CE_FobZUgAE8QCSIn a small, dark, cramped Roman prison cell the apostle Paul wrote, “Yes, and I will rejoice.” It really is hard to grasp the spirit of rejoicing under those circumstances isn’t it? But if you read further, you see why Paul could genuinely say that. For it is just a couple of statements latter that he writes… “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) That changes everything!

I’ve been meditating on that one statement all week—“For to me to live is Christ.” I’ve found it to be terribly convicting as I’ve asked myself “is that true of me?” As one commentator said, for most of us we get it backwards, and if we were honest might say it like this… “For me to live is gain and to die is Christ.”

Prior to 1905 tuberculosis was referred to as “consumption.” The reason? Because until Dr. Robert Koch discovered the tubercle bacillus, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, no one really knew what the disease was. All they knew was that whatever the disease was, it seemed to “consume” its victims causing their bodies to wither more and more as it progressed.

The fact is, much of our living consumes us, causing us to waste away spiritually simply because it becomes more about protecting our life, preserving our life, promoting our life and prospering our life. There’s nothing inherently evil in those things, until or unless those things consume us. Now to be clear, Paul was a consumed man; it’s just that he was consumed by Christ. And that is why he could write, “For to me to live is Christ.”

As I have meditated on Philippians 1:12-26, I’ve been challenged by Paul’s self-abandonment and contemplated the reasons that so many believers struggle to do the same. As a result, I want to share with you some of the common reasons that we have difficulty saying with Paul, “For to me to live is Christ.”

First is the matter of “cravings.” That is, the surrendering to the pull of the flesh over spiritual desires. It isn’t that most believers don’t have the desire to live selflessly for Christ; it’s just that we have grown accustomed to giving into the cravings of our flesh. And that has become the norm for us.

Second, there are the “distractions” of life. With the pace of life we are living, these are so numerous I won’t try to list them; you probably know what they are in your life anyway. The harm is, they keep us from enjoying and experiencing something that is so vital to our spiritual formation—Solitude with God.

Third, there is this devilish fear that grips us. It causes us to fear what following Christ might cost us in terms of relationships, finances and acceptance or rejection by others. Circumstances partnered with the eyes of flesh also conspire to capture our hearts and minds with fear and prevent the peace of God ruling over our lives instead.

And finally, I would add feelings of insecurity keep us from really being able to say, “For to me to live is Christ.” Insecurity is a by-produce of self-reliance. By that I mean, we come to believe that everything we need depends on our ability to produce it and our ability to make things happen. But Paul had learned what we must learn—Christ is all we need and the more we abandon self and trust in Him, the more secure we’ll be.

I want to join Paul in saying—“For to me to live is Christ!” Don’t you?

For God’s Glory Alone,

RJ

 

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