This morning I read a short but very impactful devotion about what it means to press on. I’ve read the passage in the bible before where Paul talks about attaining the heavenly prize so many times but today, it really stuck with me. Here’s the passage I’m referring to:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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 call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16
I highly suggest reading a couple of the verses that precede verse 12 (or even the whole chapter while you’re at it) as they provide context. I think the reason it made an impression on me is because I’m currently in a frame of mind where I’m striving to be intentional about developing healthy habits and a generally healthy lifestyle.
For me personally, I know that spiritual fitness would look like a couple different things. When you think about the food choices that are necessary to be healthy, you know the options that are good for you, and you know the options that taste good but won’t do much good for your health. *Cue the angel on one shoulder with veggies and devil on the other shoulder with junk food image* I think it’s the same way with what I feed myself spiritually. I know certain entertainment choices aren’t going to help me, but they just “taste good”. In the end though, these not so great options have an effect on me – whether I see it right away or days later. Many of the un-Christ-like thoughts that pop up seemingly out of left field are actually the residual aftereffects of something I exposed myself to earlier that day or even days before. It is astounding to think that we can remember things without ever making a conscious decision to do so. Therefore, if I want to be in good shape spiritually, I need to feed my spirit man with the Word, with worship that affirms who God is as well as who I am in Him, and with prayer. Put good in, get good out right?
The devotional also mentioned conditioning. I think about strength conditioning, where an athlete repeatedly does certain exercises that are meant to stretch them and challenge them to be stronger, faster, more agile. The same applies with my spiritual life. In order to get better, I need to deliberately spend time engaging with God in His Word or in purposeful prayer. Not just reading a chapter, but reading it with an aim to truly understand it – studying it essentially. Not just saying a quick prayer on my way out, but actually steeping in God’s presence and making my requests known to Him while also listening for what He has to say. Anyone who has worked out with me can tell you that I hate burpees. Absolutely, positively, cannot stand them. Doing the things that don’t necessarily sound appealing (such as waking up at 6am to pray) is like doing burpees – it is strength conditioning.
The truth is, you never realize how out of shape you are until you try to do something and notice that it seems harder than it should be. Ever climbed up a couple of flights of stairs and found that you’re breathing heavily all of a sudden? Yeah, that’s the out of shape wake up call I’m talking about. We can go years in our walks with God not even realizing that we’re not as fit as we could be. If a few minutes in prayer, reading one chapter of the bible, or any other spiritual activity is laborious for you, then it’s time to be honest with yourself and assess your spiritual fitness.
In verse 17 of Philippians 3, Paul says we should pattern our lives after his and follow the example of those who follow Christ. Every so often I’ll see a woman who is very sculpted and lean and I know that the only way she attained such a figure was through consistent exercise and eating right (AKA discipline). I see these examples and I’m instantly motivated to be better and commit to living a healthier lifestyle. Even seeing cute workout clothes makes me want to get fit! Now I don’t know what the spiritual equivalent of cute workout clothes is, but I know for a fact that looking at people who appear to be more spiritually mature than myself makes me want to #DoBetter. Not that I idolize them, but I learn from their example. And you know what, I want to be an example for others as well. You never know who’s watching. You never know who your discipline could encourage.
It still amazes me how I can read a passage of scripture a thousand times and still get a different revelation of it every single time. God really has a way of bringing an on time word. He knows just when we need to hear it and when we’re the most receptive to it. So for anyone who is reading this and needs a pep talk, press on! The present difficulty is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in the end (Romans 8:18).