Finishing Strong – Press On Now

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What is one thing in your life that if you had known how hard it was going to be, you probably would never have started?’ 

Would your answer be something to do with…

Health – you paid the membership and joined the gym and even worked hard for the first couple of weeks. But then the going got tough! Or you started that health food diet with so much energy. But it’s proving tough to resist fries and chicken!

Education – some of you started ambitiously on a degree course but at some point you began wondering what you had been thinking!

Career – You prayed for that job and were really excited when you got it but several months or years later, you dread going to the office. You don’t enjoy the work culture, your hard work does not seem to be appreciated and you have no morale to keep at it.

Business – You left work to start business with great hope. But despite a promising beginning, business is taking too long to pick up and you’ve found yourself disillusioned or jaded or plain broke!

Relationship – You jumped into a relationship or marriage with great enthusiasm but then things stopped working. Despite your hopes and prayers, it didn’t seem to get any better.

Faith – You got saved, and everything was so awesome! God seemed “so there” and prayer and bible study came easy. But several months or years into it, you’re finding it hard to keep going. Unanswered prayers, busyness or just personal challenges have made it hard for you to maintain the zeal you had.

 As we’ve said several times this month, it’s much easier to start strong than to finish strong! We start well but then in the process, life happens. We face external and internal challenges that make it very difficult to carry on. Many times, it is just easier to give up and let go. We lack the energy, the steam, or the stamina to keep going on.  So how do we ensure that we finish strong even though we face intense challenges that drain our energy to continue?

We are learning from the apostle Paul, who is uniquely qualified to teach us how to finish strong because he had a PAST full of issues that could have held him back. Paul also faced an uncertain FUTURE that could have demotivated him. In addition to all this, the pressure of Paul’s day-to-day realities could easily have caused him to give up. But despite all this, Paul still finished strong. What was his secret?

Philippians 3:12-14

Paul’s secret is revealed here. He repeats it two times. According to Paul, one of the most important keys to finishing strong despite the odds you currently face is to press on toward the goal!  Pressing on as used in this passage means – pursuing, following hard after, doing whatever it takes, soldiering on, struggling, persevering, keeping at it or plodding on towards a specific goal despite the challenges that come your way.

Paul is a man who knew what it meant to face challenges. Unlike what many would imagine, following Jesus had not resulted in an easy life for him! From a human perspective, things actually seemed a lot worse in his life after he started following Christ than before! In 2 Corinthians 11:23 – 28 he described some of the things that had happened in his life because of his decision to obediently follow Jesus… 

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.’

Paul was describing the challenges he’d faced not because he’d done the wrong things but because he’d chosen to do things right and to follow Christ. With a scorecard like that, it would be very hard to blame him for giving up/throwing in the towel! These are more than enough challenges for one person to bear! Even if you picked up just one or two things Paul went through, say, “pelted with stones, then 3 shipwrecks”– I’m not sure how many of us would still want to keep following Jesus after that! I mean we’d be like ‘What? God? If this is what serving You means, hasta la vista baby!’ And yet Paul just kept moving on. How did he push through challenges that would have made most of us pack our bags and go home?

The answer to that is in Paul’s words – “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  The words I want you to notice are, “that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  Paul understood that Jesus had taken hold of his life with a specific goal in mind. Unlike most people, Paul had a very clear awareness of God’s purpose for his life. He knew his life was not an accident! He knew there was a unique reason why God had created him. And because this reason/goal was very clear, he was able to stay focused and push on even when the challenges came. So here’s the lesson from Paul… Every great goal requires great sacrifice!

The bible tells us that just like Paul, we too were created for a unique purpose. If you’ve been coming to Mavuno for a while, Ephesians 2:10 is a verse you’ve probably heard quoted many times from this pulpit. ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’. The amazing truth is that none of us is here by accident. God has a reason for your being here on earth. He pre-designed some ‘good works’ specifically for you to accomplish, even before you were born! And in addition, He has uniquely gifted you for your role on this earth.

That’s why Mavuno exists to turn ordinary people into fearless influencers of society. What that means in plain English is that we want every single person who calls this their church to wrestle with the question, ‘what is my unique God assignment?’ We have designed everything we do here – our services and our experiences – to help you journey towards answering that question and be sure about your calling. You see, Mavuno’s ultimate passion is not to occupy your time in church with classes and activities but to equip you to carry out your God-given assignment in whatever sector of society that God has called you to occupy.

Now we’ve talked about all this before. But here’s what I want you to realize (call it the fine print) – knowing your purpose does NOT guarantee that life will become easier! Many of you know that only too well! You started so well; you came to Mavuno, found amazing acceptance, committed to follow Jesus fully, did Mizizi, and maybe even began to get a sense of your purpose. But then you hit the wall! Life happened! In fact some of you are in trouble right now because of following Jesus – your business isn’t growing as fast, your relationship with your spouse is tense, some close friends have abandoned you… and you’ve found yourself thinking – if I’d known how hard this thing was going to be, I would never have started at all!

But you need to understand, that you will never occupy, never be everything God created you to be, just by coming to Mavuno – just by saying ‘I am fearless!’ or just by repeating after the pastor ‘this is my year to occupy!’ You will face challenges. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, ‘in fact everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted’! You will face opposition to finishing strong. And you will only make it if you cultivate perseverance to overcome your opposition. Yes, God does all the saving. But there’s a role for you – and that is, to press on towards the goal. Every great goal requires great sacrifice! Staying focused on God’s goal for your life has several benefits…

1. Helps You Avoid Distraction

They say in life that if you aim for nothing, you will most likely hit it! Knowing why you were created keeps you focused and on track, despite the distractions of challenges and opportunities. When you don’t have focus, then your life is driven by the winds of challenges and opportunities. Many times when people say ‘I feel like God is asking me to quite my job’ and you explore further, you realize it’s not because God is saying anything: It’s because things have become difficult at work! If you don’t know why you’re there in the first place, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! The same is true for marriage/education etc

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.’ 

Life will constantly throw challenges AND opportunities at you. But when you know and determine to pursue God’s purpose, you are able to stay focused. Everything else – your business, your career, challenges or opportunities – becomes a tool to accomplish that purpose. You don’t need to toss a coin to know which way you should be going! Keeping the main thing the main thing will help you avoid the distractions because every great goal requires great sacrifice!

2. Brings Ultimate Reward

Earlier this month, Priscah Jeptoo won the New York marathon, after having won the London marathon in April. Apart from what she won from the two marathons, her win ensured she was crowned the winner of the world marathon majors, whose prize money is 500k dollars. [In other words if you’re 30 today and retire at 65, you’d get 1.2M sh a year!] Sweet life, right! Don’t you wish you were born with those genes? But winning such a prize means training 6-7 days a week for many months. Serious marathon runners run over 60-80km a week! Winning the prize takes pain and determination. Jeptoo won that race long before she got to New York! When nobody was watching! As she trained in secret! Every great goal requires great sacrifice

The same is true in life. Every great goal requires great sacrifice. ‘No pain, no gain!’ Don’t you wish you could just wake up and have a 6 pack? Have some ripped biceps and perfect proportions the more you sleep? But looking good and feeling good takes work! You have to make it regular and sustainable. You wake up and do it when it’s fun and when it’s not fun. The same is true for spiritual exercise. When it comes to things like prayer, bible reading, fasting, attending Life Group – I don’t always do them because they are fun or easy but because I know the results will ultimately show! Every great goal requires great sacrifice!

I believe every one of us wants to live out our purpose! I believe every one of us wants a life free of mediocrity! I believe every one of us wants to impact our generation! And I believe every one of us wants to meet our Maker one of these days and receive a heavenly reward. But in order to have all that, you need to every great goal requires great sacrifice! 

Yes life may be difficult. But God never gave up on you. He’s there to help you. But you must choose to press on. You must never give up. Because every great goal requires great sacrifice!

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3 Responses to “Finishing Strong – Press On Now”

  1. Just thinking aloud……..Pastor M’s sermon last weekend was tough to swallow! But yet so very true! It doesn’t get easier or better….. I find I have to keep dying to self daaillly! And having to carry my cross everywhere I go! To be honest there are times when the temptation to say hasta la vista baby was so strong and so real!
    Yes it ‘aint easy! Why can’t it just be a bed of roses?…..I want to wake up every day to smell the flowers and feel the cool breeze caress my skin, bask in the sun and just enjoy life!
    Why or why is it that there are mornings when I don’t feel like getting out of bed to confront my demons and those out there awaiting me? I thought it was all finished at Calvary where he nailed all my burdens to the cross…at least that is the gospel that was taught to me when I first got to know him. Why is living so complicated????
    I guess I can answer my own question….I can choose to have it easy, live in my own cocoon but the end result will be a life lived for self with no meaningful achievements what so ever! Indeed Every great goal requires great sacrifice (if you want to do great things like Paul did and leave great impact in the society around you – it will indeed cost you) I guess it also helps to know that he has taken a hold of my life and is doing something with it. I am encouraged by Jeptoo’s story for sure it takes great pain and determination to get a great prize- I WILL PRESS ON!

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  2. I have felt the need to share since I attended service but kept postponing it all week… so here it goes!

    The service this past Sunday really hit my emotions. I’ve not attended service at Mavuno central ever since Pastor Mbevi’s sermon that challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and do something extra to bring change to the city. You see, I did love to serve at the Connect Ministry and had already started feeling the burden of attending night and weekend MBA classes altogether with serving. Yet after hearing the sermon of God not concerned with my ability but availability, I was convicted to throw my weight in and serve some more. So thanks to updates I had about outreach in the Hill City neighborhoods, I started serving at the Green park service hosted by Mavuno staff every Sunday.

    Well, in my eyes, the experience was meant for me to engage and allow others into a space of transformation that I have managed to get by being in Mavuno but it’s turned out to be more than that. Sunday after Sunday has been more ministering to me as well. Going out there to a community of otherwise un-churched people has really opened up my eyes to the need for our presence in Mlolongo. It’s amazing how the kids have awesome worship experience at Green house and how they eagerly await us for set up every Sunday. Numbers in the adult service keep growing and now, even the congregation has stepped in to lead worship and usher in the new entrants not to mention a people driven Family Sunday just to cement the new found faith based community in church. I just can’t imagine how it’ll be at Hill City with all neighborhoods combined in this transformational experience. The reason I’m sharing this is because the open question answer session about Hill City somehow got me confused. While at this service, the sign post for my mind read we’re moving to Hill City but while at Green Park, I always feel like Hill City has already happened because it’s here that it’s happening already and finds a great meaning for me.

    This mixed feeling plus the recap of the Finishing Strong sermon actually meant more to me than what caught the eye. It’s during the service that I looked in deep to what is going on out there was making me see. I felt a wave of emotions pushing me to task to just how much making Hill City a reality would mean to the thousands waiting to discover purpose as a result of being connected to God at a location near them. I realize that we have been blessed by the church at Bellevue at our time/convenience and thus this is a time to do everything we can for others to have the same story to tell. I chose to share this just to encourage Mavuno that we too have this relocation race to Finish strong. I was personally touched to make every effort to fulfill my count me in goal this year. It comes at great cost but I’m praying that I’ll honor it as planned in spite of the sacrifice it will take for somehow now I realize in a greater way that 3.0 is a personal responsibility for me…and the rest, I’ll live to God. I know it is He who is writing this story and as the teaching this season puts it; He is the one who holds the future.

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  3. Thank you so much for the good work you do. I really appreciate.

    On this particular post, someone must have been in the middle of mark-up, that explains the strike through.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind regards,
    Macharia Samuel Maina.

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