If you’ve been following along in the Lent Challenge, reading through the New Testament in 40 Days, this may be a good day for a bit of a reminder about what it’s all about in the first place. The point isn’t to be able to say you read the whole NT in a little over a month. The point is to soak in Scripture during a period of preparation. The point of reading the Bible at all is transformation ~ and that doesn’t just happen on accident. It happens when we open our hearts and carefully consider what God has to say.
Today, what He had to say for me through the words of Paul in Philippians, is that I need a resurrection ~ the flood of His new life poured into mine.
Reading through Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, you can’t miss the joy. It’s everywhere. In Paul’s words themselves, in the instructions he gave them, in the gifts he mentioned receiving from them… But if you read through a list of events in Paul’s life (like say, most of the book of Acts), joy wouldn’t necessarily be the first thing to come to mind. Paul was living through some pretty horrific storms. Despite his circumstances, Paul lived with a joy that, while we can’t miss it in this letter, we can easily miss in our own lives.
Have you ever lost track of the joy of life, of ministry, of meaningful work? You didn’t mean to, but irritations and frustrations chipped away at your heart and you found yourself going through a succession of joyless days full of monotony. Paul could have succumbed to this kind of situational darkness after all the shipwrecks and so many days in jail and house arrest, being beaten and run out of town over and over again. He could have… but it seems he didn’t.
As Paul attributed all of these tribulations to the sake of Christ, he connected his own suffering with Christ’s suffering. In doing so, Paul was continually reminded of Christ’s victory over His suffering. He was drawn into that victory with Christ, through the momentary suffering. He knew it was all temporary and that the resurrection meant he could make it. So he was able to say,
I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own… One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul lived in the reality of the resurrection. This reality propelled him through horrible circumstances with joy because of the hope he had in what lies ahead.
Maybe you need that like I do. Maybe we need to remember how badly we are in need of Jesus’ resurrection to be at work in our lives. His resurrection sets off an unstoppable cascade of life-giving water for our weary, thirsty souls. May our circumstances never rob us of the joy of drinking deeply of His resurrection hope. May our momentary afflictions never cause us to waver from forward progress toward the ultimate joy of reconciliation that lies ahead.