Pressing On

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize. (Philippians 3:13)

There are times in life when we feel worn down and wounded. We wonder if it is possible to carry forward with what each day holds, or even if it is worth carrying forward at all. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to this sort of situation. It is in his letter to the believers in Philippi that we read of Paul’s own inner conflict as he writes from prison:

What shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (1:22-24)

Paul had endured some terrible things in his life; a veritable catalog of suffering: exacting labor, imprisonments, flogging, exposure, lashings, beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked multiple times, constantly on the move, in danger from foreigners and his own people, experiencing severe hunger and sleeplessness, and daily pressures unmentionable (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).

So when we read Paul’s words in Philippians chapter three about having a passion to know Christ in the midst of difficulties, we do well to pay attention. Twice in this chapter he uses a word translated “press on” to describe the way of life for the believer. We may be wounded at times and we may feel like the end is far off, but Paul reminds us to “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14).

The Summer Olympics of 1968 were in Mexico City. A runner from Tanzania named John Stephen Akhwari was slated to run the marathon.  But during the race Akhwari fell badly, cutting his knee and dislocating the joint.

Most would have given up at this point in a race that was so long. But John Stephen Akhwari did not give up. He fashioned a makeshift bandage for his leg and continued the race.

Nearly one hour after the winner had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari hobbled into the arena grimacing with pain. He crossed the finish line to the cheers of  the relatively small crowd who still in attendance.

When a reporter later asked him why he continued running when he apparently had nothing to gain, Akhwari looked confused. Then, after some thought, he said these words:

My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish.[1]

There are many things in our lives that would tempt us to give up on the race of life before us. Some of those things are valid wounds and trials. But, like John Stephen Akhwari and the Apostle Paul, we must continue to press on so that we can reach the end of our life’s race knowing we not only started the race…we have finished.

Watch a video excerpt on John Stephen Akhwari below:

[This post was excerpted from the message, “Passion for Christ,” at Eastbrook Church on November 14, 2010.]

[1] “John Stephen Akhwari – the greatest last place finish ever.” Accessed: 13 November 2010.

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