By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Philippians 3:12-14
Sunday 15th September 2013
Today, we are concluding our series, ‘The Journey Ahead’. Over the last few weeks we have unlocked key components of what we need in order to move ahead: we have looked at the journey itself in the message, ‘Strength for the Journey’ and also the vision, which we looked at the in message, ‘Looking forward’. Today, we will complete the picture by examining ‘the pursuit’ in this message, the foundation of which is taken from Paul’s admonition to the Philippian church in Philippians 3:12.
We have learned from the account of how God enriched Jacob in Laban’s house last week, that in anticipating the fulfilment of God’s prophetic word for your life, what you conceive and bring forth will ultimately be determined by what you see; whatever it is that you give your attention to. This same principle was at work when God told Abraham in Genesis 13: 14-17 to lift his eyes up and look in all directions from where he was and promised to give him everything that he could see. In verse 17 God said, ‘Arise, walk in the land through its length and width, for I give it to you'. From this instruction, we can see the vision precedes pursuit. You cannot pursue what you have not yet seen. We understood also that we must not evaluate our future on the basis of our current condition or on the basis of fear.
Irrespective of what happens to us in life, and things will happen to us in this life, we must be determined to press on. In Philippians 3: 12, Paul was very transparent and honest with the Philippian church; he confessed that he had not already attained, he was not professing to be a superhero, but sought to press on. In this brief part of his letter, Paul used the term ‘I press’ twice. This double use of the word is for emphasis: God does not want us to stay where we are as there is a future ahead of us. Paul reminds us that we must press on, irrespective of the level of success, failure, challenge or difficulty that we may have encountered. Nothing must prevent us from pressing ahead; nothing must be able to keep us where we are, as what is ahead of us is far better than our current condition.
The bible presents us with many illustrations of God’s desire for us to press onto the greater things ahead: Psalm 115:14 says, ‘May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children.’ 2 Corinthians 3: 18 says, ‘...but we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ In Haggai 2: 9 God promises, ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.’ In Exodus 14: 15 we are told, ‘And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.’ From these scriptural examples, we can understand that it is the desire of God to take us from where we are to where He desires us to be. Judges 18: 9 says, ‘So they said “Arise, let us go up against them. For we have seen the land, and indeed it is very good. Would you do nothing? Do not hesitate to go, and enter to possess the land.”’ God is calling us to Go Forward; we cannot afford to hesitate.
Paul made very clear that he had not attained and we must be similarly honest and upfront with ourselves. As a church, we are yet to attain that which God has spoken of. We are yet to attain and we are yet to obtain. Despite our previous accomplishments, we have not arrived at our destination, we have not reached the goal, nor arrived at the position that God has spoken of concerning us. We must be able and willing to look at our lives and undertake an honest review of where we have got to in the journey of life. Paul realised that he had been called for a purpose and he knew that he had not attained the accomplishment of that purpose yet. There is a goal and an assignment for each of our lives and our posture and our priority must be with a view to attaining that purpose. As a church, we understand that we have been called to help individuals to discover, develop and deploy the giftings and abilities that God has deposited in them in order that they may live maximally effective lives.
There is a destination and like Paul, we must have the determination to press on. Therefore, giving up cannot even be contemplated. We must step out of our comfort zone and step out of the past and be determined to press on. Wherever you are in life, whether in the context of your career, your marriage, your ministry, you must make up your mind to reach ahead and press on. In the process of reviewing our lives, we must be prepared to ask ourselves what we have done with what we have learned. What does the mandate, ‘Go Forward’ mean to you? God’s prophetic mandate and your confession are not simply nice words; you must enable the word to become flesh, to become a reality in your life. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Messiah, she first having struggled in her mind with what she was being told, eventually said, “Let it be to me according to your word”, after which the word was realised. When Jesus came to the temple in Luke 4, he found in the book where it was written of him; have you located yourself in God’s agenda? In what area of your life have you gone forward? What is it that you are pursuing? It is beyond doubt that we are all pursuing something.
Pressing on means having a yearning for the future, a passion for what lays ahead and a desire to persevere and see realised what God has spoken about. There is a goal to be accomplished and sitting back and expecting something to happen is not the order of the day. Each day there must be a progression. Jesus said that his food was to do the will of the father and to finish his work. He loved the assignment that He had been given and was passionate about it. Each of us must get to that place in our relationship with God in which our nourishment and desire is to do the will of God. You will find that those who give up in life are generally lacking in passion. The late innovator Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple said, “You must love what you do and success will follow.” When you love what you do, you do not need others to crank your engine; you are pumped up and raring to go.
Irrespective of the past, whether the challenges, successes or failures, nothing must be given the right to stop you from pressing ahead. Your breakthrough is in your determination to press on. Imagine, if Moses had not pressed on he would not have experienced the wonder of parting the Red Sea and seeing the devastation of the Egyptian army. If Joshua had not pressed on he would have not experienced the wonder of leading the children of Israel on dry ground through the River Jordan. As a church, we are determined to press on. When I asked Pastor Tayo at the beginning of this year what he would wish most to communicate to New Wine Church, he said that we should “Go Forward together – Leave no-one behind.” This is our mandate, we are going forward together and we will press against and press through every obstacle.
Nehemiah experienced the discouragement of Sanballat and Tobias whom sought to distract the children of Israel as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. With a sword in one hand and building with the other, they pressed on regardless. Nothing must have the power to deny us entry to our destiny.
Let’s look briefly at the four obstacles against which you must determine to press:
(i) The devil’s opinion of you: In John 8:44 we learn that Satan is the father of all lies. We learn that there is no truth in him at all; this means that he couldn’t tell the truth even if he wanted to. Lying is an expression of his nature. Every time he speaks, he lies. How is it, therefore that believers find it easier to believe the lies of the enemy than they do the word of God? You must never allow the opinion of the enemy to define you or prevent you from pressing ahead..
(ii) People’s opinion of you: People are fickle. One minute the crowds were hailing Jesus, “Hosanna!” The very same people were shortly after screaming, “Crucify Him!” You cannot afford to allow people’s opinion of you to determine your agenda in life.
(iii) Your opinion of yourself: Many of us have embraced a distorted image of ourselves and our worth. An example of this can be seen in Judges 6, when Gideon, whom God described as a ‘mighty man of valour’, based his assessment of his ability to answer the call of God on a distorted image, namely his father’s clan’s position in the tribe of Manasseh and his position in his family. “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
If I take a £5 note and crumple it and stamp on it, it is still worth £5. It is important to recognise that the circumstances of life do not diminish your value; your opinion of yourself must be based on what God says about you.
(iv) Spiritual forces and the situations of life: Ephesians 6 tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but principalities and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this age, the unseen forces. We are in a battle. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but we do wrestle. However, we are assured that whatever may come against us, we are more than conquerors; the fight is fixed and we win. We must ensure that no matter how tough the battle becomes, our identity in Christ is secure. We are more than conquerors and therefore giving up is not an option; we must stand our ground.
There is a goal ahead of you; a finishing line which you must reach. There is something that God has saved and delivered you for. Press on therefore! Press on in prayer, press on in worship; press on in pleading the blood, press on in service!
I am reminded of the memorable and emotional scene from the 400m race in the 1992 Olympic Games when in the middle of the race, the British athlete Derek Redmond tore his hamstring and collapsed in agony. Having dreamed for years of Olympic victory, he was determined to finish the race and refused to allow the injury to stop him. To the rapturous applause of more than 65,000 he limped along, despite his searing pain and was joined by his father who broke through security and held him up as he hobbled tearfully along the track towards the finishing line. The dream and the desire to fulfil destiny must be bigger than the pain. Refuse to encamp in the place of your pain but press on in the assurance that your Father will come to your rescue in the day of your challenge. You are not alone.
I declare: “No one in this house will give up – you will not die before your time! You will finish your race. The grace to do so and to fulfil your destiny is available to you in Jesus’ Name.”
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