Monday, December 27, 2010

To Remain On In The Flesh

Fr. Dale Matson
Late in Paul’s ministry, he wrote the following words to the Philippians during his probable first imprisonment in Rome. At that point he had only a few more years to labor for the sake of the Gospel.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:21-24, NASB).

I am at a point in my life of understanding what St. Paul was saying. Increasingly I am on God’s clock and no longer on my own. Through Christ I have accomplished every goal that I have ever dreamed possible. God has blessed me with too many gifts to enumerate. There is no longer any bargaining with God about delaying Christ’s return. Bargaining is something that young persons could identify with. They have so much to accomplish; so much ahead in their lives. They have houses to build, children to raise, careers to cultivate. They are not ready to join with me when I say with John, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20, NASB).

I am coming to a better understanding of the limits of my own strength as I age and the last years of my ministry is a similar kind of captivity to Paul. My health is no longer robust and my strength is diminished. Some injuries are chronic and pain is ever present. My confidence is diminished along with my senses. It is no longer about pleasure but about diminishing pain.

These are not the ruminations of a depressed person but an honest appraisal of my health and strength. The insults of life are cumulative and their weight increases with age. Christ does come as a thief in the night. It is He who binds the strong man that He may steal his goods. My goods have been unwarranted pride, self-reliance and a self-centered agenda. Paul’s captivity letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) do not reflect his life situation at all. In prison Paul discovered true freedom, joy, contentment and riches in Christ.

Paul’s answer to the dilemma to depart or stay was to stay because he knew that he was on Christ’s clock, not his own. For those of you who are imprisoned by aging, infirmity or loneliness, I would encourage you to ask God what He would do with you in the time He has remaining on your clock.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

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