When he left the house an hour ago, it was dry, sunny; the perfect day. He carried himself with great joy and delight, as he was on his way to visit the home of the girl he loved. If the opportunity presented itself, he planned to ask her father for permission to marry her. Yes, everything seemed perfect, an hour ago. Now it seemed all of nature had conspired to keep him from achieving his goal. The sun had fallen, the temperature dropped. A torrential storm dumped buckets of cold water on him, soaking and chilling him to the bone. He stood at the edge of a stream, normally a mere trickle, now a raging river blocking his path. Not to be deterred, and possessing an inherent fear of turning back once a plan was set in motion, he spurred his horse forward, and in he plunged.
When he arrived at Julia’s house hours later, the family had to scramble to find him clothing. He was a sopping muddy mess, more like a stray cat than the young military officer he was. They all had a good laugh about it, yet the story was also an early sign of the character of the man, the fierce determination to keep pressing forward toward a greater goal. That same determination would drive Ulysses S. Grant to ultimate victory years later during the Civil War.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” There’s a famous quote from a Puritan writer, Thomas Chalmers, that expresses the power of this verse. He says that in the gospel we have “The expulsive power of a greater affection.” The best way to drive out a lesser affection, or a lesser love (i.e. the love of sin) is with a greater affection: the love of Jesus and the love of a life lived in his service and for his honor. The best way to avoid sinning is not to focus on avoiding sin, instead, focus on something greater than sin.
For the three remaining devotions for this verse, we’re going to look at the famed arctic expedition of Sir Ernest Shakleton and examine some of the key moments that illustrate this principle of being driven forward by a greater affection. As you read these stories, be thinking and praying for God to show you how these might encourage you to ‘forget what lies behind’ and ‘strain forward to what lies ahead’ in your relationship with Him.
U.S. Grant was driven forward to overcome horrible conditions by his burning desire to see his future wife. The same kind of burden to ‘press on’ should characterize those that follow Christ.
Like Grant, have you had a difficult situation that seemed like a big obstacle, yet you kept pressing forward because of some greater goal?
God, we know that in this life we will face challenges and situations that will attempt to take us off track and keep us from following you. Help us in these moments to keep our eyes focused on “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” and to keep pressing on.