“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling me.” –Philippians 3:12-14
How many of us want to be that Spiritual Hercules, who has constant and amazing experiences with God, who sees supernatural things in their ministry, and is entrusted with great responsibility in the Kingdom? When I hear about people like Heidi and Rolland Baker, who are just entirely in love with Jesus, who see miracles everywhere they go (even the dead raised!), and who are well on their way to rescuing one million orphans from the streets, I am just in awe that God would bring so much fruit to their ministry. It makes me hunger for something like that, not because I want to be this famously amazing person (at least I hope not), but because I want to be THAT in love with Jesus and want to be used by Him in big ways. I want to have a radical life like that.
Yesterday my friend Rachel and I went mountain biking. I can easily say that it’s one of my favorite things to do. The truth of the matter is, it is one of my favorite things to do because this particular road is nearly all downhill and the scenery is breathtaking. Would I love it so much if we were in the desert and going uphill? I can say with near absolute certainty that I would not. Mountain biking is hard work, and it is humbling to see how not in shape I am. I’m not sure if I have ever been in shape, but I have heard from people who have been that it is a grueling thing to get to that point. One must be consistent and purposeful in the process, and they must constantly be pushing themselves further than they think they can go. There is definitely a good portion of a work-out that reaches beyond the comfort zone and breaches the pain barrier.
Paul makes the comparison several times in Scripture between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. One of the most common verses is found in 2 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow-boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
Now, there are some comparisons that cannot be made in this analogy. Obviously, we are not competing against each other, but rather we are a team running toward the standard and goal of knowing Jesus. However, I believe that God has put this spirit of competition inside of us, not to try to be over someone else, but rather to compete against our inner man (or wo-man) that is willing to settle for something that is less than best. I see the attitude in myself so often, especially when I am taking classes. I will do my assignments, and I will do them pretty well. I do not, however, strive for perfection. I know in my spirit that I could do better if I applied myself more. However, I don’t. I also see it in how I take care of myself physically. I find myself saying, “I do a pretty good job; definitely better than I used to.” This, however, is not the spirit that God desires of me. This is something I definitely need to work on.
The first time I heard that Heidi Baker needs 4-6 hours of prayer every day to be able to do what she does, my ADD started screaming and I thought, “How in the world can she even pray that long?” I have found, however, that everything that the Bakers do (and many other people I admire) has come from a disciplined process of building spiritual muscle. They pressed into God’s presence until it hurt – until it literally broke their hearts – and then pressed in more. Why do they see so many miracles in their ministry? Because, like Heidi Baker says, all fruitfulness flows from intimacy. They were faithful with little, so God entrusted them with much. How do I handle the responsibility and privilege I have to enter the throne room of my King whenever I want? I can honestly say that 2 years ago, I would not have been able to spend as much time in God’s presence as I do now, but my meager 1-2 hours a day is not going to cut it. Imagine if a husband and wife just spent 1-2 hours a day together! They would probably not have a healthy relationship.
I have been challenged in these days to press into the presence of God past my comfort zone until it hurts, and then to press in even more. I want to build my spiritual muscle, because I have learned that it is impossible to reach all the depths of the presence of God. There is always more! I want to know what it’s like to believe God for miracles every day, to have a constant radar for the people around me and who God would have me pour into, and to have an endless supply of energy and love for everyone I come into contact with. I am not there yet, but it is encouraging to know that God promises these things if we would put in the work to truly and deeply know Him. You know what? He is the prize! He is the pearl of great price. Am I willing to sell everything I have to gain Him? Am I willing to totally re-order my life and my priorities so that I might gain Him? Am I willing to sacrifice myself physically, emotionally, and mentally so that I might gain Him?
These are the questions I am asking myself in this phase of my life and I would challenge you to wrestle with them too. May you be blessed today!