Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).

 

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Day 20: “Put It Into Practise”

intentionalEat less. Exercise more. That’s how you lose weight. Spend less, save more. Have a nest egg for retirement. Doing things with purpose means accomplishing your goals. Your time of prayer and fasting was calculated. You were intentional in your sacrifice. You spent time praying specifically over these last three weeks.

Considered meditation on the things near to your heart has brought you closer to Jesus.

Let the rest of 2018 be a continuation of the progress you have made. Keep putting into practise what you have begun. Let the nourishment you have received for your spirit propel you forward and become the floor for your next layer of growth. Exercise your spiritual muscles by concentrating on what you’ve learnt.

Don’t fall into neglect, rather launch yourself into everything God has for you.

You’re just getting started!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practise what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Day 9: “Relentless Pursuit”

Day 9You started a new diet in January and you’re hungry. You began working out and your muscles ache. You decided to take on a time of prayer and fasting and you’re tired. Your will is in a battle. Warfare is on. You feel under attack on every side.

Advance or retreat?

Step up or back down?

Make excuses or stake your claim?

Remember, your goal is to know Jesus more intimately; it’s to become more like him. Maturity in Christ means learning to embrace wherever he has you and whatever you’re up against. You’re relentless in your pursuit.

If you’re spending time with him, you’re winning. If you are thinking about God instead of Facebook, you’re kicking goals. When you feel hungry or need a coffee and instead, you pause to listen for the still, small voice of your Saviour, you’re killing it.

Those prayers you’re praying are reaching heaven’s door. The desire for breakthrough is being heard on the other side of your heartache. Your longing for clarity and energy and vision for your future is met with open arms by a mighty God who loves meeting your needs.

Keep going. Persevere.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG).

Day 3: “Sacrifice”

day 3Fasting can look like different things for different people. Ultimately, you give up something (food, social media, sugar, coffee, alcohol) in order to fill yourself intentionally with more of God. You seek him in your hunger pangs, believing he will satisfy. You position yourself to hear from him instead of hearing the noise of your normal habits (like checking Facebook or reading news). You die to something you love, trusting God will breathe new life somewhere else. In that, you test yourself and your strength. You find out what you’re made of. Jesus shows up. You know him better. You hear his voice more clearly. You work out what you can live without and find out how sweet his presence is – better than Tim Tams and caffeine.

Breakthrough comes in your prayer life as you lean into the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Yielding your fleshly desires to seek whatever it is God has for you brings clarity of mind and spirit. Everything feels heightened when you’re physically weak. Your soul is in alignment when you waive your rights to your normal indulgences. You see Christ in everything when you surrender. The end of  YOU is the beginning of HIM.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

 

 

Day 21: “Keep Going.”

come-like-rainTo paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Philippians, “[You’ve] got your eye on the goal, where God is beckoning [you] onward – to Jesus. [You’re] off and running, not turning back.” The 21 Day fast is coming to an end, but you will continue to benefit from a vibrant relationship with God.

This relationship is two ways, however. It’s often said that God is a gentleman, never pushing his way in or demanding anything from you. James promises that God will come close to you when you come close to him.

You must acknowledge him and shift your thoughts towards him daily in order to experience his refreshing. Faith brings full assurance when you draw near to God with a sincere heart (Hebrews 10:22). In other words, you can count on your faithful God; but, it’s difficult to trust someone you don’t talk to or spend time with.

“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it”(Philippians 3:15-16 MSG).

“Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Day 11: “Stop and Notice.”

thank-god-when-i-think-of-youSometimes, the people closest to you are the ones you can unknowingly neglect. You become too familiar, comfortable in your surroundings, busy with your schedules. The obligations right in front of you become nuisances rather than opportunities. Crying children, homework, a wife who needs a listening ear or a hand in the kitchen… The predictability of it all means you go through the motions, numb to the need.

Today, stop and notice your immediate family. Pray for your spouse, your children, your parents. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any significant needs they might have even if they are unspoken. Your first ministry is in your home. God in you, revealed to those who are close, is authentic faith. They matter most. They watch and learn about the Lord by how you live out your convictions.

Instead of focussing on yourself, why not ask someone in your house how you can serve him?  Thank God for those he has placed in your life. They long for you more than you know.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day ELEVEN

Read Philippians 3

You are at the halfway point of our 21 day fast! If you’re fasting some type of food, your body may be used to going without and it may not seem like the same sacrifice it was on the first few days. If you’re fasting something else, a new habit is forming in its place and it may not seem difficult to keep giving it up. If you aren’t careful, you can begin to place confidence in your own efforts.

With any type of “religious” activity, we must guard against patting ourselves on the back and calling ourselves righteous. We have to keep at the forefront of our minds why we started fasting in the first place. The apostle Paul puts it beautifully as he lists all the reasons he could boast of his own efforts. Yet, he considers everything he ever did in the name of religion worthless compared to knowing Christ. We aren’t made righteous by obeying rules, fasting, spending extra time in prayer, church attendance, etc. We become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and the work HE has done on the cross for us.

What a relief! Let us press on in our heavenly race towards the prize that is Christ. Our time of fasting and prayer isn’t familiar, boring, or a second thought, rather it’s a way to know Jesus more and experience and relate to Christ in everything we do.

Dear Lord Jesus, give me strength to continue with my fast. In doing so, I ask that you help me to keep the main thing the main thing… YOU! Rid me of any pride or false sense of accomplishment and check my motives and heart condition. I press on towards the upward call that is Christ Jesus. I want more of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.