This is post #6 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: As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. Philippians 1: 22-26 (MsgB)
Ever been there?
You’ve done everything you know to do. You’ve expended time, energy, and resources trying to fix the problem, but there it is.
The problem is still there. Looking you straight in the face.
You try not to blink, but let’s face it. Your body is tired, your mind is exhausted, and your soul feels like it’s long past running on fumes.
You think to yourself, “Maybe a good night’s sleep will help,” but after a night of tossing-n-turning, you awake the next morning, and there it is. The problem you hoped would go away is there to greet you bright-n-early, wearing your pajamas as you start your new day.
And then you hear that little voice inside you. In my experience, it usually starts out as a one-time whisper, but before long, it’s pestering me at nearly every turn I make.
“Why don’t you quit, Marty?” the voice suggests. “You can just walk away, you know…it’s just not worth it all, is it?”
Keep in mind, the Voice of Giving Up rarely demands anything, but simply, and very politely, asks a logical question.
“Hmm. Quitting could be a viable option,” I think to myself.
Keep in mind that the Voice of Giving Up can often have very serious religious overtones.
Here in Paul’s case, the Voice of Giving Up suggests that quitting (i.e. giving up on all this pastoral stuff) just might be his ticket to going home to be with Jesus. Wow! How exciting does that seem? No more worries. No more pain. No more jail cells. No more abuse from friends or enemies. As Paul states it here…
The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better.
But, praise God, the Voice of Giving Up is overcome this day by the Gift of Perseverance.
Webster’s defines perseverance this way…
Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
As I see it, God’s Gift of Perseverance can also be defined by one’s willingness to live with the Gift of Delayed Gratification.
You see, Paul was wise enough to know that one day he would have the opportunity to stand before his Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. He knew, on that day, his earthly trials, temptations, agonies, and hardships would end. But he also knew that it was not his decision, but God’s, in deciding what day that encounter would be. So until then, he would choose to delay that gratification of being face-to-face with Jesus, knowing that in this present day, God’s amazing grace would be sufficient to carry him through. Do remember his words in 2nd Corinthians 12: 8-10 (NIV)?
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (my affliction) away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Wow. Apparently Paul, and his friends back in Rome, had learned well, the lesson of delayed gratification. So when the Voice of Giving Up began to whisper sweet nothings in their ears, they knew full well that God’s Gift of Perseverance was available to them so that, in Christ, they could keep on keepin’ on for the glory of the Lord.
So, what about you and me?
Today’s Prayer: Father God, there are days when the Voice of Giving Up offers me a very tempting option in resolving my problems. Yet, Jesus, I see in the lives of those who have gone before me that when afflictions come their way, they call out to You, asking for the Gift of Perseverance to help them make it through. Like them, Master, may I experience that it’s Your grace that is sufficient. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: Where is the Voice of Giving Up whispering to me today? Am I agreeing with that voice, or am I willing and able to call out to Jesus for His strength in my weakness, asking the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Perseverance to carry me through? Finally, what will perseverance look like today in my situation? What actions will I take as I operate in God’s Gift of Perseverance?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
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Thanks Marty!! A needed Reminder Today!!