[Convinced of this]
I’ve needed God to be the lifter of my head quite a bit in this uncertain season of my life, but It’s when I feel most conflicted that I’m also most certain that God is faithfully covering me with His feathers. It’s always in my grief and distress that I hear Him the loudest and understand Him the most. It’s in the struggle that He offers encouragement or assistance, even if it’s simply a new lesson and perspective. This is still worth so much more than gold to me.
After a rough day on Saturday, I woke up Sunday morning feeling worn, and weak. (Physically, more so than mentally.) Mentally, I had a determination to push to be at church because I needed to be revived. There are benefits to “flocking together.” and we’re told to do so, with good reason. When we’re isolated it’s too easy to get lost in those negative thoughts. We need to spur one another on (Hebrews 10:23-25).
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” –Hebrews 3:13
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” –2 Timothy 4:2
On Sunday morning I was reminded once again of that confidence that we as believers have: the confidence that God is able. I must admit though, I’ve been tugging at that old rope. You know the one: God has one end, and you have the other. Well, that old rope is starting to fray.
I’ve been a bit lost in my “new normal” lately—feeling like something was missing. It’s all too easy to find myself in this mindset. I forget that we truly have everything we need. When the weather changes, our gaze can land on the things we believe we’re lacking: a job, a relationship, money, purpose, family, friends, good health, or whatever it is we think we’re missing. We’re told to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added, but do we always do this and believe it?
For me, one of the benefits of assembling together with the “flock” on Sunday was the reminder that nothing Andrew and I have been going through is unusual or without purpose. Paul the apostle was conflicted too, but he also understood that he was here for a reason. (As we all are.) If you’re living and breathing, you too are here for a reason.
Paul wrote the letter below to the Philippians while he was in prison. He also wrote: “And because of my chains most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Phillipians 1:14). He was focused on what was most important, and convinced that it was necessary for him to go on living to help others progress. This wasn’t pride or arrogance. He knew that even being imprisoned served its purpose. He believed in the work and power of Jesus Christ. What if we looked at our chains with this perspective? We may not always see, or recognize who our chains are affecting for Christ, but whether we see it or not, maybe we should be convinced of it like Paul was: that God is faithful and working in our affliction.
“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” –Philippians 1:22-26
The broader view of Sunday’s sermon was what Paul proclaimed: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phillipians 1:21) I appreciate how Pastor Mark expanded on this: “For the hockey player, to live is hockey. For the musician, to live is music.” The list goes on. Whatever we put first is what we consider truly living. Do we see life in Jesus this way? As a Christian this is what we should be proclaiming, but do our thoughts and actions agree with who we say we are? Do we have this conviction in our hearts?
I want very much to put Jesus first, but by the evidence God puts before me, I know that I don’t always do this. I don’t always take my thoughts captive, and I don’t always make myself a slave for Christ: a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12). Instead, I struggle with the unknown; I don’t confidently trust my days to God, or believe that His power rests on me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Lately, I’ve been more concerned about the things I believed I was lacking. (The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.) I’m rethinking things again though.
If you caught that I used the word slave as opposed to servant, I did this with good reason: it has a much stronger resolve to me than servant does. We prefer servant over slave because it sounds more appealing to us, and it’s less offensive. We don’t like to see ourselves as slaves because we don’t enjoy the idea of giving up anything, especially our freedom. However, God requires that we surrender our life to Him to gain true freedom. This takes submitting to Jesus. In doing so we give up our independence–abandoning our rights. Our freedom to do as we please will always lead us wrong because of the deceitful desires of our heart, but Jesus won’t. So, we willingly trust God’s wisdom, and put off our old selves to be made new in the attitude of our minds (Ephesians 4:22-23).
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything. –1 Corinthians 6:12
To put Jesus first then, is what it truly means to die to the flesh (or to die to self). As Paul put it, “to die is gain.” We make it our goal then to die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31). When we understand what we have inherited in Him, we should come to the conclusion that what we believed we needed, simply isn’t worth the cost of having it.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me [Jesus] will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” –Matthew 16:25-26
How we understand our life in Christ matters, and How we view Him makes a difference. Is He a lovely thought? A wise teacher perhaps? Is He just a man to us, or is He the power of God embodied in flesh and blood? What if we knew Him as Lord and Savior? What if He was the King of our hearts? We may say it, but understanding it, and living it with conviction is an entirely different thing.
Paul had it right. He knew Christ. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Paul lived like that too, making himself a slave not only for Christ, but also for his brothers and sisters. Isn’t this what love is? Like Paul, we must consider everything a loss in comparison to what we have gained. We don’t always get it right. However, when birds of a feather flock together we can refuel, refocus, and reroute (reroot even), as we make those course corrections.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” –Philippians 3:8
“My great desire is to be with you. But this is the place you chose for me.”
“What in this life could mean any more?”
If you’re interested in reading more from this series, all entries can be found here:
And the first entry can be found here: