That new culture was Jesus. That shouldn't be a surprise to us, because Jesus Himself had a such a strong culture in his life that he was able to face anythign and not be blown off course. He was victimised, but never a victim. He was poor, but did not have a poverty spirit. He was attacke but he never reacted,He always responded. He was abandoned, but did not live with an orphaned spirit. How did Jesus do that? How could He love and serve people the way He did? I think He did it because He knew His identity flowed from His Father and no-one else. He choose to listen to the right voices, He had a right vision for His life and He was shaped by the right values. If we want to press on, we have to be the same.
You have got to keep your focus.
If we want to press on, we have got to keep our focus. In verses 12-end of the chapter of Philippians 3, Paul makes clear that he has one central aim and focus in his life - he wants to know Christ more. Wow! What's your focus? In a buisness book published some years ago entitled 'The One Thing' the author argued that productivity goes up by about 70% when you know what your 'one thing is and you do it.
What is your 'one thing'? It might be justice, it might be seeing people whole, it might be helping people know Jesus? Whatever it is, focus on it. Let it shape the way you think and let it challenge the decisions you make and the priorities you set. Your internal focus (mine is that I want to kow Christ more and be more like Him) will then lead to you being able to understand what your life purpose is (I want people to be set free by the truth and know that all that Jesus said and does for them is real and that they matter. I want people to know that every person is made in the image of God and therefore oppression, poverty, manipulation and expolitation are wrong. Christian discipleship is the best way to live and the local church should be the centre of transformation at every level in a community, the the bible can be trusted, the Holy Spirit is real and the truth really does set them free to change the world. That is why, first and foremost, I am a pastor and love leading the local church I do). What is your one thing? Find it, live it, breathe it.
Let the future shape you.
Lastly, if we want to press into what God has for us then we have got to let God's vision for us and His vision for the world reach back into our present lives and change us. Far too many of us allow the past to be stronger than the future - and that is just plain wrong. In the last verses of Philippians 3, Paul talks about taking hold of Christ so that he can encounter all that there is for him. Paul takes hold of Christ Who has already taken hold of Paul. He knows his citizenship is now in heaven, not just in Tarsus. We need to allow what God says about us, what He thinks we are worth and what His plans are for the world to reach into the daily reality of our lives and shape us and be more powerful than any set of circumstances we face or challenges we are experiencing. Our future is secure, our Saviour is reliable and our God is good - so we can face the world and the present with a strong sense of confidence in God.
The decision is ours.
Throughout the history of the Church and Israel, there has been an interesting phenomena. The majority often misses what God is doing, whilst a tiny minority catch it. Just because mediocrity becomes the norm does not mean it has to be your norm. The decision to press into God might be mockes, misunderstood or maligned - but that doesn't make it wrong. Doing the poular thing or the easy thing isn't the same as doing the right thing or the good thing. God wants to press into us and he invites us to press into Him. Whether we do that or not is our call.
What good is an invitation unless you respond to it with a yes?