“I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” – Philippians 3:12
God calls us to “press on” – to forget what’s behind and “reach forward” to what’s ahead (Philippians 3:13). Like runners in a race, we must “press toward the goal for the prize” of a heavenly crown (3:14). We must “run in such a way that” we “obtain” this prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Only through active faith and self-discipline can we finish the race (9:26-27). We can’t sit and do nothing. Jesus didn’t sit “at the right hand of the throne of God” until after he’d accomplished redemption on the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Why should we be any different?
Some Christians think we should. They say that “once saved, always saved” – cheap grace, forgiveness without repentance – gives them freedom to “press on.” The reverse is true. People who believe in “once saved, always saved” end up sitting and doing nothing. They don’t think they have to work out their salvation. Yet Paul tells us to do just this, “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
As the firstborn, Esau was promised a double portion of his father Isaac’s estate (Genesis 25:25). However, he was spiritually profane. Esau “despised his birthright” by selling it to his younger brother Jacob for food (25:29-34). When the time came “to inherit the blessing, he was rejected” (Hebrews 12:17). The lesson is obvious. Esau despised his birthright, but he couldn’t receive the blessing without it (12:16-17). Wrongfully secure in his status as the firstborn, Esau didn’t “press on.” Therefore, his status wasn’t enough to inherit the blessing. Esau also needed real faith.
Was Jacob wrong to buy Esau’s birthright and steal his blessing (Genesis 25:31-34, 27:15-30)? Unbelievers see a deceiver and supplanter; believers see a man of faith (25:26, 27:36). Unlike Esau, Jacob valued the birthright, an act of righteousness that led God to reveal himself in the desert (28:11-19). Later wrestling with God, Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me” (32:36). Taking nothing for granted, he “pressed on.”
Jesus’ parable of the talents illustrates this contrast perfectly. One servant is given five talents, another two, and a third just one (Matthew 25:15). The first two servants, like Jacob, take immediate action by trading and doubling their talents, an act of faith (25:16-17). The third servant, like Esau, buries his talent in the ground and gains nothing (25:18). When the master returns, he rewards the first two servants but robs the third one of his one talent (25:20-29). The “unprofitable servant” is then cast “into the outer darkness,” with “weeping and gnashing of teeth” – hell (25:30).
We need Jacob’s faith. We mustn’t be profane like Esau by forsaking Jesus Christ for this world (1 John 2:17). We mustn’t insist on “once saved, always saved” either but daily confess and repent of sin instead. If sin remains when Jesus returns to judge the earth, then we’ll find “no place for repentance” (Hebrews 12:17). It will be too late.
In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
 New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted