Pressing On

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know I’m late, but I have an excuse.

I spent the last ten days battling a respiratory infection. For someone who lives with only thirty percent of his lungs functioning on a good day, pneumonia and respiratory infections are, putting it lightly, really bad. So, I don’t care what the date on the calendar is, I’m declaring that today is the first day of my year. Those of you who have already broken your New Year resolutions might want to join me in this do-over.

It may be a weird coincidence, but two years ago I spent the first week of the year in the hospital battling a respiratory infection. If you want excitement on New Year’s Eve, just go sit in the ER at a nearby hospital.

As many of you know, I almost lost a battle with pneumonia three months ago. During that battle, I was put on hospice. Being on hospice is great because I no longer have to go to the hospital. So, even though I was just as sick as I was on New Year’s Eve two years ago, I was able to stay in my quiet bedroom.

It might not make sense to an able-bodied person, but even a guy that lives trapped in a completely useless body makes plans for the coming year. On January 1st, I had plans to hit the ground running, figuratively speaking, obviously. But once again I spent the first week of the year sitting on the sidelines. It’s so frustrating to begin the year playing catch up, but I must press on!

“…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

The context of the above passage is interesting and so powerful. The Apostle Paul is comparing his former life as a highly-respected Pharisee and scholar, to his debasement (in the eyes of the world) as a Christian who spent much of his time in prison. In fact, the first chapter of this book tells us that Paul wrote this while he was “in chains.” It’s so ironic that, before becoming a follower of Christ, Paul would hunt down and imprison Christians, and even oversee their execution, but now he was the one imprisoned for, in his words, “the cause of Christ.”

Suppose that Paul would have sat there in that dark dungeon dwelling on his former life:

  • He would look at the rags he was wearing and remember the fine robes he used to wear.
  • He would look at the mystery slop in the bowl in front of him and think about the delicious foods he used to enjoy.
  • He would look at the hard floor he was sleeping on and think about the comfortable bed that he used to sleep soundly on.
  • He would look around the cell at the dark walls and remember the feel of the sun on his face and the beauty of flowering plants as he used to stroll through the gardens of Jerusalem.

I understand the temptation of thinking about how things used to be before ALS imprisoned me in my own body:

  • I had a good job that I enjoyed and was earning a good income.
  • Mary and I had an active social life and enjoyed fellowship with many close friends.
  • I enjoyed being an active father of our two beautiful little daughters.
  • I was active in church and enjoyed teaching Sunday school.
  • I was able to eat delicious food with my mouth, no feeding tube needed.
  • I was able to speak with my own voice, no Text-to-Speech robot voice needed.
  • I was able to breathe without the assistance of a breathing machine.
  • I was able to operate the remote control for the TV!

Okay, the last bullet point is kind of shallow, but you get the idea. The point I am trying to make is that the life of following Christ is always looking forward. We learn lessons from the past, but we can’t live there in our minds.

Isn’t that living in denial?

It’s not living in denial if Christ and a hope of heaven is your reality. My life’s work is now to spread the message of this reality to others. Even if I were completely healed today, I would continue with this work because it’s what I was called to do. I just didn’t realize it when I was able-bodied.

ALS has taken away so much, but being imprisoned in my body has turned me into the man that God intended me to be. Apart from ALS, I don’t know if I would have ever found that man. It shouldn’t take a horrible trial for us to discover the person that God designed us to be.

In the same chapter as the passage I posted above, Paul calls everything he’s lost as “rubbish:”

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8)

Hold tightly to lessons learned from your past, and the joyful memories you have. But, let go of guilt, regrets and “baggage” from your past.

Press on with me this year!

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on January 8, 2019, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 171 Comments.

  1. Amen! Thank you brother Bill

  2. Absolutely beautiful 💜

  3. Today I posted my latest article. I mentioned you in my post and inserted a link to your most recent post. Your writing always inspires me. May the Lord reward your faithfulness. You can see what I wrote on my blog; God bless you and your family, Richard

  4. I was really encouraged by this post, Bill. Thank you for sharing from your situation.

  5. The year to press on and on. Thanks

  6. Jennifer Stepanski

    Love you Bill and Mary. Enjoy reading this over and over. I will press on, with you and others! Remember Joyful times, find new joy and seek my one love, God. His Will be done. Jesus’ healing power for you this day. Hope. Believe Trust. Faith. Thank you for your writings and teaching and sharing your blessings. New. Day! Love, Jennifer

  7. Thanks for the update and the encouragement, Bill. Your exhortations always pack a lot of punch, especially since they arise from within the context of ALS. Almost none of us can relate to what you’re going through, but the lessons you teach easily transfer from one “trouble” to another. And we all have those! Thanks again, brother, and Happy New Year!

  8. Beautifully written post!
    Happy New Year to you as well, it is 2019 and we are still Here! We made it, it’s a New Day, a New Year full of Great expectancy and opportunity. Still we shall continue to advance and press through.

    I am so grateful you are feeling better as you continue to walk by Faithful your Healing. It is so wonderful to meet you both.

    We must indeed Press On, that we receive every promise God has in store for us.
    InHisCare 🙏
    Yonnie 💜

    • Thank you, Yonnie. It’s funny you said, “it is 2019 and we’re still here.” I think that every New Year since being diagnosed with ALS. I was 36 when I was diagnosed and the diagnosis was that I’d live four years. I turned 40, then 50, and now I’m a 58 year old grandfather of three. I’m still here! 🙂

      • What a Mighty Testimonial. You are indeed welcome!! It’s 2019 and I’m Still Here Speak Volumes to me as well.

        Having overcome Abuse and many other life challenges growing up in “The Dark House.” I became sick and was diagnosed with Spinal Meningitis at 11, then quickly slipped into a comma for a month. I was told by my Mother the Doctors called my family together and announced there was nothing else they could do, everyone, especially three siblings recall being devastated.
        I am forever grateful to God for answering prayers and his many miracles.

        I am so glad to have meant you and your lovely wife. We shall continue to Press On.


  9. Wow, Bill! Most of us wouldn’t recognize God even if He was brought right up to our eyeballs!

  10. Happy New Year, Bill! So glad you survived another scare and are still here! I liked, “So, I don’t care what the date on the calendar is, I’m declaring that today is the first day of my year.”
    What a great reminder to take our eyes off of what used to be and to keep pressing on! Aging bodies and accidents can certainly tempt us to dwell on what used to be. I so appreciate your strength and inspiration!

  11. Glad you were able to be home to recover this time Bill.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts and inspiration, as always!

  12. Why do we make it so challenging to hear the voice of the Lord? He blessed you (and I say that with intent) ALS to get your attention and make you the man He needed you to be seems harsh in light of His deep love for you. Yet the older I get, the more I realize He needs to strip away my “stuff”–arrogance, pride, my ability to do ministry, my attitudes–to allow me to become what He’s intended me to be all alone. I love your faith and full of faith attitude. Your willingness to see His hand on your life. His intentional love for you—even in a hospital bed on New Year’s Eve. May this be a year of joy and wonder for you, Bill. And you can begin your new year any old time you need to! Blessing, my friend.

    • Thank you, Dayle. Age and/or sickness does strip us of pride and other “character flaws” – if we allow this to happen. I’ve seen people fight against this process and die miserable. I’m trying to allow this chipping away at my many character flaws 🙂

  13. You lead many toward pressing on, Bill! Thanks for your witness to Christ in such a tremendous challenge!

  14. I couldn’t find the like button, but I think you have expressed so well the feeling of loss that can come with a disability or extreme medical hardship. The “I used to” lament is one to overcome even if you don’t have a disability…. Figuring out what God has for us in a challenging time (the darker seasons are never welcome). Kudos to you, brother.

    • Thank you, Erin. I agree with you about the “I used to…” can be a trap even for the healthy. If I didn’t have ALS, I would probably be saying “I used to be thin and had thick dark hair.” 🙂

  15. Keep up the positive attitude and your encouraging voice. Lord knows we need to hear it and be encouraged from your inspiration. Philippians 4:13 is my life motto and the ring I wear. I’ve got say and think it every morning to get through. God bless you and your family Bill!

  16. “Forgetting what lies behind, I reach forward toward what lies ahead…” Seeing you reference this verse that I often pray aloud reminds me that I’m not alone in my journey forward, Bill. I’m surrounded by fellow pilgrims like you, and draw new strength from realizing that.

  17. Excellent work Bill on Philippians 3. Remember also that we are seeking to apprehend (take hold of) Christ while all the while He is apprehending us. Your work is serving well as it gets circulated like the boys loaves and fishes. Yessiree…Doug

    • Thank you, Doug. Mary and I know a lot about the loaves and fish, God’s been sustaining us (financially and otherwise) like the loaves and fish- miracle after miracle.

  18. “My life’s work is now to spread the message of this reality to others. ”

    You can count yourself a huge success.

  19. Thanks for visiting me today and leaving the like. Made it possible to follow you home and browse a bit. 😀

  20. Thank you for sharing. …forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

    You are an inspiration. On a lighter note; there is an African proverb which says that whenever one wakes up; is their morning. So I am happy to forget all that lies behind as I look forward to what God is calling me to do in the year ahead. You did not miss much. Happy New Year.

  21. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I think all of us are trapped at times in our lives, maybe not physically but emotionally. When I can’t let go of my anger, fear, or hatred, which puts me out of fellowship with the Lord, it does feel like being in a dark prison.

  22. Press on brother; just prayed for you.

  23. Press on toward the mark brother.

  24. Happy New Year Bill! 😀 Pressing on with you, all for Him. Thanks for continually teach me how to do so with gratitude and joy for what we have been given…despite the great cost. Hugs & blessings for being the “man of honor” that you are!

  25. Excuses, excuses… Just kidding! Seriously, so glad the Lord spared you one more time to write this wonderful post. This hits me at a perfect time. Just this morning and for this year, I’ve been praying for myself to be more obedient and trusting – to really and truly give Him my all.

    God bless, and happy New Year! I’m willing to start over any old day. 😉

    • Thank you, Heather. It’s funny, when I wrote, “I know I’m late, but I have an excuse,” that line sounded strangely familiar, like from high school 🙂
      I’m glad you’re joining me in my do-over.

  26. Just as others I am so sorry to hear of your latest battle. So glad Bill that you came through it once again. May you feel God’s loving presence every day this year and May he bless you and you family abundantly. …. Diane

  27. Your blog honours God and gives Him all the glory
    You are a source of strength and encouragement to all who read your posts .
    Thank you so much for being faithful to your call.
    Happy New year to you Bill and your beautiful family.

  28. Your blog honours God and gives Him all the glory.
    You are a source of encouragement and strength to so many.
    Our God is faithful,
    Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family.
    Blessings Bill

  29. Hi Bill, I continue to lift you and Mary and your family up in my prayers daily but I had no idea this time that you were sick. I have noticed a few times when praying for you that I was to ask for a double blessing for you and of course I did. And then you write this post which blows my socks off. I just don’t know what to say other than you astound me. You are such a blessing Bill and believe it or not, I needed to hear what you said. Love you brother.

  30. Hi Bill! Happy New Year, indeed!! I’m sorry to hear about your recent health scare…but happy you are feeling better. Thanks for your timely message…and by timely I mean good for right now in this moment and I celebrate New Year’s with you…right now!
    Sweet Blessings, my friend. May this time be one of continued healing…and perfect love!

  31. Absolutely amazing testimony.

  32. Bill, you are an inspiration at the start of 2019 and you remind me that the full Gospel – born again, is eventually a new body as well as receiving the Holy Spirit now. This decaying body is not all there is; what a wonderful hope we have in Jesus.

  33. Amen. 🙂 Pressing on here…

  34. May we all take this powerful lesson to heart, Bill. Your faith and your obedience are an inspiration to light the New Year. God bless you!

    Your friend,


  35. Thank you, Bill, for being the blessing you are to so many–myself included! I’m sorry you’ve been sick again but am grateful you’ve been able to bounce back. Happy New Year! 😊

  36. Reblogged this on A Blog About Healing From PTSD and commented:
    Every time I read a post by Bill Sweeney, I am strengthened and inspired. Bill has been paralyzed for over twenty years with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He cannot walk, talk, eat, or even breathe without a respirator. Bill gets his nutrition through a feeding tube. He controls his computer with eye movements. That’s how he writes his blog. And yet his posts are full of hope, encouragement, and even joy. If I hadn’t already given up my agnostic atheism years ago to become a Christian, Bill’s blog, Unshakable Hope, would surely lead me to believe.

    Without my faith in Christ, I am certain that I would not be alive today. PTSD was destroying my life. I had no peace, no happiness, and no hope…. until I found the same kind of unshakable hope that Bill Sweeney has.

    Comments are disabled here, please visit Bill’s blog and bless him with a comment. Thank you for stopping by and God bless.

  37. So glad you’re doing better. And no, the last bullet point is not shallow. It’s a sign of independence to flip the channels at will. God bless!

  38. I always perk-up when I see a new post from you. Not just for your words, but also for the friendship and fellowship in the comments below. Yours is a blog to sit around the kitchen table together and rest awhile. It is a gift – if I were a lesser man (!!) – I would envy!! 😊😊😊

  39. Hey Bill happy new year, you haven’t missed a thing so glad your feeling better much love to you and Mary

  40. Bernadette Pfeiffenberger

    Thank you for the reminder of the “shut-in places”. The movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ”, truly revealed how many of His greatest works are accomplished in the shut-in places of our lives with the Lord.

    He has you hedged-in with Him and closely held to His heart. Thank you for the Wisdom gained in your shut-in place with the Lord and your willingness to share with the world.

    God bless you and your family.

  41. “But, let go of guilt, regrets and “baggage” from your past.”

    I’m ashamed to admit it Bill, but this has been a ball and chain around my ankle for so many years it seems like a part of me. I know that “who the Son sets free is free indeed”, but it sure can be difficult to let go of past failures and “what if’s “. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

  42. Dear Bill and Mary, How often I think of you when in our struggles we are experiencing the Lord’s presence more than in the good times. One of my struggles is knowing what to post next because He has given me so much of Him to write about. Tomorrow, we will reblog your post as an extra boost for others to look for the Lord in every moment of every day, especially in the trials. Blessings to you both as you continue to witness of His love and grace.:)

  43. I am glad, Bill, that you are still pressing on and encouraging others. It’s not what happens to you but how you handle what happens to you.
    May the Lord continue to glorify Himself in your life.

  44. Bill , you are my Inspiration!! Wish you & Mary the best of 2019 !
    Praying for you . Thank you for your blog , your words are very much needed to be heard !

    Gary & I love you both

  45. Philippians 3:13-14 are verses I love! When all we do is look back to how things used to be, it’s so easy to live with regret and anger. I am quite disabled, to the point where I spend all my day sitting otherwise my back hurts so bad I just cannot tolerate. When I have to go out I use my electric wheelchair. My husband, of 47 years, is my total caregiver.I used to be very active but now I can’t be and I find myself on the Net encouraging others and I like to write poetry. My husband has just finished publishing my poetry/devotional book so that others can download it for free. I imagine if I was so active as I used to be, this would not have happened. I am so thankful that God has used my handicaps to sanctify me and to give Him all the glory! Thank you for your blog because it is so encouraging…….

  46. In the negativity of today’s world, it is always refreshing to remember that light exists in even the darkest corners. I am glad you are feeling better and see no reason not to begin the new year whenever you wish. Thank you for sharing your struggles, your inspiration, and reminding us all of an unshakeable hope.

  47. Beautiful! And so true. Undoubtedly we all spend way too much time doing wrong or unnecessary things, because we CAN.
    Think how much of the New Testament we would be missing if Paul had never been imprisoned.
    God bless you this year, and always. I look forward to meeting you.

  48. Thank you, Bill, for this great reminder. Praising God you get to serve Him here and encourage us to proclaim the Gospel no matter what circumstance and trial we are facing! Beyond grateful for your Words, Bill! Happy New Year to you and Mary!

  49. How can we NOT press on in our faith, if YOU are?! Praising God for you, Bill, your perseverance, positive attitude, and good cheer. So glad you are feeling well again, ready to begin 2019 on your timetable!

  50. Who worries about dates? We live under God’s economy. Happy New Year! Praying that your overall health remains good and that God blesses you with a stellar year! God Bless!

  51. This is the real unshakable hope, the one founded on Jesus the Rock that can never be moved. Keep inspiring us to be who God has called us to be. I am encouraged just by coming across your blog. Thanks to Ryan for sharing it.

  52. Imagining Paul at work while in chains is a wonderful analogy for any believer feeling trapped, even if only by the world’s downward spiral. Love your hopeful spirit!

  53. Happy New year. Now it has come. Like Paul I think you will run the race and fight the good fight until the end. I guess you have a whole room full of trophies to come. God bless you both.

  54. As I care for my mom as her dementia creeps through her mind, the Lord is teaching many lessons about the body of Christ. One is the broken vessels have the greatest honor. Another is to take on the trial of our brothers and sisters sharing their joys and sorrow. Third, the best we can do for one another is pray. I hope to do better in this as I truly learn to love in truth. I will remember you and yours in prayer as our Father puts you in my heart.

  55. Happy new year!🎆

  56. Reading your blog posts from your perspective always humbles me. I STILL take so much for granted. Thank you for all the energy and time it takes you to write. I’m sorry you had to yet again spend NYears in ER.

  57. Reblogged this on Laughter: Carbonated Grace and commented:
    This blog is awesome, because it’s not theory, it’s the reality of what a difference faith makes.

  58. AMEN. Thanks Bill. We will press on. We will get it done. All glory to the Lord Jesus. Blessings to you!

  59. So true. Forward is our only positive mode. Xoxo

  60. Namaste Bill, Happy New Year! 🙂

    ‘Hold tightly to lessons learned from your past, and the joyful memories you have. But, let go of guilt, regrets and “baggage” from your past.’ – the lighter one travels in heart and mind, the higher one’s spirit will soar. Fly on Bill, like an Eagle.

    Brightest Blessings in all ways always.

    Namaste 🙂


  61. Amen, Bill! I am pressing on by your side! Thank you for the shot of inspiration.

  62. Thank you Bill for your life giving inspirational words always. You are an inspiration Brother. Trusting God Blesses you fantastically this year and beyond, as you serve Him faithfully.
    I am having a do-over to start 2019 also, and happy to be finished with 2018!
    God’s Blessings!

  63. I’m glad you are over the infection. Our family went through an awful flu over Christmas break. So glad to be done with that. I wanted to let you know that I wrote a post about you today on my blog with a link to this post “Pressing On.” I titled it “An Inspiring Man.” You have been a great inspiration and encouragement to me Bill and I praise God for how He is using you to help people! My prayers are always with you. God bless you and your family!

  64. ALS is a terrible thing to live through. I have a friend who is battling ALS and have seen first hand the effects of it. My prayers and heart are with you.

  65. Great purpose has come because of your view from the cell block! This mornings devotion Psalms 2:3 The earthly kings wanted to break the chains of God and free themselves from slavery to God. I was praying this morning that I would be a Psalms 1 “Riverbank Tree”. I want to bear fruit no matter what season or struggle life sends my way. I want to prosper in His Kingdom no matter what it looks like compared to my past and like you, make the best of my chains. I want my chains to bring change to others!

    • Thank you, Les. It’s funny, before becoming a follower of Christ, I viewed Christians as being in bandage (“in chains”). Now I think unbelievers are in chains 🙂 We should all strive to be next to the “water.”

  66. Vincent Sweeney

    Thanks Bill and Happy Belated New Year!!!

  67. great post, as the saying goes, God is strongest when we are at our weakest, as Jesus was asked often, why was this person born with this ailment or that, he replies simply, in order to show the mighty power of the Father, blessings and have a great new year, amen

  68. You are glorifying the Lord, in every situation. Hospice and home care are wonderful blessings. Your prayers are clear and precise in the ears of the Lord. Blessings, and strength, increased faith for 2019.

    • Thank you. It’s funny, I never thought I’d use “hospice” and “blessing” in the same sentence, but hospice has been a real blessing to us. I hope you’re doing well.

  69. Wonderful blog, Bill! Thanks so much for your persistence in writing … I love reading your blogs and am always reminded of things I need to put into practice. They are like modern day parables.

  70. Bill, I love this post so much. It means the world to me. And I am praying for you and Mary each and every morning and evening. I hope that encourages you both. Love, Nancy

  71. Happy first day of your New Year Bill. You didn’t really miss anything coming in late to the party. So glad you are feeling better. Once again a beautiful message. Love you

    • Happy New Year, Ellen. I haven’t been watching the national news, but I think you’re right about me not missing anything. I heard something about a government shut down and Republicans and Democrats are bickering… Same old stuff 🙂 Love you.

  72. Reblogged this on Enough Light and commented:
    If you don’t read the blog of Bill Sweeney, you should! Be encouraged and challenged by this Christian man who has had ALS for 21 years.

  73. God’s richest blessings upon you in 2019, Bill!

  74. You have a rare gift bill, and your inspiration is proof of God’s goodness- in all things.

    Great word here- especially the fact that you see the worth in who you are- because of who He is.

  75. May God continue to bless you and yours as you continue to bless us .

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