Have you ever had to push yourself to get something finished? Like get that best grade in school or complete that assignment on the job?
Remember how it felt when you reached that goal, no matter how much “pushing” you did prior to it?
I was on my company’s track team while stationed at Fort Campbell in the Army. I remember the training we had to do before the division race. Because we pressed hard, we took second place in division. That was a huge feat! I also remember when I completed my first forced road march in the Army. It was 17 miles under the punishing sun of White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. With full gear. I remember the joy of accomplishment that flooded me when I reached the end without stopping… and without any help. I kept telling myself “just keep moving”. I will never forget that powerful lesson of endurance. Even though it was quite scary going into it, I made it. I think about it often when I am in the press of living holy.
Being in the press and pressing forward is a common theme in life. In fact, the stories we all are inspired by the most are those where the person pressed through difficulties and made it. Some even go on to achieve great things. What most saints fail to remember is that conflict and challenge confront all, whether saved or unsaved. The difference? We have supernatural help, hope and promise on our side.
If you discipline yourself, it increases your ability to not only help others, but greatly decreases the possibility that you are caught off guard and fall by the wayside.
Consider if you will 1 Corinthians 9:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
and 2 Tim 2:1
…if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully
The word strive means to “devote serious energy and effort”.
The reason why serious energy and effort is devoted because the challenge may have an extra ordinary degree of difficulty. As I have said before, difficult is not synonymous with impossible.
Notice that even with all the striving, there must be temperance (balance). We are not perfection freaks that need to prove we are “sin free” 24 hours a day. To be honest, such attitudes smacks of self righteousness and are an affront to the grace of God. On our “best day”, our righteousness is as filthy rags. In fact, in the very next chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul warns us to “take heed lest we fall”.
The doctrine of perfectionism is just as spiritually destructive as antinominanism. The concept of perfection, as in never making a mistake, never committing a sin, never doing wrong, never being disobedient doesn’t exist in scripture. Thus, the mastery Paul speaks of attaining refers to power over, not eradication.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:9 NIV
Don’t mistake this to mean the bible agrees with our sin. Rather, it simply acknowledges it while quickly providing God’s solution.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1:10 NIV
Life —following Jesus Christ as a committed disciple— means there are times when you will have to moderate your progress based on multiple unforseen factors that occur during your sojourn on earth. Like driving I20 from Atlanta to Dallas (or any other traffic movers), especially with all the road construction, you learn to make adjustments while continuing on to your destination. The adjustments may cause delays, but delays don’t spell finality. But you can’t allow delays to become passivity and thus cessation of the goal.
Take some time to reevaluate whether you are striving for mastery in your struggle. Are you devoting serious energy and effort? Are you pressing to reach your goal? Do you have goals? Even if there are temporary setbacks, are you willing to get up, look forward and press anew?
If you are not willing, failure is almost certain. But if you are willing to follow the example of the Savior (Heb 12:1-3) who pressed his way to the cross, the rewards are beyond imagination.