Monday, 4th October 2021
Pastor Soong Kok Kee

Philippians 3: 12-14 ​“Not that I have already attained all this, or have already been made perfect …. I press on toward the goal.”

Many years ago, a promising Greek artist named Timanthes was under the instruction of a well-known tutor. After several years, the young painter created an exquisite portrait. He was so thrilled with what he had painted that he sat day after day gazing at his work.

One morning, however, he was horrified to discover that his teacher had deliberately ruined his painting. Angry and in tears, Timanthes ran to him and asked why he had destroyed his cherished possession. The wise man replied “I did it for your own good. That painting was retarding your progress. It was an excellent piece of art, but it was not perfect. Start again and see if you can do even better.” The student took his advice and produced a masterpiece called “Sacrifice of Iphigenia”, regarded by some as one of the finest paintings of antiquity.

God never wants us to be content with our accomplishments, no matter how great those may be, like Timanthes admiring his first painting. He wants us to reach even greater plateaus of service and Christlikeness. Paul recognized this, for even though he was a godly man and had accomplished much, he admitted that he still needed to advance in holiness (Phil. 3: 12-14).

We should never be satisfied with our spiritual attainments no matter how great those may be, but rather work even harder while we still can. When Paul says “Forgetting what is behind…” he was reminding us not to let our successes or failures of yesteryears prevent us from pressing on. Paul had tons of successes: having written almost half of the New Testament, went on three missionary journeys, planted many churches along the way, brought many to the Lord and performed many miracles of healing the sick and casting out demons, and yet he humbly said “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on…”.

One time, a former Church leader told me how, in his younger days having started a church, he went from house to house giving out tracts and got chased and bitten by dogs – he even showed me where the dogs had bitten him! He believed he had done his share and now he can rest while the younger ones take over. He has let his former success prevent him for pressing on.

Paul too had his failures but again that did not prevent him from pressing on. He looked after the clothes of those who stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7: 58) and then he began to destroy the church by going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison (Acts 8: 3) and he was breathing out murderous threats to the Lord’s disciples (Acts 9: 1) until he met our Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). These failures before he met the Lord must have propelled him to press on even harder instead of hindering him.

After he became a Christian, he probably suffered more than many of the other apostles – he was frequently in prison, flogged 39 lashes 5 times, exposed to death again and again, 3 times beaten with rods, once was stoned, 3 times shipwrecked, spent a night and a day at sea, constantly on the move and in danger from rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, in the city, country, at sea and from false brothers (2 Cor 11: 23-28). He didn’t let those hardships and “failures” prevent him from pressing on but rather that energized him to press on.

Some former church leaders and even Pastors who had failed or been hurt once or twice in the ministry would stop serving altogether, and may even leave the Church or God, but not Paul. Through successes or failures, he kept pressing on. Brothers and sisters, never let our former successes or failures prevent us from pressing on “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus”. (v 14).

​When you’ve reached a plateau,
​And your strength’s almost gone,
​But the Lord still says, “Go”,
​That’s the time to press on. – Hess

PRAYER:​ Dear Lord, thank you for reminding us that no matter what happens in our life, you will always be there for us. For you have promised that you will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us not to be proud and satisfied with our “successes” that we stop serving you nor be discouraged when we meet with our “failures”. Help us to continue to serve you until you call us home. In your precious name we pray AMEN.

星期一, 2021年10月4日

【腓立比書3: 12-14】 “这不是说我已经得着了,已经完全了…….我向着目标竭力追求。”

多年前,一位很有前途的希腊艺术家蒂曼西斯  (Timanthes)接受了一位著名导师的指导。几年后,这位年轻的画家创作了一幅精美的肖像画。他对自己所画的画感到非常兴奋,以至于他日复一日地坐在那里凝视着他的作品。

然而,一天早上,他惊恐地发现他的老师故意毁了他的画。蒂曼忒斯 (Timanthes )气急败坏地跑到他面前,问他为什么要毁掉他心爱的财产。智者回答 “我这样做是为了你好。那幅画阻碍了你的进步。这是一件出色的艺术品,但并不完美。重新开始,看看你能不能做得更好。” 这位学生接受了他的建议,创作了一幅名为 《伊菲革涅亚的牺牲》(Sacrifice of Iphigenia) 的杰作,被一些人认为是古代最好的画作之一。

上帝从不希望我们满足于我们的成就,无论这些成就多么伟大,就像蒂曼西斯(Timanthes)欣赏他的第一幅画一样。祂希望我们在事奉和效法基督方面达到更高的境界。保罗认识到这一点,因为尽管他是一个敬虔的人,并取得了很多成就,但他承认他仍然需要在圣洁上竭力追求(腓立比书 3章12-14节)。

无论我们的属灵成就多么伟大,我们都不应该满足于这些成就,而应该在我们还可以的时候更加努力地工作。当保罗说 “忘记背后的事……” 他是在提醒我们不要让过去的成功或失败阻止我们继续前进。保罗取得了无数的成功:写了将近一半的新约,进行了三趟宣教旅程,沿途建立了许多教会,将许多人带到主面前,并行了许多医病、赶鬼的神迹,但他谦卑地说 “不是说我已经得着了,已经完全了,而是我竭力追求……”。

有一次,一位前教会领袖告诉我,在他创办教会的年轻岁月里,他是如何挨家挨户分发传单,并被狗追赶和咬伤 – 他甚至向我展示了狗咬他的地方!他认为他已经尽了自己的一份力量,现在他可以休息,让年轻人接手。他让他以前的成功阻止了他继续前进。

保罗也有他的失败,但这并没有阻止他竭力追求。他看管那些用石头打死司提反的人的衣服(使徒行传 7:58),然后他开始残害教会,逐家逐户地连男带女下到监里(使徒行传 8:3)。他一直在向主的门徒发恐吓凶杀的话(使徒行传 9:1),直到他在去大马士革的路上遇见了我们的主(使徒行传 9)。在他遇到主之前的这些失败,一定促使他更加努力地前进,而不是阻碍他。

他成为基督徒后,他可能比其他许多使徒受的苦都多 — 他经常在监狱里,5次被鞭打39下,常有生命的危险,3次被棍打,一次被石头打,3次海难,在海上度过了一天一夜,多次行远路,遇着江河、强盗、同族、外族、城中、旷野、海上、假弟兄的危险(哥林多后书 11:23-28)。他没有让那些困难和 “失败” 阻止他竭力追求,而是让他充满活力地继续前进。

一些前教会领袖,甚至牧师,在事奉中失败过或受过一两次伤,就完全停止事奉,甚至可能离开教会或上帝,但保罗不会。无论成功或失败,他一直在努力。兄弟姐妹们,永远不要让我们以前的成功或失败阻止我们继续努力 “向着目标竭力追求,为要得着 神在基督耶稣里召我往上去得的奖赏。” (第 14 节)

但主仍然说: “去” ,
那是继续努力的时候了。 — 赫斯

祷告:亲爱的主,谢谢祢提醒我们,无论生活中发生什么,祢都会一直在我们身边。因为祢曾应许永远不会撇下我们,也不会丢弃我们。帮助我们不要为我们的 “成功” 感到自豪和满足,而停止事奉祢,也不要在遇到 “失败” 时而气馁。帮助我们继续事奉祢,直到祢召我们回天家。奉祢宝贵的名,我们祈求。阿们。