Keep Striving

Keep Striving

Our youngest boy, Milo, is difficult to contain, persistent, and unstoppable. Between the ages of 12-18 months, children become intrepid explorers. This phase of a child’s life is exhilarating, but it is exhausting and exasperating for safety-conscious parents. For Milo, there isn’t an obstacle or challenge that is too lofty or intimidating. Chairs, stairs, cabinets, bookshelves, and tables, if there is a furniture item in existence, Milo has tried to climb it and, through sheer determination, has conquered just about every inch of our house. Observing this leaves me with a feeling of amazement at the human spirit. The only thing that stops him is when Amanda or I redirect (physically pick him up) him from whatever task he is trying to master. However, another thought creeps into my mind, why do I give up so easily? When presented with a difficult challenge, why do I stop when the going gets tough? When did you stop striving… when did you start settling?

Philippians 3:12-14 – 

 “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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul writes the book of Philippians enduring his prison sentence in Rome; it is also towards the end of life. Even though he is bearing his share of hardships, he wants to help the church in Philippi. Paul encourages the church in Philippi to keep going. However, the words that he chose convey a stronger emphasis than “keep going” Paul uses the word ἐπεκτείνομαι epekteínomai- to stretch (oneself) forward, to reach forth. This idea of straining, or stretching, should inspire us. It is the notion of pushing ourselves to the next level. This should create a mental picture of someone aspiring to reach something just out of their grasp. 

As he moves throughout our house, Milo is not satisfied with being a rug rat. He is not happy merely cruising from point A to B. He wants to achieve and climb; in his exploration, he pushes every boundary and never settles for the status quo. We also observe this in the mentality of Paul. He does not live in the notion that he has already arrived at the destination. Instead, Paul is stretching and striving for whatever lies ahead. He writes that this involves forgetting what was behind. It is easy to rest on our achievements and accomplishments, and for Paul, that is something that certainly could have happened. However, He chose to keep striving and pressing onto that goal of an eternal home. 

Our striving does not mean that our spiritual existence is bound by what we accomplish on this earth. Rather, as Paul states, Jesus has already taken hold of it for us, now we are merely striving for what Jesus has already accomplished. Jesus has secured the prize; therefore, we should take it as a relief and a challenge to keep moving forward. We should imitate Paul, pressing on to win the award, not for our recognition and achievement, but because that is what God has called us to do. 

It is not easy to daily live out and profess our beliefs. It is easy to give up and stop pushing ourselves. Perhaps we feel as though we have arrived or that we have served our purpose. Momentary setbacks have caused us to stay grounded, and we refuse to keep trying. We have grown comfortable and complacent. This is our reminder to keep striving, stretching, and pressing on, contending for our faith. Let us not be satisfied with where we have been or what we have done. I encourage you to keep striving because of what Jesus did for you.  

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