Having finished reading Philippians chapters 3 and 4 the applications in my life are clear and the first of them resides in Philippians 3:12-16 and its call for a reader is obvious-to press on. All of us as Christians if we are still alive are called to press on to the goal of glorification in Jesus Christ.
If all Christians do not have this as an overarching understanding of the “end of the trail” in terms of achievement we are misguided or perhaps not Christian. What we are is shaped by where we think we are going. Where we think we are going affects what we do and how we behave in this life. Those that do not believe that they will eventually need to answer to a just God live life accordingly. I as a Christian understand that I am called to have a complete knowledge of Christ and a main portion of my day therefore a main portion of my life revolves around getting to know Him now to the best of my ability. So much so that I have now been called teach and preach to others so that they too will come to know Him better. I believe God has called me to “one up” the norm and do more. Otherwise I would not be doing undergrad work for a Masters in Theology. Otherwise…I would not be typing these words now. I believe God is expecting me to do something else. Not to solidify my salvation. Christ has already done that work for me.
Everything… and I mean every single thing I do right now is preceded by prayer and it appears all of my family’s actions are preparing us for the ministry whether they are intentional actions or not. Even when we think things are contrary to the will of God and we think they are actually taking us away from the ultimate goal, we end up being wrong. Even our mistakes are moving us closer to the crux of the issue and we end up exactly where God wants us anyway. It’s nutty. I can feel it in the very depth of my bones. Like Jeremiah, I try to stifle the urge not to talk about Jesus to other people about it but it ends up being a spiritual Whack-A-Mole.
“But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9
I could suppress and push it down in one place only to see it surface somewhere else at a different time and in a different form. Pressing on to a complete knowledge of Christ has now become unavoidable for me. Funny, but I am starting to feel as if I could double for Jonah right now. Something tells me that if I purposely walked in a diametrically opposed direction straight away from Jesus in my myopic point of view, it would just end up being a circle to God’s perspective and I would end up 360 in a matter of days. Not that would ever do such a thing but…I’m just sayin’….ya know? I would figuratively head for Tarshish only to end up in Nineveh anyway. Lots of laughs. I know that Jesus is the end result. It is He that I aim for. He is the one at the finish line. It is by his measure that I will be judged. He is the measuring stick, the Canon, the Word. To me there is nothing else that I care to aspire to. My life is now dedicated to showing others the joy the knowledge of Christ has brought me. My sins are forgiven. My Master awaits me when this life is over. I need nothing else. Praise Jesus. I find myself walking in lockstep to Paul's example.
So now I move on to the truth of the sinful side of my nature and it will appear almost schizophrenic compared to my last application. We all suffer this dual nature and to deny it makes us liars and we are deceiving ourselves if we do not acknowledge it exists. In a word: Anxiety. It is a place where my sinful and reprobate mind used to like to reside. For nearly four decades it is where my thought processes default to. If there was a worse-case-scenario, I would've been the one who had thought the most thoroughly on it and arrived at a conclusion about it the fastest in a crowd of people. At least this is the way it used to be. The evidence that this is no longer the case is my family’s current state of affairs. I use to pride myself on always having things “under control”. I had a good career, a great job and I definitely knew where my next paycheck was coming from. Philippians 4:6-7’s imperative tells us do not be anxious (v. 6) …. but in everything pray. Since 2009 this has been turned on its head and I have not always been calm about it or not anxious but I have definitively turned to prayer to maintain my obedience and faithfulness to a faithful and immutable God. As it became more and more obvious that life is getting farther out of my control, I have resorted more often to prayer and a trust that God would do what was best spiritually and eternally for my family. My trust in God was and is not misplaced. Our initial faith just continues to get further strengthened and grows even more. The more out of control things seem the more active God appears to be in our lives. Situations that once seemed insurmountable are being surmounted usually easily and in unforeseen ways. Money is there to pay bills; we have our health, food in the table and the like. Things are not always comfortable but they are not uncomfortable either.
We have learned to get use to “flying by the seat of our pants”. Most importantly God is helping support us in a midlife change of career so that we can actively and effectively move into proclaiming His Gospel. I could elaborate on the near miraculous events if not outright miracles that have occurred in very short order that have allowed me to get to a junior year of seminary undergrad work but it would end up being a book. The truth is we entered into this endeavor blind just as Abraham when he left Ur. When we left our old lives it was similar. We left “Um”. As in, “Ummm…what do we do now?” God has laid it out before us as we needed. Apparently we were on a need to know basis and we are just now beginning to need to know. We are now rounding a bend and it is clear the hand of God works profoundly in my family’s life. I remain faithful to the call and faith and obedient to His word. Outside of this there is no room for the wishy-washy nonsense propagated by that punk the Devil.
The next portion of Scripture is carryover from anxiety and it is a place that is constantly under attack in my life and is a recurrent area that needs address is my thought life. I tend to be more cerebral than most so my mind often gets the best of me and I think orbitally or over and over. This is a trap of the devil and lends itself well to doubt. I have needed to forcefully take hold of this flame and extinguish it before the fire in my head rages out of control. Over the last two or three years I have applied what Paul says in Philippians 4:8-9. The very first thing that comes to mind before taking action (a majority of the time) is Christ. This is obviously not the case when I slam my thumb with a hammer but 95% of the time I out my mind towards the Son of God. Depending on how agitated or anxious I have become I may then need to step up my defenses and resort to Paul’s list of thinking on the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.
In many if not most of the episodes where the world has gained an upper hand in my mind it works to think on Christ or the noble and honorable things Paul speaks of. I believe this is the case for a few reasons. (1) I don’t believe people can truly “multi-task” I believe they usually only think in a linear manner. When we begin to think we are multi-tasking we are in reality dividing our attention and thereby not devoting our attention and care to the things that we should in the way that we should. Instead of giving all towards a given task we are giving 50% to two tasks or 33% of our focus to three…and so on. Paul had it right. “…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Paul has a singular solitary focus here and itemizes them one-by-one. If man truly focuses most efficiently on one thing at a time which I believe is the case then thinking on the good things makes all the difference. Why you ask? Because it you are focused on Christ or true, noble and pure things…evil thoughts are held at bay. Then doubt is kept at arm’s length. The more you think on these things the more doubt is prohibited from breaching the defenses. Evil loses in the long run. It cannot build up a fortress or stronghold if its front lines are always being pushed back in a spiritual Battle of the Bulge. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”, in my case it is "out of thought, out of mind”. Not only did Paul model a healthy Christianity for the Philippian church, he did so for me (us) also and it was a good role-model.