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The Mental Battle

Urban Contemplation
Creative Commons License photo credit: StefanKamer

Philippians 3:12-14 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.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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.

So Paul says he hasn’t “made it” yet, he admits there is still “room to grow” even for him. Paul says, “Yes, I lack.” and then he says… But.  But that doesn’t stop me. But that doesn’t define me. But that isn’t where I leave it. He says….

“But I press on” and look at what else he says. He says he “strains forward to what lies ahead” he says he “presses on toward the goal.” Friends, those are all action words. Those are all solution words and words of planning.

In another part of Philippians Paul writes,  Philippians 2:12 “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”

Paul realizes that he isn’t as spiritually mature as he’d like to be. He realizes that there is always room to grow and new ways to develop and so he adds, but I don’t just sit there; I move. There is intentional movement toward the goal. There is work that lies ahead and I “strain forward” to get there.

So in your spiritual journey, I want you to see that there is a big difference between trying and training

There is a great line in the movie The Empire Strikes Back, Master Yoda tries to encourage Luke to lift his X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp using the force and he says, “Try not. Do or do not!! There is no try”

The quote means that one should not approach a task with the attitude that “only an attempt will be made.” Instead when approaching a task the mentality should be to either accomplish it or not. What Yoda is trying to say is that you either do something or you don’t.

For instance, let’s say you’re a supervisor and you tell one of your employees to put away this pallet of merchandise. And they say to you “I’ll try and get to it today.” What does that mean? They aint doing it. If one of my employees said that to me, I’d turn around with a raised eyebrow.

Likewise ladies, if your husband says he’ll try to get to the laundry today, that also means he’s not going to get it done.

Paul says, You know, I’m not quite the Me I want to be, but….”I press on to make it my own.” You know what that tells me? He has a plan. Working towards something means you have a plan.

But we don’t want to plan especially when it comes to things that are spiritual. There’s kind of a lazy Christian approach to things, we want to drift into spirituality. There are a lot of passive ideas in Christianity, especially when we talk about how God does all the work and that we’re saved by grace – and that’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you and I do absolutely nothing.

But how can I allow the spirit to lead me if I have a plan? Shouldn’t we just let God have His way? Isn’t faith about praying and hoping and wishing? Sure… but it’s also about doing. I don’t see any verses in scripture that say, “Once your saved, just relax and kick back and wait for Jesus to come.”

You and I, we need to be intentional about our spiritual growth. Intentional means that you have a plan.

Don’t you have a budget for your finances? That’s a plan

Don’t you plan for sales and strategy at work? Sure you do.

When Paul says “I press on” that’s an action word. It’s the Greek word dioko and it means to run after with a harassing attitude as if you intended to catch them and give them trouble. It’s the same word used in scripture to mean persecution.

Paul says, “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m chasing after it like it’s already mine.” He’s not saying that he’ll try to do it, or he’ll give it his best.. he’s saying, “In my head, I’ve already done it. Now all I have to do is get there.”

But still you could say, “Yea, but I don’t want to make a plan, because I’m afraid it will be a bad plan, or I’m afraid I’ll fail at it.” You see again, there is this picture of perfection that we are all trying to hit and typically what happens is when we don’t see results right away – we quit.

Case in point, today when you go on a diet or exercise plan and the goal is to loose weight, most plans ask you to write down every lb you loose and to take pictures of your journey from day 1 all the way through.

Do you know why?

Because to win you have to measure “progress” not perfection. If you’re running a race and the starting gun goes off and you’ve taken your first five steps, you don’t just stop and say, “I can’t believe this isn’t over yet.” No, you have to measure your progress. How far have I come, how far is left. Same is true for your walk with God.

We tend to hold ourselves up to this perfect picture, and say “I’m not there yet and I never will be so I should quit” But instead we need to create a plan of obtainable –  easily winnable – goals and then congratulate ourselves each step of the way.

It’s funny, as parents we’ll encourage our kids to get back up, and keep trying, but we won’t do that for ourselves.

Give yourself some grace.

In another part of Philippians Paul writes, God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Phil 2:13)

What does that mean? It means God is at work in your life; give yourself some slack and some grace and make a plan. Paul says, but I press on to make it my own, because… Christ Jesus has made me his own.

You see, you’re his. You’re his project. God is already working and shaping you; and you will grow in your faith because God has already started the process. There is hope because God is already at work in your life.

Last week we read Romans 8:7 Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

You see even Paul understands that this all begins as a mental battle.  Getting a plan, beginning to be aware of your spiritual growth, deciding to mature in your faith, it all starts with your brain and how you think about yourself.

Yoda was training Luke to be a Jedi, to be something better than he was. But he could not make any headway in Luke’s training until he could undo the things that Luke already believed.  Yoda basically told Luke “it’s all in your head kid”

Whether you think you can succeed or fail, you got to change how you think.


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