I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:10-14
Our life with Christ is a journey in which we are continually called to walk by faith, grow by trust and be strengthened through struggle and victory.
Paul reminds us that the Christian life is not a destination but a journey. Following Jesus means, well, following. Last year I hiked into the Enchantments Wilderness Area with my son and three of his friends. The hike is notoriously long and challenging; nearly 10 miles with a massive elevation gain. Although I trained rigorously for the trip, it proved a significant challenge for my aging knees and back. We never hiked it before so we did not know what to expect around each turn. At one point while crossing a steep area of granite rock and boulders, my hiking pole gave way and I fell, rolling twice through the boulder field. I came to rest on my back, with my backpack shielding me from the jagged rocks underneath. To everyone’s amazement, I only suffered a few cuts and bruises. After climbing back up to the trail and looking down to where I’d fallen I realized what a miracle it was that I was not seriously injured or killed. After gathering myself my son asked me, “So dad, what do you want to do?” I looked at him and smiled and said, “Press on.”
This third trek has focused us on the importance of intimacy with God. The outcome of that intimacy will be the continual invitation to “press on.” And the deeper we go in relationship with Christ, the more challenging and rigorous the path will become. We were not created to sit on a bench at the side of the road.
The Christian life has both a “pressing on” and a “reflecting back” component. When we descended from our hike I stopped at the place that I had fallen on my way up and reflected again on the miracle of God’s grace. In the same way our Christian life has times of striving and struggling, and also times of quiet reflection, considering all that God has done to get us to the place where we now stand. Both of these require continued intimacy with God. We strive ahead because we hear his voice clearly and understand his heart in calling us onto steeper terrain. And we will reflect back to the quiet time we create in our schedules to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Both our striving and our reflecting bear witness to the level of intimacy that we have with God in Jesus Christ.
Is your life this combination of striving ahead and reflecting back, or are you sitting on a bench at the side of the road? It all depends on the depth of your relationship with Christ, the intimacy of the time you spend with him and how well you know his voice.
There is an old proverb which says, “the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.” So it is with the Christian life. The journey we walk in obedience to Jesus Christ is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, step-by-step experience. The question we continually ask ourselves is this, “what is the next step of faith God is asking me to take?” Can you identify that for yourself today? If not, it should send us back to our quiet time of intimacy with God where we can read his word, listen for his voice and know and understand the direction to which he is calling us. If we do know that step, then we should ask for the courage and determination to take it, to step out in obedience and faith regardless of where it might lead us what it might cost. Know that step for yourself, and pray for God to equip you with the strength to take it.
Gracious Lord, I confess that at times my walk with you feels as though I am sitting at a bench on the side of the road. When I lose my sense of intimacy with you, I don’t hear your voice, I don’t understand where you want me to go, and I end up trying to do everything on my own. I come back now in your presence and sit at your feet and wait for you to direct me. I know you will call me onto a path that is challenging, so give me the courage and strength to obey. I also trust that you have things to show me that I will never see if I keep sitting here on this bench. There is a greater, more exciting and dramatic life you have for me than I will ever know unless I’m willing to follow you without hesitation and onto whatever path you lead me. Give me that strength, that courage and that love for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.