Please don’t tell her, but when I was able to go bush-walking with Kim, I was able to experience what Christ commanded His first disciples to do, and what the first disciples would then go on to describe as they exhorted others to follow Christ as well. When Christ told His disciples, “Come! Follow Me!” He was telling His disciples, that Christianity was never merely going to be an event – like joining a church, filling out a ‘Decision Card’, or merely ticking a Question Box on a Census Form! Rather, following Christ was going to require, walking, tracking, listening, serving, watching, learning, and keeping up. After Christ ascended victorious back to His Father and Glory, the Disciples would describe Christianity as “a walk”. And if you have embarked on this walk, you will have come to know that this spiritual walk with Christ involves twists and turns, ascents and descents, obstacles, and adverse weather. But most commonly, walking with Christ involves overcoming the temptation to stand still – or worse still, to keep going while looking back.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
A few years ago I had a momentous birthday. It was a time of reflection for me. I realised that in many ways I had stopped growing. I knew that unless I took deliberate steps to stretch myself out of my comfort-zone, I might never be willing or able to do so as I got older. I set a goal to earn a particular academic award. This involved me undertaking some formal classes in learning Biblical Greek. On December 10th, 2016, after three years of study, I completed my tenth Biblical Greek Exam (5 exams for Greek Level 1, and another 5 for Greek Level 2). Trying to fit this study into a life that was already too busy, was extremely difficult. The temptation to quit was constantly overwhelming. But I knew that this was a season that would pass, and that I needed to press on.
¶ Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
When I have been bushwalking with Kim, I had to press on. It was emotionally, physically, and emotionally and physically draining (and did I mention that it was emotionally and physically?) draining. These walks, and my Greek studies, were metaphors of our life following Christ. There a times of ease, times of learning, times of difficulty, and times of challenges. In our spiritual development, there should be no quitting. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, we too must press on. This means, that if we are following Christ, we are not now who we once were – nor are we who we will be if keep following Christ. The Christian walk changes us. But as we clock up a few miles, it’s too easy to slow down or lose the passion for the journey. The seasoned apostle Paul wrote toward the end of his life, that he too had to press on.
¶ Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12, 14
Two verses before this startling example of what it means to follow Christ over a long time, the Apostle gives us a glimpse of the motive and goal for doing so. And I wonder, if we, and I mean those of us who have been following Christ for decades, can begin realign our walk with Christ to this motive and goal as well?
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Pressing On Looks Like
I’m not an expert at pressing on, but from the little experience that I have had in recent times with this necessary trait of Christian maturity, I can advise those starting out in their walk with Christ that it will look something like this:
Despite the best of intentions to practice the core daily disciplines of following Christ through His Word, quiet prayer, reflection and witness, there will be days when this doesn’t happen. (See Proverbs 24:16)
There will be days when you won’t want to practice these disciplines. (2Cor. 5:7)
Tiredness will seek to be your master and excuse you from the essentials of following Christ (daily Bible reading, Sunday church attendance). (See Gal. 6:9; 2Thess. 3:13; Heb. 12:3)
Doing the Christian disciplines out of a sense of duty.
And, having to intentionally remind ourselves that the One we follow is the Ultimate Example of what it means to press on.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ¶ Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Thus, pressing on with Christ doesn’t happen when we feel like it – otherwise it might never happen. In fact, if we always felt like practising the spiritual disciplines in being a follower of Christ, the Scriptures would have no need to exhort us to press on. Just as with a bushwalk where you’ve been trudging up hill and over dale, through rivers and swamp, around boulders and over fallen trees, for hours on end, and daylight is running out yet the camp site is still hours away, you must press on. In life it’s the same thing. Challenges come, distraction lure us away, weariness entices us to stay in bed, the work we’ve brought home persuades us to make it our priority rather than being in church that Sunday, are all the obstacles on our path to walking with Christ. Christian maturity can only grow when we press on. “Consider Him” wrote the writer to the Hebrew Christians who, after three decades of telling their Jewish brothers and sisters that Jesus was the Messiah and that His death had brought an end to the Old Covenant, were now having doubts themselves whether this indeed true. Press on! The Hebrews Author tells them, although he used one word to say it: “Endure!” (Heb. 12:3)
Our walk with Christ transforms us as we press on. It shapes us into people who are more like the One we follow and love. It transforms us. The more we press on with Christ the more concerned we become for others (1John 4:11-12) and ironically, the more we are enabled to care for them. If you have stalled in your walk with Christ and have become spiritually stagnant, then it’s time to get back up and press on. May we each press on to know Christ more richly and thereby, be enabled to make Him known more sweetly.