This is post #5 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything He wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m His bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. Philippians 1: 18b-21 (MsgB)
Last time, we discussed the sticky predicament Paul and his friends found themselves in.
On one hand, Paul, Timothy, and the others, were called as missionaries, sent-out ones for the explicit purpose of taking the Good News message of Jesus to the nations. Yet, on the other hand, they often found themselves limited, to a large degree, because their leader, Paul of Tarsus, kept being thrown into jail!
In today’s Lectio Divina, we find Paul continuing to address this dilemma as he writes from his jail cell in Rome. It’s obvious from many of Paul’s letters found within the pages of the New Testament, that if he had his way with things, he’d be like Willie Nelson, on the road again, spending qualitative and quantitative time with his friends, shepherding them as only a caring pastor can do.
But, here’s the rub.
Paul is stuck in prison with no guarantees that he’ll ever be released. No guarantees that he’ll ever be free to visit his friends ever again. No guarantees that he’ll even survive this heavy-handed approach to justice led by corrupt Roman government officials and vengeful, religious leaders of his day.
From an earthly perspective, this is a lose-lose situation.
Paul, and his team, are being held back from doing the good work of Jesus, while those in this broken society around them, ones who could truly use a bit of good news in the midst of darkness, are being denied the hope and promise God could bring through His faithful messengers.
Apparently Paul doesn’t see this ugly predicament as a lose-lose endeavor.
As we read today’s text, Paul views his life and ministry through the eyes of faith, seeing it all as a win-win situation!
Yet, how, we might ask, can Paul entertain this ugly threat upon his very life as a plus?
Isn’t it just Pollyannaish thinking here? Isn’t Paul in some kind of denial, pretending to find a rainbow in the midst of his darkened future?
Or, is Paul actually operating out of some kind of special gift from God? An ability to see life through a different lense than most of us have? A way of seeing and perceiving situations differently than we human beings tend to?
As I see it, that’s exactly what’s going on here. You see, Paul and his friends have given their lives over the Master, Jesus of Nazareth, and they’ve decided long ago to not be caught up and controlled by life’s circumstances, regardless of how desperate (or hopeful) those circumstances might become.
St. Ignatius calls this ‘let-go-and-let God’ attitude…indifference.
I like to call it holy indifference, because, quite honestly, I believe it’s a spiritual gift that flows from the Holy Spirit of God.
You see, holy indifference allows us to live our lives with only one goal in mind. That goal is to trust and hold onto Jesus, our Master and Savior, regardless of what life might bring us.
Paul, later in this letter to his friends in Philippi (see Philippians 4: 11-13) gives us a great definition of holy indifference, and we’ll be touching upon this subject again when our blog and podcasts get there. But for now, let me close by quoting this “win-win” attitude that enables Paul to make it through both the exhilarating highs and the devastating lows of his life:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Today’s Prayer: Jesus, I find in Paul’s words to his friends in Philippi, a joyful hope, a holy indifference, that quite honestly, is off my charts. In what I might call a lose-lose situation, Paul seems to be able to boast about his dilemma as one great win-win, holding onto You for both his present reality and his long-term future. Holy Spirit, may that gift of holy indifference increase in me. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: What current situation in my life appears to be a lose-lose endeavor? How might the Holy Spirit give me the power to see this dilemma through the eyes of holy indifference, where my faith, hope, love, and trust is found only in Jesus alone? Finally, as that gift of holy indifference manifests in me, how might my viewpoint on life turn from lose-lose to win-win?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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