Monday, February 25, 2013

I press on toward the goal to win the prize

The great preacher John Wesley was riding along on his horse one day when he realized that three days had passed, and he had not been persecuted in any way. Not a single brick had been thrown in his direction. He had not been hit by an egg. So he actually stopped his horse and said out loud, "Could it be that I am backslidden or I have sinned?" Slipping down from his horse, he knelt on one knee and asked the Lord to show him if there was anything wrong with him spiritually.

A man who disliked Wesley saw him kneeling in prayer, so he picked up a brick and threw it at him, barely missing the preacher. When Wesley saw the brick fly by, he said, "Thank you, Lord! I know I still have Your presence."

No wonder he was such a powerful preacher.

When the apostle Paul was in prison, he took the time to evaluate his own life. Before Paul became a Christian, he was a Pharisee with prestige, power, and wealth. After he began His ministry for Christ, Paul endured frequent attacks, imprisonments, and hunger as he traveled from town to town. Yet because Paul kept his focus on Christ, he found a joy that gave him a heavenly perspective on life and priorities:

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

As Paul discovered, the things we consider assets in this life often turn out to be our liabilities because they keep us from depending on God. What is the object of your confidence? Is it your intelligence, your financial security, your social network? None of these things will bring us indescribable joy—only dependence on Christ's strength can bring us joy. We must value our relationship with Christ and treasure our gift of joy in order to experience joy at its fullest.

Reverend Samuel looked down at his hands and shook his head. He was so tired, and he just didn't feel he had anything left in him that people ought to hear. He couldn't understand it. He'd always tried to do the lord's work and lead people to Jesus. He had preached the Gospel every chance he got. He had even achieved a certain level of fame. No one could deny what a powerful soldier for Christ he had been. Reverend Samuel just couldn't make sense out of the fact that God wasn't helping him now, when he needed it most. At least God owed him that.
Too often we fall into the trap of believing that we do God's work for Him. That's not true. The most we can do is open ourselves to let the Lord do His own work through us. When we try to do it for Him, we can only expect to grow weary. However, when God works through us, we will find a new energy and vitality that we have never experienced before. The Lord is exalted through His own strength, not ours. Open yourself to Him now, and let the true power begin to flow.
No one in the Bible gets a five-year plan. Paul thought he should go east when he was called west (Acts 16:6-10). The Bible says of the first patriarch, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going" (Hebrews 11:8).

God is always calling us forward by faith. However, change comes at a cost. The reason we have not taken our next step with God is that the price of change is greater than the price of staying where we are.

Only Christ's resurrection power can satisfy our empty hearts. Only His power can defeat our temptations and turn our trials into triumphs. Only His power can exchange our weaknesses for His strength. Any earthly assets that we draw on are rubbish compared to Christ's power.

Quite recently  I have heard about Cuba, where more than a million people have come to Christ in the last decade. Ministers in the People's Republic of China report that 100,000 people come to Christ every day in their country. God's Spirit is advancing awakening across the nations of our day, because he loves the entire world (John 3:16).

Do you? When last did you pray for a great global awakening to continue across the nations? When last did you pray for Muslims to come to Christ? For Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews to make Jesus their Lord? For atheists and agnostics to turn to faith?

As King Solomon continued his dedication of the temple, he prayed:

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name (2 Chronicles 6:32-33).

Finally, Paul encouraged the Philippians, "But one thing I'd 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 3:13, 14). While we may have to strain our spiritual muscles in order to grow, we will find joy in the midst of our struggles if we focus on Christ.

Raj Kosaraju

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