Philippians 3: 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Theodore Roosevelt
Arguably, no one understands Roosevelt’s comments more than elite athletes. To perform at the highest level on the top stage, requires all three of the above: “effort, pain and difficulty”. Just watch the strain on the face of a runner at the end of a middle or long distance race. They are doing nothing more than enduring pain, and doing so because they desire a prize when they cross the finish line.
I understand what President Roosevelt was saying and agree to an extent, but there is a very notable exception to the above. The thing of greatest value to me and yet one of the easiest things I ever obtained was my assurance of eternal life with Jesus when I die. Sitting around campfire I did nothing more than confess my sins and invite Jesus into my life more than 40 years ago. Oswald Chambers put it this way: “If I am a friend of Jesus, I must deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is. Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Jn 16)
If, however, we preach a message that says: “accept Jesus and now live on easy street”, then you are clearing preaching from a different book than I’ve been reading out of; namely the Bible. Chambers continues in the same devotional by saying: “The exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, ‘Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.’”
In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he instructs them to work out their salvation. 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2) The Greek verb for “work out” means “to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition”. In our key scripture today from Philippians 3:12-13 we hear Paul use words like “straining” and “pressing on towards”. This may sound like religious legalism, some sort of attempt for Paul to earn his place with God or earn God’s acceptance or pleasure, but it is far from that. If you read all of Paul’s writings you will quickly see that he recognizes that he is saved by grace and was absolutely loved and adored when God fashioned him in his mother’s womb. No, Paul’s decision to be a sold out follower of Christ was because of his great love for Jesus and because he wanted to share with the world the greatest gift he had ever received – Jesus Christ. And for that he would strain on, and he would work out his salvation.
How about you? Are you straining on share the greatest gift you ever received?