Oswald Chambers taught students and soldiers about living the Christian life. He died at age 43 while serving British soldiers in Egypt as their chaplain. He left a large collection of lessons and sermons which his widow compiled and published as a devotional book that has sold millions of copies. The collection is called My Utmost for His Highest, a line taken from one of Chambers’ sermons that held out the challenge to a vigorous, engaged, and effective Christian life. Chambers lived what he taught, traveling widely to speak, throwing himself into the work of God. His desire was to press himself to the limits in the service of the Lord.
Paul showed the same kind of dedication. He spent his life ‘on the road’ teaching, often rejected, sometimes imprisoned, consumed by a passion that others would know Christ and focused on an eternal reward. Note the urgency in this passage. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV) The language creates a picture of a runner leaning forward at the finish line with every part of his body wanting the win!
Do you lean into your faith? Are you ‘straining toward what is ahead?’ Keeping Paul’s metaphor in mind, imagine a runner at the end of a race, pausing to look around, to take in the cheers of the crowd with a wave, or just kneeling down to catch his breath. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Those who would win summon every reserve to finish well.
Some Christians seem more to dabble in the faith than to be dedicated. Theirs is a distracted kind of interest, a little, spurred occasionally by a surge of emotion, but mostly shaped by convenience and/or self-interest. All kinds of good things crowd out the one best thing. The concept of a life shaped around giving their utmost for His highest is foreign to them, to the point of regarding those who do throw themselves into the service of Christ Jesus as fanatics.
The Message rephrases Paul’s declaration in a compelling way. Can you identify with his passionate pursuit of the Savior? “Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.” (Philippians 3:8-10, The Message)
I am inviting the Spirit to do a performance review in my life. Will you? Listen to His counsel, not from some place of guilt or comparison, but with a desire to do the best, to be the best, to use the gifts given to you – for the highest and best in life: for God’s honor and glory alone.
Our word from the Word today is a Psalm. Lord, let Your Word live in us. Amen
“Praise the Lord!
How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.
Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil.
Those who are righteous will be long remembered.
They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.
They share freely and give generously to those in need.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.
The wicked will see this and be infuriated.
They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away,
their hopes thwarted.” (Psalm 112:1-10, NLT)