12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
Fortitude is defined by Merriam Webster as strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. Each of us have the things that push us to our limits and beyond. Things in our lives that may cause us to completely shut down or as someone said yesterday "ugly cry". It is this wall of emotions that build up inside of us and cause us to truly determine how we are going to make it through the day when it feels as if we have had all of the wind knocked out of us. Fortitude is the ability to take a step back and recognize the areas in which we struggle, and watching God give us the strength to endure, overcome and press on. There have been many times in my life that I thought that I would never finish, compete or even achieve the goals that God had placed before me, but looking back, I recognize that God has been giving me strength every step of the way. Yes, there was no way that I could do it on my own, but one thing I recognize is that I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength. When I only rely on myself, I find myself to truly struggle and shut down or walk away from the challenge at times when it may get too tough or I feel too weak to continue. We have to be able to turn over that opportunity to God and feel the power that we can receive if we fully rely on Him.
Fortitude comes with many different emotions as well. It allows us to experience that ability of God to stretch us beyond our borders and helps us to realize the value in failure. I know that we all think that we are going to win and/or succeed every time we attempt something and even though I fully support that attitude, I hope and pray that is not the outcome. It is not that I want any of us to fail, but there is power in the lessons that we learn in how to fully succeed. If we are always winning, maybe we are not pushing ourselves to the limits that we
need and missing out on opportunities to experience the full growth God has intended for us. If we are always winning, maybe the task is too easy and we are ok staying in our comfort zone. The successes and the failures each teach us more and more about ourselves, but the life lessons after a loss or a failure, helps to build the character that we may need to help others who face the same adversity down the road. As I have mentioned before, there were many attempts in trying to find the best solution for tons of the luxuries that we have today. Ford was not successful with his first car that he designed. Albert Einstein continued to fail because he was pressing the limits of what we knew to be true. Even the founders of the Constitution were men who made poor decisions in their lives, but overcame those regrets to change the world. Even the disciples themselves struggled to make sense of all of the life lessons that Jesus poured into them, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to press on and change the world for the glory of God. It is not the fact that we are going to make mistakes or fail from time to time, but it is in our response to those mistakes that will show the character of who we are and who we are becoming.
One of the best examples of Christian fortitude for me is the Apostle Paul. Between him and Peter, I don't know how many times they had to rely on the strength of God to press on. Both of them lived through circumstances that caused them to question and doubt. Both of them were able to be restored by God to fulfill their true call. One became the ROCK on which God built His Church, and the other became the greatest missionary we have ever known. They both came from two different life-styles, but once they encountered God, they were refined and pushed the limits to do all that they could to strive to grow God's kingdom on earth. We hear the words of Paul in our scripture for today as words of encouragement that challenge us to tap into the fortitude that we can find through the example of Christ. We recognize that our life is a continuous journey that allows us to experience the ebb and flow of life, but with the power of God there is nothing that we cannot overcome. Paul realized that Jesus was willing to sacrifice it all to step into our situation. Jesus was willing to let loose of it all in order that we could experience the power of God's love. Jesus was in essence the fullness of fortitude from God. He embodied the gift of love and determination offered to us by God. Jesus gave up everything to come and walk with us and die on the cross for our sins. He knew the outcome before taking the first step, yet He professed, "Father not my will but YOUR will be done." Paul experienced this love personally in his encounter with God. And once he saw the LIGHT, there was northing that was going to stop him from sharing the Gospel story to the world.
None of us have taken hold of the fullness of the sacrifice laid out for us on the cross. We kind of understand and we are truly appreciative of the sacrifice, but we cannot fathom the fortitude that Jesus had to fulfill God's calling for His life. I am saying this because I want all of us to realize that we are going to fail and fail a lot. We are going to suffer and suffer a lot.
We are going to find peace and joy and find them a lot, but we are not going to truly find
our rest until we step into the fullness of God. It is a long journey. It will require that we depend on others. It means that we will continue to question and doubt from time to time, but that which does not kill us will make us stronger. The life lessons that we learn on the journey will continue to put the pieces of the bigger picture together. Fortitude is the ability to step into the uncertainty with assurance that we can endure. So as we take on the next steps of this journey together, I will continue to pray each of you as God directs your path. I pray that we will continue to work together to encourage and push each other on to fulfill God's purpose for us all. I know that as soon as you finish reading this today, satan will do anything and everything possible to make sure that we will doubt our calling and possibly even stop trying to move forward. Break through the wall and realize that you may have not attained it yet, but it does not mean that the goal is unattainable. We may just need a little more training to walk through the battles that we are facing today. We take hold of the promise found in Christ and we step out in faith to secure our future in heaven.