September 23, 2021
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“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.”
At some point in our lives, most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. That’s the day we stop living and start dying. To be fully alive is to be fully present. It mandates leaving the past in the past. And that’s the impetus behind Paul’s exhortation:
“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
I love that little phrase: press on.
Whenever I hear it, I have flashbacks to my college basketball days. There are two ways of playing defense. You can sit back in a half-court defense and let the other team come to you. It’s a defensive way of playing the game. It’s protecting the lead. It’s playing not to lose. In football, it’s called a prevent defense. Then there is an offensive form of defense: the full-court press. You force the issue. You don’t let the game come to you. You take it to them.
I wonder if the church is content playing a prevent defense while God is calling for a full-court press. Isn’t that the message of Matthew 11:12?
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”–Matthew 11:12
Are you playing offense in your marriage? Or are you playing a prevent defense that leaves romance on the sidelines? Are you parenting reactively or proactively? Do you have a spiritual growth plan? Are you working for a paycheck or stewarding your God-given gifts and pursuing a God-ordained dream? Are you trying to break even spiritually by avoiding sin? Or are you going for broke by invading the darkness with the light and love of Jesus Christ?
At the end of every year, Lora and I take a little retreat to reflect on the past year and plan for the next one. The top priorities are calendar and budget. If we don’t control our calendar, our calendar will end up controlling us. Budgeting is the way we play offense with our finances by controlling expenses, eliminating debt, and giving strategically.
I also revisit my life goal list and set spiritual goals for the next calendar year. We walk away from that retreat with an offensive game plan. Then on Mondays, which is my Sabbath, Lora and I do a coffee date. It’s a weekly touch point to make sure we’re working the plan with our family and our finances.
The only way to predict the future is to create it. You don’t let it happen. You make it happen. How? Stop regretting the past and start learning from it. Let go of guilt by leaning into God’s grace. Quit beating yourself up and let the Spirit of God heal your heart. You cannot divorce yourself from the past. You are married to it forever. But God wants to reconcile your past by redeeming it. God is in the recycling business: He makes recycled goods out of wasted lives.
The spiritual tipping point is when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change. Sadly, too many of us get comfortable with comfort. We follow Christ to the point of inconvenience, but no further. That’s when we need a prophet to walk into our lives, throw a mantle around our shoulders, and wake us up to a new possibility, a new reality. We need a prophet to boldly confront Plan B and call us back to Plan A.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.