For I Press On Toward the Goal
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:13-14
The year was 1993, Jimmy Valvano was being presented the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the annual ESPYs. Just prior to that night, Mr. Valvano was given the news that he had been diagnosed with metastic adenocarcinoma, a rare cancer that gave him only a year left to live. In the face of it all, he stepped onto the stage that night before many famous athletes, celebrities, and the eyes of the world and gave his famous acceptance speech. In his speech he said some things that made me think a bit and reflect on my own life, despite facing terminal cancer he said “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” While many of us are not waging war on a disease of the body, we all wage war on a disease of the soul. That disease is sin.
No one is immune to it. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” None of us are perfect, so the question we need to ask ourselves is how we will respond when we fall into sin. Whenever we stumble there are two ways we can respond. We can either feel sorry for ourselves, or we can confess it, get back up, and continue on. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." We are all going to mess up, but falling down does not mean you have failed. The minute we fail is when we fall and refuse to get back up. It’s like what the ancient Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” Despite all the suffering and afflictions that the apostle Paul faced, he said to the church at Philippi, “I press on toward the goal…” We need to have that determination to press on no matter what we go through.
For some people they have a hard time getting back up because they find no hope. The scriptures tell us that we do in fact have a reason to get back up. That reason is Jesus Christ. We are told in 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” It is because of Christ’s love for us that he went to the cross, and died for you and me so that one day we may be able to have a home in heaven with him one day.
Once we have established that determination to get up when we fall, what is it that we have to do next? Well we need to understand where our destination will be. A track runner does not train and enter a race with no end goal in mind. He sets he mind on the finish line; that is his final destination. Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that in order to set our minds towards the final goal we have to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead”. While we are not track runners, we should all have a final destination. But what exactly is our “finish line”? The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:14 it is “the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Our ultimate goal is heaven and we are to strive for it every day. But how are we able to find the strength and determination in order to reach our final destination? Well, we must first understand that we cannot obtain this alone. We are to put our trust in God. Isaiah 40 verse 31 tells us that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” and they will “mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” God has promised us that He will always be with us. If we trust in Him, then we shall be able to persevere.
Webster’s dictionary defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”. As you go through your life, there will be times where you stumble during the race. It is in that moment that you must ask yourself if perseverance defines your attitude. To quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up”. Keep on “pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.”