Forceful Precepts For Forward Progress

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 13-14
Subject: Progress; Spiritual Development; Growth; Discipleship

The apostle Paul was a firm believer in forward progress. In the book of Philippians, Paul vividly explained that he left the past in the past, and pressed forward toward the heavenly goal line. Like Paul, we must not focus on the failures of the past; nor can we afford to focus on the fears of the future. We must simply keep pressing forward for Christ.

Forward progress in this life requires two things of us: Focus and Faith. Concerning the matter of focus, Paul said, "...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," (Phil.3: 13b). Paul's focus was always forward.

Not only should we be a people of focus, but we must also be a people of faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us rather emphatically that it is impossible to please God without faith. That gives us some idea of just how important faith is in the Christian life. But faith must have an object. Faith in faith will never accomplish God's work. So what is the object of our faith? The answer can be summed up in one word-Jesus. The Lord Himself warns us, "...Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15: 5b). Jesus must be the focus and object of our faith, if we are to make forward progress.

With those thoughts in mind, I want to give us some exhortations, positive and negative, that if followed, will insure forward progress in our Christian walk and ministry. Be careful to apply the ideas of focus and faith to each of these exhortations.

If we are to make forward progress, we must take some important steps.

I. Fear Not (Isa.41: 10-13)

Isaiah 41:10a, "Fear thou not..."

Note 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

A certain amount of natural fear is normal, even healthy. However, God never intended for us to live in fear. Dr. E. Stanley Jones once said:

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath-these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely-these are my native air.

A John Hopkins University doctor says, "We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact." But I, who am simple of mind, think I know. We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality. Dr. E. Stanley Jones

A. We Need Not Fear If We Trust God's Presence

Isaiah 41:10b, "...for I am with thee..."

Hebrews 13:5b, "...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

B. We Need Not Fear If We Trust God's Person

Isaiah 41:10c, "...for I am thy God..."

Psalm 91:1-2, "He that dwelleth in the secret place (the shelter) of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."

After commanding Moses to go to Egypt, so that God could use him to lead Israel out of bondage, Moses asked God, "Who shall I tell them has sent me to them?" God said, "Tell them 'I AM hath sent me unto you'" (Ex.3:14). Folks, that term for God basically refers to "The All-Sufficient One." That's my terminology, but that's really the bottom line. If you are fearful, God says, "I AM your courage." If you are spiritually weak, God says, "I AM your strength." If you are hurting from life's battles, God says, "I AM your comfort."

C. We Need Not Fear If We Trust God's Power

Isaiah 41:10d, "...I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

D. We Need Not Fear If We Trust God's Protection

Isaiah 41:11-13, "Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."

II. Faint Not (Isa. 40: 28-31)

Anybody can quit. As a matter of fact, quitting seems to be the rule of thumb for a lot of people, especially when it comes to marriage and family.

Ten years ago for every wife who left her family, 600 husbands did. Today for each man who leaves, two women do. Charles Swindoll, Starting Over, 1977, p. 20.

A. Don't Give Up; Trust God For Strength

Isaiah 40:28-30, "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

The word translated "fainteth" in verse 28 means, "to tire (as if from wearisome flight)..." (James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, published by

MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia; #3286 of the Hebrew And Chaldee Dictionary, pg. 50).

Be careful. It's easy to want to give up when you're tired, worn out and spent. Never make a life-changing decision in that frame of mind.

B. Don't Give Up; God Can Be Sought

Luke 18:1, "And he (Jesus) spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

I like the amplified version of this verse, which says, "Also (Jesus) told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward-faint, lose heart and give up." The Lockman Foundation, The Amplified Bible, published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; quoted from The Amplified New Testament, pg. 116.

C. Don't Give Up; God Rewards Steadfastness

Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

III. Fire Up (I Kings 18: 21-39)

To be on fire for God means to be committed. It means to be sold out to Him. It means to be active, not passive in God's service.

The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus's last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood." Source Unknown.

A. Settle In Your Heart Who You Will Follow

Read 1 Kings 18:21, "And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word."

Matthew 6:24a, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other..."

B. The World Is Waiting To See The Fire

Note 1 Kings 18:24, 38-39, "And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answers by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God."


Folks, if the fire of God ever falls in our hearts and lives, it will do away with personal agendas. When a person is on fire for Jesus, they aren't concerned with petty church politics, personal power, and worldly popularity. They aren't obsessed with themselves at all. They are focused on God. They have faith in God. Oh that God's people would let God consume their lives with Himself. My, what a change it would make in our world!