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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained (Php 3:12-16).
I have so many things in my life that need fixed. I have a hundred different problems, so many it at times seems to overwhelm me.
Now and then, I buck up my courage and say, “All right, let’s take them all on.” And I lay plans to fix everything. And I last a week, maybe two, sometimes even a month. But then it all falls apart again.
And I’ve realized that it’s because I do not focus. I set out to fix all things at once, and because I’m putting all my focus on a hundred different things, I fail at all.
And that causes discouragement. It is very tempting to say, “Well, every time I try, I fail. So I guess I’m just a failure.”
But that’s not what God has to say about me. God says that, “in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal 3:26). Because of this, I set aside the failures of the past and set out again.
John of Karpathos, drawing on Prov. 24:16, observed:
Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls down seven times’—that is, repeatedly throughout his life—‘seven times shall he rise again’.
According to Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War, the first time General Grant faced General Lee, the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant and his Army of the Potomac didn’t win. But what made Grant’s command different is that the next day the northern army moved forward rather than retreating. It was the first time the Army of the Potomac moved forward after failing to secure a victory.
This led to the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, which was again inconclusive. Again, Grant advanced instead of retreating, and Lee gave way before him. Then came Cold Harbor, which Lee won—but had so little army left, Grant advanced despite having lost, and Lee had to retreat again.
Lee finally won the battle, but he lost the war. Grant had lost, but he continued forward anyway, giving his enemy no rest.
Now I’ve realized that the main reason I fail is because of a lack of focus. If I should do all in my power not to fall, then I should use my power efficiently. And seems to be of no use to strive against every flaw at once, because then every flaw remains unchanged.
So what if I put all my power, all my effort and all my focus, against only the most pressing issues?
What if I didn’t try to meet the end of my journey with one step, but rather accepted that the journey to heaven is too far for me to take in one step? What if I instead focused on putting one foot in front of another, addressing that which is most urgent at the time?
That is, indeed, the most proper course. And I’ve known it all along, and yet my knowledge was of no use because I neglected to use it!
Do not be discouraged because you fall. We all do, but just because you fail does not mean that you are a failure. Rather accept the hand up that the Spirit offers you!
And ask the Spirit for guidance. What caused you to fail? How what can you do to avoid whatever tripped you next time?
What do you need to be focusing on right now? What do you need to overcome now, and what is a battle for tomorrow? What is not as urgent, and by focusing on it, you are failing at more important things?
What do you need to do to press forward?