|Volume 21 Number 1 January 2019||
Brian R. Kenyon
Momentum is defined as “strength or force gained by…a series of events” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). A series of spiritual events, likewise, definitely can result in strength and force. Such motivates one to better service to God! Spiritual momentum can be broken in two ways. First, seemingly bad things can happen along the way and can potentially break momentum. When Jesus was crucified (a seemingly bad event), momentum was temporarily broken for some. Peter initially thought what they had been so intensely involved with was over. He, along with the other apostles, said, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). The disciples on the road to Emmaus were also initially sad and forlorn that Jesus was crucified. They had an “all is lost” mentality (Luke 24:17-21). Their spiritual momentum was temporarily broken.
Secondly, reaching tremendous goals can also contribute to breaking momentum. Sometimes, after a lofty goal is accomplished, we are left with a “now what?” attitude. We must not allow apathy to set in but begin working on other spiritual goals. This seems to be a lesson we can learn from the “unclean spirit” who returned to the house from which it was driven to find it swept clean. Then it brought “seven other spirits more wicked than himself” to take up residence (Luke 11:24-26). That house should not have been left clean, but it should have been inhabited to keep the undesirables out!
Paul gave us good instruction on how to keep the momentum going. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). Note three ways to keep the momentum going.
Forget What’s Behind
We cannot allow the past to dominate the present, whether that past is good or bad. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). The past can serve as motivation to continually improve and grow more into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Sometimes our past is shameful. Paul acknowledged, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). He also thanked “Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:12-14). In both these passages, Paul used his past and the wonderful forgiveness he received as motivation to better serve the Lord! He did not live in the shame of the past. Even if our past as Christians involves great spiritual qualities, we cannot “rest on our laurels.” For example, the Thessalonians were commended for their Christian love (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3), yet Paul also encouraged them to “increase and abound in love to one another and to all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9-10).
Reach What’s Ahead
The word translated “reaching” basically means to stretch out. It only occurs in Philippians 3:13. A few sources refer to the body of a racer bent forward with his eyes focused on the goal, lunging ahead to cross the finish line. The same idea is expressed concerning hope in Romans 8:24-25, which says, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” The term “eagerly wait” captures the idea of certain expectation! Although our hope, or ultimate object for which we are “reaching ahead,” is not a reality, we can live our lives in such a way as if it were! We must, however, keep focused and disciplined. Paul often used athletic imagery to get this point across. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown…I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). In order to keep the momentum going, let us keep reaching ahead to the ultimate goal!
Pursue What’s Upward
We must not live as though we have “already attained” or are “already perfected” (Philippians 3:12). The “I have already arrived” mindset will lead to complacency, thus breaking spiritual momentum. Paul used the term “press on” twice—once in Philippians 3:12 and again in verse 14. “Press on [follow after, KJV]” is actually translated from the same word that is often translated “persecute” (Matthew 5:10-12; Galatians 1:13, 23). The word means to pursue, chase or hunt down. It can also be used in a positive way, as here, to mean “diligently go after” (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:11). In this context, the upward pursuit involves at least two objects. First, it involves final salvation. “That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” is a reference to final salvation awarded at the resurrection (Philippians 3:9-11). There is a sense in which we have salvation now (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 15:1-2), but final, ultimate salvation will not come until the Lord returns (Romans 8:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Secondly, the upward pursuit involves “the prize” (Philippians 3:14). Paul again used athletic imagery to convey victory. Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8; cf. Revelation 2:10). We must keep the momentum going until that final salvation is given, eternity with God (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)!
By God’s grace, we have come too far to allow our past, good or bad, to break the momentum and jeopardize our salvation! Let us “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and…run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Let’s keep the spiritual momentum going!