So, today is my birthday. And birthdays are a little like second New Years. They give you a chance to reflect on the past year and think about what you want the next year to look like.
What am I living for? What about you; what are you living for? I mean, REALLY living for? Where do you spend your time? Where do your thoughts go? Play your goals out a few iterations…and then a few more…and then a few more. Where do you land? What are you really LIVING for? Because the core of what you are living for determines your course. Determines your joy. Determines your contentment. Determines your reaction to adversity and challenges. Determines where you will ultimately arrive. It’s the reaping and sowing truth embedded in creation.
Paul’s life is a beautiful example of living sold out for Jesus. For Paul, “to live is Christ.” He was all in for the Gospel. To know and tell of Christ…THIS is what he was living for. And with this strong and steady core, everything else flowed. He could have joy in the worst of circumstances because he KNEW God was sovereign and God would work it for good. He could brush off his enemies, like those in Philippi, because if the gospel was being rightly proclaimed, that is all that mattered. He could not fear what was around the corner, even death, because he knew “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He was living for Christ.
Preachers had come into Ephesus attacking Paul. They were filled with pride, envy, and selfish ambition. They sought to attack and belittle Paul. When self is the motive, scarcity mentality sets in and others become the target of destruction. “For me to get a bigger piece of the pie, everyone else must get less or none at all,” scarcity and selfishness chant. But Jesus was who Paul lived for, and like Jesus, he didn’t waste his time defending himself here or counter-attacking. He knew there was enough Jesus to go around. He kept his head down and pressed on toward his laser-focused mission of preaching the gospel. And not because he wanted to live and let live. He consistently called out false teachers. But in this case, the true gospel was being proclaimed even when the motives were whack. They were against Paul, not Jesus. Paul would not hesitate to defend the gospel, but he doesn’t waste his time defending himself or getting distracted and off course by these other preachers.
With this rock-solid core, if Paul was attacked, but the Gospel was rightly presented…so be it. If he saw overt displays of impure motives and selfish ambition, but the Gospel was preached…let it go. He says, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” God can use even impure motives. God will deal with these things of the heart, not Paul…so long as the Gospel is spoken in truth. Because THIS is what Paul was living for…NOT himself, his following, his reputation, his legacy, his comfort.
What do you want to be living for? Where might your motives need a bit (or a lot) of refinement? Where are you being distracted by things you just need to let God handle? What do you need to add, get rid of, or change to go where you want to be? Charles H. Spurgeon says, “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”
God, help us desire to live for YOU in all things. Let us love unity and joyful celebration of others on Your team. Give us clean hands, a pure heart, and your holy compass. And let us begin as we mean to go on.
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