The Choice

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know what to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." Philippians 1:21-26

Paul had come to the point of absolute surrender where his will was lost in the will of God. He wasn't free from the desire to live among his friends. He was was just overwhelmed by his desire to depart, and be with Jesus. If he remained, he saw it as a necessary encouragement for others, but not necessarily an improvement for him. What a perspective.

Paul had become convinced that live or die, his mission remained the same, "your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus." Paul was absolutely surrendered to the will of God, and completely focused on unplugging his followers from a dependency on himself. His desire was for their joy and confidence to be based on their faith in Christ.

Most of my mentors have passed on to Heaven. As great as they were, they had one common limitation. They simply lacked the capacity to live forever, in the flesh. Arville and Pauline Senter, Dr. W. Fred Swank, Dr. Leon Hill, Dr. Harry Piland, Dr. Paul Gray, Dr. Curtis Vaughan, Dr. Paul S. James, and a host of other men and women of God invested themselves in my life. I miss them all, but no matter how much they meant to me, then and now, they were never meant to be a substitute for The Presence of Jesus.

Paul was held in high esteem by some, undermined by others, betrayed by a few, and today is remembered by millions. His focus in life was on making a difference, not making a name for himself. Jesus makes the difference in a person's life, and this is where Paul spent his time pointing people to find their joy and confidence in living.

Any broken relationship I have ever experienced in my life can be traced to a failure to meet expectations. My failure to meet someone's expectation of me, or their failure to meet an expectation of mine brought about a loss of joy and confidence. Simply put, people disappoint one another. Jesus never fails.

Note to self: The old honky-tonk song of the early 1980s used to say, too many people are "Looking for love in all the wrong places." Expecting from people what only Jesus can provide is a train wreck looking for a place to happen.

"Progress and joy in the faith" is an uplifting phrase, and almost a candidate for a Hobby Lobby throw pillow, until it is examined in the harsh light of reality, and not the warm glow of a scented candle. The word "progress" is rooted in the same word that describes the process by which metal is lengthened and shaped by a metal-smith pounding or hammering it out.

"Joy" is the capacity to see God's hand-prints in the process, In spite of the painful hammering going on in one's life. The one being made in God's image has an over-riding gladness that they are in His hands and in His will.

"The faith" is not an adherence to a set of principles or the embracing of a world view. It describes the secure relationship that has been established with Jesus by placing one's total confidence and trust in Him. The faith is not a concept or a value system, but a relationship with Jesus that is maintained by consistent companionship and believing prayer.

Paul had found this faith relationship with Jesus to be the one thing that he wanted to leave behind for those who may someday be disconnected from him. He knew that Jesus would never leave them or forsake them, no matter what the crisis or the circumstance might be.

Paul's Prison Epistles read like they are written by a free man. His life or death held great importance to him, but he chose to leave them both in God's hands. He focused on praying for those who put their trust in him, to transfer their confidence to Christ. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!