“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV)

God has a hold on me.

How else can I explain where I am today? There is no other reasonable explanation for where I have come from and where I am today in life and in the ministry other than, “God has a hold on me.”

I have sat with those who are crossing the threshold from this world to the next. I sat in a Starbucks and talked with an elementary school student about what baptism means. Over the years I got to hang out with some of the coolest teenagers. And when others said it was not possible for teenagers to do certain things (I’m looking at you Habitat for Humanity), I had the honor of watching the “impossible” happen.

I have visited the dirt floor homes of grandparents in Costa Rica, the only caregiver for their grandchildren. I gave out hugs to children in Central America and cities in Virginia knowing that those hugs were the only hugs they were getting that day.

I sang and celebrated Holy Communion with residents of an L’Arche community.  I have taught children the importance of raising awareness about malaria.  I have split firewood and delivered to homes in the cold of winter.

Yet, one negative reaction sends those memories away.

The time when someone criticizes a sermon. Or the time someone does not respond well to your efforts. That time when you did not call or send a note. Or the time you dropped the ball and all the pieces fell around you.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Ministry and life are hard. It is so easy to be tempted to let the negative overwhelm the positive.

As I look back over these memories and consider the holy things I get to do, I realize that I do not deserve any of this. I am not special. I’m just Jason – a sinner saved by grace.

For it is by God’s grace that I am able to do all that I have been able to do.

A couple of years ago when preparing for a sermon, I came across this quote from Rev. Beverly Zink-Sawyer, who was one of my worship professors at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond:

“The word for us in this text [Mark 6:1-13] is that we are not held responsible for the response to our ministries in Christ’s name, but only for our own faithfulness.  With such assurance, we can witness boldly and faithfully.” (Beverly Zink-Sawyer)

So, I press on toward the goal.

I press on, not to be successful, but to be faithful.

I press on, striving for perfection.

I press on as a child of grace.

I press on toward courage and confidence to proclaim the Gospel.

I press on.