Reference: Philipians 3:12-14(NKJV)
" ...I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"
Two years ago I experienced the worst and best moments of my life. March 20, 2000 I was diagnosed with kidney failure and lupus. Two days later I birthed, my two- year old daughter, Selah. The birth of my child was the most incredible, exhilarating, and exhausting thing I had ever witnessed. My pregnancy brought me closer to God, but pushed me further from Selah's father. By the time I had her I knew I would be parenting her without him. With God's renewed presence in my life, I believed I could handle the job without reservation.
I was not expecting my health to decline, because of Selah's birth. The lupus weakened most of my major organs: my kidneys, my lungs and my heart. Through Christ's angelsi, I survived the trauma. Yet, I was left with a weak heart and permanently disabled. Miraculously, I regained most of my strength and I am raising Selah with the help of my family and close friends.
During the darkest moments of those years, I wanted to give up. I was so disappointed with the reality of my life. I desperately wanted my health renewed ...my future back...my dreams back. It behooved me to think that perhaps God was moving me back on track.
Walking away from God five years before took me into places that no Christian woman should have ever seen. Coming back to God was not going to be as safe and secure as I thought. My life had deviated off God's past so violently that it would take an amazing overhaul on my part. God had to turn me in the right direction. I needed help.
Paul's moving thank you letter to the church at Philippi1 served as compass for the church, while he was in prison in Rome2. The Letter to the Philippians gave them some insight about the life that they would lead. "Philippines", further, gave me the help I needed to move on with my life. Furthermore, it became my compass towards God's purpose.
Paul states in Philippians 3:14 (NKJV) that he is going to "press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus". Although I have read that scripture many times, while listening to a sermon by Bishop Frank C. Cummings3, one word stood out to me. That word was "upward". "Amazing" I thought to myself. All this time I never thought about my call to God. Why was I letting this setback take away the life that God gave me?
Bishop T.D. Jakes4 explains that Satan "attacks you in subtle ways, such as bad memories, low self-esteem, or feelings of unworthiness." My bad memories haunted me so that I did not want to move on with my life. By the time I was strong enough to move back to Atlanta, Georgia, I was too afraid to go. I was afraid I would stress out and get sick again. My security was violated; so I rented a home in Valdosta, Georgia and clung to what I thought was safe. I missed God's point entirely.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have said to yourself," Boy, I learned my lesson". In actuality, however, you did not learn anything at all. Satan deterred your plans once again. He took your suffering and twisted it around to keep you from actualizing your purpose. He motivated you to stop and do nothing. Out of fear he controls you once again. Because we have not firmly developed the ability to discern the truth and know Satan's tactics, we constantly fail. We continue to act like children, who are not physically or mentally mature to handle certain situations
When I was thirty-six weeks pregnant and suffering from renal failure my doctors had to perform an amniocentesis, to find out whether the baby's lungs were developed. If they were not developed by birth, she would suffer some abnormality with her lungs or possibly die. Our spiritual welfare shares the same fate as unborn babes. If we do not mature into what we are to be, we will not fulfill God's purpose. There must be a time when we must mature in our Christian walk. There are three things to do, in order to push forward in Christian maturity: (1) unload the past, (2) go in the right direction and (3) prepare for suffering.
1: Unload the Past
One of my Europeans history professors once said that studying history helps us not to make the same mistakes. Well, I agree and disagree with that statement. Sometimes studying our history keeps us from going forward with our life.
I have a bad habit of looking in my rear view window at my daughter, while driving. I try to sneak a peak back there, to see what she is doing. Every time I do that, I swerve a bit off the road or I slow down. I lose time and increase my chance of having an accident, every time I do this. Although my motive is understandable, it is not helpful. How can I complete our destination, if I am always looking back?
How can I push forward with my life, if I am always looking back? Looking back deterred me from moving back to Atlanta, from pursuing a writing career, and from leaving an abusive relationship. At some point, we all have volumes of pages on heartache, mistakes, and hard times in our personal history books. These past events haunt us even now. What ambitions, dreams, or purposes have you delayed because you were still hurting from the past?
A few weeks ago, my twin brother, David called me. He had some questions about the history of church denomination and he wanted to explain to me why he changed his denomination affiliation. We were raised in a Baptist church in a small town in South Georgia. Oftentimes, the minister and teachers would misrepresent the bible, because they could not read very well and did not have a formal education in divinity. If you corrected what they read, you were reprimanded. By the time my brother became a teenager he was very frustrated with the concept of Christianity and left the faith all together. While in college, however, he befriended the daughter of a minister, who later became his wife, and thus, renewed his faith.
Although my brother is a new convert, he worries about my soul's salvation. His denomination tells him that I will go to hell, because I am not a member of their organization. After I gave him a brief history of church denomination, I assured him that my affiliation would not be the thing that sends me to hell. Moreover, I advised him that as he grew further in his walk the Holy Spirit would reveal to him that Christ does not care about denomination.
After our conversation, I went over it again in my head. I hated the direction of the conversation. God's purpose is far more important than custom and belief. This sort of thing keep us from pressing forward in maturity Tradition and denomination practices keep us from "running the race that is set before us". In Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV) Apostle Paul urges the Hebrews to "lay aside every weight," which turns us back to where he says, "leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. (Vs. 6:1)". Because the Hebrews were clinging to Judaism, the doctrines and practices of a management system that had passed5, they were hindering their ability to press on. He wants them to leave those laws in the pastii. Christ's death and resurrection symbolized a new law, one that did not need Judaism as their guide.
This urging applies to us as well. Instead of cleaving on to family tradition, college oaths, and anything that we use as a standard to base success upon, we need to put our mind on the most important goal- to know Christ6. In order to increase our knowledge of Christ, we need to keep our eyes forward. The journey is too long and too narrow, to turn around. As James Cleveland sang in his classic gospel song, "No Ways Tired",
I don't feel no ways tired
I've come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me the road would be easy
and I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me.
We should not rest on our laurels, but press on and push forward.
Try these exercises to unload the past.
1. Unload the things that hurt you. Write down the events in your life that caused you pain. Then write down why you were in pain and what you would have liked to be done differently. Write what you have done to keep this pain in your life.
2. Forgive and forget. (2 Cor. 2:7 NKJV). Take a family member that has wronged you big time and just let it go. However, that does not mean you need to interact with that person gain. Just let that person out of your system.
3. Get rid of your impatient attitude. "Impatience" means to not endure. To grow up in Christian maturity we must began to exercise the power of endurance. Most often we do not wish to endure through our trials because we have not unloaded past disappointments. Instead of giving it another try we dig into the ground afraid to go forward. Try this: What is your favorite food indulgence? (chocolate, pizza, soda). Do not eat or drink any of it for one week. Can you endure?
4. Give up things you do not need. What television show you watch that does not edify Christ? Do not watch that show for one month. Take that time and devote it to bible study or spend it with family.
Further Quote References:
"I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my walk is not yet ended7."
Instead of looking at the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then.8
Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them. Look at the sunny side of everything. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give everyone a smile. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others. Be too big for worry and too noble for anger. 9
1 The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 1995.
2 Acts 28. The Holy Bible.
3 Sermon: How to Press On. Bishop Frank C. Cummings. Atlanta, Georgia. 2002.
4 Push! Holy Bible, Woman Thou Art Loosed Edition. Jakes, T.D. Nelson Publishers. Nashville, TN 1995
5 The Prize. McLain, Clifford . Northside Bible Church Publications. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 1999.
6 Talks for Growing Christians. Reed, David.
7 Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela, Nelson. pg.544. Little, Brown & Co. Canada. 1994.
8 Diana Ross 1944-, American Singer, Actress
9 Christian D. Larsen
i Dr. Steven Patten, Dr. David Song, Dr. David Snyder, Dr. Andrew Smith, Dr. Wendy Brooks, Dr. Chester Burks, Dr. Angus Howard, Dr. Hugh Spruell, Dr. Trey Powell, Dr. Lynn Lee, Dr. David Tidmore and Dr. Woods.
ii colossians 2:16-23
Dee I really liked this article. I am also aware of those well-meaning uneducated Bible preachers whose pride get hurt when they are corrected. They keep many away from God. I liked your article because of its honesty and because the message is definitely what we all need in order to press onward. Great article. -Carole