I’m currently going through Philippians, trying to glean how to remain joyful no matter what the circumstance. And since Paul was pretty much an expert in that, I thought I should sit at his feet and just listen to him. (I imagine Paul as a type of Mr. Miyagi, trying to catch flies with a chopstick in a hazy, incense-filled room while I listen and watch amazed. FYI – this might not be a truly biblical picture of him.)
My initial impressions: Paul and Timothy are slaves, and Paul is currently in jail. As Christians, we are set apart for Jesus. It is a gift to know fellow believers. Our spirits obtain lightness and joy when we pray in gratitude for other believers. We should partner with our pastors to spread the gospel. Jesus doesn’t stop mid-design but is constantly perfecting us. Stand with those who are defending the gospel. Love should grow in wisdom and insight, so we can determine the best from everything else.
Well, as Paul always does, he manages to turn the conversation away from him and onto Jesus and other followers. Paul could harbor on the fact that he’s in jail, he could talk about his confinement, his treatment, plead for prayers, but he doesn’t. He mentions it casually. He is so aware that his life and his circumstances are minuscule compared to Jesus, His work in the world, and Paul’s fellow workers. Versus me when I’m struggling with my one of my children (or with one of my parents or with a health issue or with financial issues) and I want to share every detail with someone, not to get actual advice or even to plead for prayers, but just to wallow in self-pity, sometimes to fish for compliments, but mostly just to talk… about myself. (Lest anyone accuse me otherwise, let me say right here that sometimes talking as a form of therapy is not wrong. BUT that is not the case with me, where my speech is not godly or helpful or encouraging, but more along the lines of “misery loves company”.)
The other thing that sticks out to me immediately is Paul’s absolute LOVE for others. He genuinely has heartfelt love for people. He cares about them, he spends time in prayer for them, he is constantly thinking about them and talking about them. Replace the “them” in the last sentence with herself and you’ll get a picture of who I spend the most time obsessing over. I have been convicted over and over again that I am so self-absorbed, but like an addiction, it’s a hard habit to break. (Insert Chicago song here.)
I am truly thankful that Jesus is not going to stop working on me, declaring me a failed project, but that He has His hands all over me molding me into that perfect vision He has in His head of me. And I will get there, because it doesn’t have anything to do with me, the clay, but everything to do with the Potter. And if I can wrap my mind and my heart around that, I think I’ll finally, finally start to realize the overwhelming joy that envelops Paul, Jesus’ slave, in the midst of a prison cell. So I determine and declare that today is NOT about ME, but ALL ABOUT JESUS! I proclaim this truth, with a view to God’s ultimate praise and glory.