This morning I went running in preparation for a half-marathon event that I have coming up in a couple of weeks. My goal this morning was to run about seven to seven and a half miles in about an hour or so. My prize is to finish the half-marathon in a couple of weeks with my personal time record. After about two and a half miles this morning, my left calf muscle began cramping. It wasn't absolutely terrible pain, but it was pain and it was annoying. For the next fifty to one hundred feet, I actually thought about turning around and heading back toward the house and even slowing down my pace to a brisk walk. However, I decided to press on. Why? On Tuesday night, I was watching a girls' basketball game. A young girl was playing really well, but her leg began cramping early in the game. She came off the floor and rubbed her leg down. She got some fluids in her body, and she decided to get back on the floor. With the game up for grabs late in the fourth quarter, this young girl hit a three-point shot that put her team in the lead for good. She later stepped to the free-throw line and hit a couple of free throws to seal the game for her team. She pressed on. This morning, I made a decision to press on even though my leg was hurting. I picked my head up and looked forward. I began to thing about my goal...to run seven to seven and half miles within an hour or so. The more I focused on my goal rather than focusing on my hurt, the better I ran. I began to think about the prize - running that half-marathon in my personal record time. I can't tell you that the pain completely went away, but I can tell you that the pain wasn't as bad as long as my focus was on my goal and the eventual prize. I did run my seven and a half miles, and I did hit my goal of just over one hour. And as I write this blog, my left calf muscle is still hurting.
I've always tried to be as transparent as possible in my blog writings. I want to be transparent today, for sure. In ministry, I have had many great days. To be honest, I've had many more great days than I've had bad days. However, bad days do come along in ministry. Sometimes, I do or say things that hurt others. Sometimes, others do or say things that hurt me. In other words, there is pain in ministry at times...and it comes from all different directions. And if you are like me, I don't like pain; I don't like to hurt or to be hurt. Pain is not something I would choose on any day of the week. However, as I have learned time and time again, pain and hurt will happen, and pain and hurt can be useful. I love what Paul says to the church in Philippi. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul says, "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. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Paul was talking about sanctification - becoming more like Jesus on earth. Paul strained every spiritual muscle he had in moving toward the goal for which he was chosen by the Lord. He was chosen to be more like Jesus, to be conformed into His glorious image. Paul said, "I press on." He focused on the goal of being more like Jesus on earth, and he focused on the eventual prize of being made like Jesus in heaven. Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on." Paul made a choice to forget about his past accomplishments and good works; Paul made a choice to forget about his past failures and sins; Paul made a choice to forget about the distractions, the hurts, and the pains in his life. In other words, his focus was on what was in front of him not what was behind him.
It is so easy to give up. It is so easy to give up when things aren't going your way. It is so easy to give up when you hurt someone or when someone hurts you. It is so easy to give up when your focus is on distractions, when your focus is on the hurts and the pains in your life. DON'T GIVE UP! PRESS ON! Remember to keep your focus on the goal for which you have been called by God. As a Christ follower, the goal on earth is sanctification...to be more and more like Christ. As a Christ follower, the prize in heaven is glorification...to be made like Christ forever and ever. Focus on the goal. Focus on the prize. This will keep you moving forward, even when the hurt is there, even when the pain is there. PRESS ON...TOWARD THE GOAL...TO WIN THE PRIZE!