Paul to the Philippian church: “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 3:14-16
As the smoke clears, the battlefield comes into view. It’s littered with shell casings, rifles, barbed wire, and dead bodies. As we walk around this battlefield, we see two men who died together. We know this because the one is holding the other’s head to his chest. They fought together and died together. These men were brothers in arms, fighting side by side for a common cause. Their goal was not to die together but to celebrate a victory together. It’s a sad thing to see, but it gives us a glimpse into the seriousness of war. The other thing we see is the devotion these soldiers had for each other. My mind now wanders to the church family and the devotion we are to have for one another. I’m reminded that we are in a battle daily against the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires. The third verse of “Onward Christian Soldiers” addresses the church. This verse puts into perspective the devotion we are to have for one another.
Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God:
Brothers, we are treading, where the saints have trod;
We are not divided, all one Body we—
One in faith and Spirit, One eternally.
Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
(Lyrics: Sabine Baring-Gould Music: Arthur Seymour Sullivan)
As Paul writes to the Philippian church and to us, he calls us to press on together. In thinking about the battle we are in on a daily basis, we need to come to an understanding of what exactly it means to “press on” toward the goal. Let’s look at some synonyms of “press on.”
- To proceed – As followers of Christ, we are to move forward in our lives toward Christ-likeness. We can’t allow the circumstances of life to stop us from moving on toward the calling God has given us. This means we are to continue to be faithful in obedience to God’s Word by keeping our eye on the finish line, eternity. The church family is called to help one another to move forward in their lives. This means we have to enter into the life of another to encourage them when it’s hard for them to “press on.”
- To endure – There’s probably not one person who wants to have to endure the suffering this life has to offer. However, we are called to endure in suffering. Sometimes we think it may be better to suffer alone, but that’s not church. We are to share in the sufferings of others by weeping with them, comforting them, and providing practical needs. Once again, it’s about entering into someone else’s suffering.
- To hold on – The ups and downs of this life and the relationships that come with it are hard to face. If we are to “press on” then we have to face them by proceeding and enduring, but how? We hold on to our God and what we know about him. Understanding God’s promises and his character needs to be what we grab onto when life is hard. If we don’t know where to turn, we can remind ourselves of the truth we know about God. Church, we are to help others to remember the truth about God. The one who is suffering may need to hold on to you as you point her to the truth. What a wonderful thing that God gave us the church, the body of Christ, to hold on to. Be willing to be held by someone or even to carry someone in the effort to “press on.”
- To stand firm – Paul reminds us that we are to stand firm in what is the truth. As we “press on” in this life, we are to stand firm in the truth knowing that the truth doesn’t falter. An important thing we need to do is to be sure of what we believe and walk in that belief. We can stand firm because Jesus went before us and gave an example of standing in the midst of suffering and conflict. We can look to his life for help to stand firm. Remember the church is also a place to look for examples of those who are standing firm in the truth. We can learn from them by watching how they stand firm and “press on” in the midst of adversity.
Church, we are a mighty army fighting the devil’s schemes and our own evil desires. We need to be united in the battle. One day the battle will be over, and we will enter eternity together. Picture this: as we leave this life, our head will be held by Jesus close to his chest. We won’t die alone. Then when we enter eternity, Jesus welcomes us with open arms.
PRESS ON, DEAR CHURCH—ETERNITY IS COMING!
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” Revelation 21:3-4