The Single Mind - Cont'd.
So Paul can rejoice, can be filled with joy. Why? Because he understands
that as he is obedient, as he depends on the Lord and trusts his circumstances
to Him, all that occurs will benefit the work of the ministry. Paul doesn't
have to understand how this will occur. All he needs to realize is that it
does occur. By truly trusting God, he lives in the reality that God knows
best, and that he isn't called to understanding, just faithfulness.
Think of the freedom of simply trusting, without being burdened by always
having to understand. We don't have to have answers to everything in life.
Verses 18b-26: Paul is so confident in God he is able to trust Him
with his very life. He praises the Philippians, because he knows that through
their prayers and the work of the Holy Spirit, he will be delivered. But
what is unclear to him is: Will the deliverance be the freedom of death,
or the freedom of release from prison? After all, for Paul, there are three
tenses of salvation: (1) past,:salvation through grace, (2) present,
sanctification or the working out of our salvation and (2) future:.
"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour
has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer
now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).
It is in these verses, that we can see while Paul can be joy filled in the
midst of trials, he isn't unaffected by them. He prays God will provide him
the courage to live or die in a way that honors God. We all need to be dependent
on God to live in a way that honors Him, just as was the case with Paul.
We see this, because he makes it clear he would be much better off if he
could die and go home to be with the Lord. Have you ever felt that way?
Is this a reasonable way to feel?
What hits me here as the most important principle is: It may be great to
get out of a difficult situation for something better, be it life for Heaven,
a bad marriage for peace and quiet, or poverty for comfort. But Paul is saying
that what is best is being available to God for the advancement of the kingdom.
This is true even if it means being stuck where we are. What strikes me with
the WWJD "fad" is that while it is good theology, I wonder if people remember
that what Jesus did, was put the will of the Father ahead of His own "needs."
And this is where true joy comes from.
But even as Paul speaks of going home, he isn't just talking of a benefit
that will come to him in Heaven, but that there would be a benefit to the
furthering of the gospel through the agency of his death. So even here, his
focus remains unchanged. If the gospel can be advanced by his continued presence
on Earth, then he is more than willing, though not thrilled, to remain. And
if the gospel is advanced through his death, then he can also rejoice. Paul
understood that, if for no other reason than to benefit the Philippians,
it was better he continue to live. While it was obviously much better for
his personal existence to die, but it was better for God's work for him to
There is nothing wrong with longing for the Rapture,
"For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with
a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call
of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still
alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to
meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore
encourage each other with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18),
but we should long even more for the opportunity to serve the living God.
We will have an eternity to be with and worship Him, but we have only a very
short time to serve Him here.
Verses 27-30: Now Paul, having answered their question concerning
his suffering, moves on to them. Their responsibility is the same whether
or not Paul lives, whether or not he can come to them. They too must rise
above circumstances in how they chose to live, motivated by the same thing
as Paul, the advancement of the gospel. They must strive for that same unity
of focus and purpose, not being overwhelmed by circumstances and the people
that would interfere with the ministry, even though many of those people
were fellow believers.
In the final analysis, it is the testimony of the believer life, the confidence
in the Lord in the midst of circumstances, that shows the non-believer what
is missing from his life. It is the centrality of focus that prevents
circumstances from stealing joy, and therefore that joy becomes a beacon
to the truth of the gospel, and the presence of God in the life of the believer.
Paul closes this section with the thought that suffering for Christ is actually
a gift from God. And if we understand that the gospel is furthered through
our trials, then we can understand how this is possible, and how therefore
we can rejoice.