This past weekend our oldest son got married. It was a wonderful weekend of hosting friends and family from all across the country - and a wonderful weekend of celebrating the relationship God has given our son, and his new bride. But for those of you who have hosted weddings before, you know that it was also a very busy weekend - full of errands, and setting up and tearing down all the accoutrements that go with weddings.
The result is that this morning I woke up with sore muscles that I forgot I even had. As I was slowly pulling myself up out of bed, I was wishing I had some sort of magic potion I could drink to give my muscles the strength they needed to get me through the day. It took all my energy and willpower to stand up and push myself forward towards the closet to get dressed. But as I got myself moving, I was reminded of Paul's words in Philippians 3:14, where he says, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
The Greek word that Paul uses for “press” in this passage carries with it the meaning of “strong exertion” - sort of that feeling of every muscle burning as you force yourself to complete the task you're working on. Not being a runner, I can only imagine what it must be like to finish a long race – but it seems to me that what Paul's talking about must be like what runners feel when they can see the finish line, and they only have a few more feet to go, and they have to push through the pain of overworked muscles, and press on to finish.
This idea of persevering through pain is a good thing to learn, because it’s a principle that also applies in our walk with God. There are times when it just gets hard. But it's during those times that we learn what it means to walk by faith and not by feeling. And that's because we can't live our spiritual lives on an emotional high. Sometimes we will feel God very close, and other times we won't. Learning to walk by faith and not by emotion is part of spiritual maturity. And it comes when we “press on” in our walk with God - pushing forward even when it's hard and we don't feel like it.
I'm not sure where you are right now in your walk with God. Maybe, as you've been running, you've found yourself in a place where you're carrying worry, or anxiety, or sins, or other things along on your race. Maybe you've become discouraged, and you're not even sure why it is that you're running the race anymore. Whatever it is, join me today in taking a minute and look up and remember that it's God that we're running for. Two thousand years ago, He loved us so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for each one of us. Jesus shed His blood for me - and for you. And then He rose again from the dead. And because He did that for us, we can live for Him today. He will give us the strength we need to get our sore spiritual muscles working as we press onward to reach the end of the race.