Strive for mastery

finishlineHave 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.


9 thoughts on “Strive for mastery

  1. This type of teaching is the Holy Ghost. Because the power of the words written are destroying blockages and hindrances right off me. I can hardly express the power, but I know I once did not understand, but now I do. Excuse me, I can write better than this, but right now…the power of the Holy Ghost has caused these words to destroy stuff off me and I can understand. Right now I understand!!! Thank you Father for this sight. All I know is right now I understand.

  2. I don’t know why but when I read this nice dissertation, I couldn’t help but think of Yoda:

    “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

    It’s our will that gets in the way every time of God’s goal for our lives. Well said my brother.


  3. Thanks so much! I heard a preacher on local radio in the D.C. area say, “Keep coming! I know you may have smoked a cigarette or said a curse word, but keep coming! Old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new!…” Your post reminded me of what I’d heard. Keep on encouraging us to strive, even through our difficult places of walking with God. Just yesterday, I had to pray about my attitude and feelings towards an individual who, though I love them in Christ, has a tendency to upset me by their words and actions. It bothers me a lot because as a man, I’ve been considered very easy going and perhaps a soft, masculine soul (I dare say overly sensitive); so I had to pray to stop feeling ill about this person and see it for what it really is–spiritual warfare–and not that of flesh and blood. I’ve learned through the scriptures that we fight this battle in spiritual armor and prayer (Ephesians 6:10-18). It has now become a prayer of mine that I will develop a life of prayer, for if I read Ephesians 6 correctly, therein lies our power! Please pray for me.

  4. Pastor, this is good stuff! It reminded me of Maurette Brown Clark’s song, “It Ain’t Over.” I just need to accept that there is no point of arrival (in this life/on this earth). I will always have to PRESS and be temeperant simultaneously. God will get the glory!!! Thank you for being an encourager!

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