Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Philippians 1:18-21 Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Recently I achieved what could be considered a milestone by some, and a millstone by others. I passed into my 66th year of life. I celebrated by walking and running a mile on the treadmill in under 12 minutes. Then I lifted some weights. I am preparing to play in a three-on-three basketball tournament on Sunday with my two sons, who have enough confidence in me that they invited me to be on their team. Either that or the just needed someone to look good on the bench.
My wonderful wife is a great encouragement to me as we talk about our desire to stay around as long as possible to enjoy our family. I know I’m not in charge of the length of days of my life, but I can do my best to make every day count with a vision for the future. I want to stay in Christ’s service so long as I can.
Nevertheless, the reality of old age and eventual death has started to sink in as we reach this stage of our lives. Yet, in the midst of that, I have discovered an ever-increasing sense of joy in my relationship with my wife. The joy of our present relationship far outweighs the possibility of future realities.
Our present relationship with Christ should bring us even greater joy, because He is our future reality. Death has no sting for those who are in Christ Jesus. The fear of separation from whom and what we love is removed because death does not separate us from God, but rather completes our union with Him. We can be living today in the future reality of intimacy with Christ.
According to Paul in today’s Scripture reading, God has provided us with four things that cause us to rejoice in the present when faced with the reality of death. Here they are:
- The prayer support of fellow believers. Endurance is tough when we stand alone, but it is enhanced when we are supported by a band of brothers and sisters who care. Praying for one another produces solidarity by bringing all of us into unity in the heart and mind of God. When the singular purpose of God is understood through prayer, people are encouraged and strengthened to unite in accomplishing that goal.
- The power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling presence of Jesus in the Person of the Holy Spirit gives us constant help and hope. The joy of the present relationship far outweighs any of the possible outcomes of the hardship.
- The promises of God. Paul says, “…what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage…” He had total confidence in the promises of God, using terms like “will turn out”, “I eagerly expect”, and “will have sufficient courage.” He never doubted the power of God to fulfill His promises in his life. Knowing that God was at work and would not fail gave him great joy despite the severest persecutions.
- The plan of God. “Christ will be exalted in my body.” That was Paul’s understanding of the plan of God for his life, and it is God’s plan for us as well. We will find reason to rejoice when we accept God’s plan, and allow Him to use our lives for His glory, whether by life or by death.
Separation is never easy. It is not easy for me to think about being separated from my children if God would call them to another place to serve Him. It may be hard for you to open up your heart to where God might call you to better serve him in some other capacity so that the Kingdom can grow. It is far easier to maintain the status quo than it is to be uprooted. But we must trust the sovereignty of God who knows these three things to be true:
- you will grow to greater maturity by obeying;
- you will influence others in a way God wants when you go;
- and you will be replaced by someone whom God has prepared to do the same.
Don’t be so comfortable where you are and so afraid of separation that the glory of God ceases to be your motivation for living. Be bold and be strong, for the Lord your God is with you.