Lack of focus is a real problem for us in the digital age. When was the last time we had a block of time to focus on just one thing? Paul, under house arrest writes to the Philippians from the perspective of having a lot of time on his hand to think through what is important in life and what isn’t.
About setting priorities, Paul sums it up well in Philippians 1:21, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What he means is his life is no longer his own. Elsewhere, he unpacks what “to live is Christ” actually means: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me, who loved and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He has essentially relinquished control of his life and has allowed Jesus to take over the reins. When he says, “to die is gain,” it’s not that he has a morbid outlook on life. Rather, he is setting a comparison: to be in the Lord’s presence in Heaven is “far better” than anything else. He knows that to live this life on earth is not all there is. He lives the present in light of eternity in God’s presence. Bart Millard in the song “I can only imagine” gets at what Paul is saying: To desire heaven and to be in His presence far outweighs any benefit we might find in this life. “I can only imagine” becomes the perfect response to John Lennon’s “imagine there’s no heaven”!
What’s the fruit of this single-mindedness, this ‘all in,’ ‘don’t settle’ outlook? Paraphrased, it goes something like this: ‘Ok, I’ll stick around a little longer, not for me mind you, but for the sake of others (Phil 1:24 “on your account”). Paul is putting others first and he finds his own voice in that. He can’t wait to be reunited with the Philippians, even as he can’t wait to be in Heaven. Note the glaring omission in his outlook: self-interest. He has come a long way from the violent man he was before Jesus revealed himself to him (Acts 9:1-9). Paul even spent three days in complete darkness (Acts 9:9; see Egypt, Jonah and of course Jesus)
Questions for the week:
- Jesus says that “whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.” How conscious and aware are you of the reality of eternal life?
- How much time do you spend thinking this life is all there is? Or, the other way to ask the question, how much time do you spend thinking about Heaven? Are we singing Bart Millard’s song or John Lennon’s in the way we live our lives and prioritize?
Addendum: The Great Banquet
From time to time people have wondered what The Great Banquet retreat is all about. In summary, it’s a 72-hour get away structured around a series of daily talks and discussions centered on the grace and love of God (from the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14; see also Isaiah 25). The first Great Banquet in New England was held on September 20-23 at First Church Congregational Boxford. Several of us from TCC attended. The women’s Great Banquet will be held later on this month at capacity (close to 30 guests) with about 12 women connected with TCC attending. We are excited to see this movement of renewal and revival launching in New England and to see many churches partnering together for this Gospel centered ministry. If you want more information about the Spring 2019 Great Banquet, contact Pastor Tom. For more info about our local Great Banquet movement, read here.