A while ago, a question in a magazine advertisement caught my attention: “Is it an alarm or a calling that gets you out of bed in the morning?”
I like that question. I think it’s something we need to ask ourselves.
What gets your blood pumping? What makes you tick? All of us have someone or something we live for, some passion or ideal that drives us on and gives our life a sense of purpose and meaning.
What is your master passion? If you had to sum up in one phrase what you actually live for, what would you say?
In Philippians 1, Paul stated what he was passionate about and what he lived for. And indeed, it is what all believers should be living for as well.
Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 nkjv). When we hear someone make a statement like that, we might feel as though there is a bit of naiveté on his or her part. We might think, “That is a nice sentiment, but I don’t know how practical it is.”
We have heard the criticism of those who are perceived as overly spiritual: “They are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good.” But I think we will discover that those who have been the most heavenly minded have been the most earthly good.
In fact, if we look at history, we will find that those who have done the most for this world have been the ones who have thought more of the next one.
Christians have founded hospitals and universities. Christians have opened shelters. Christians are reaching out to the downtrodden and the hurting in our world today with the gospel of Christ, not only preaching to them, but clothing and feeding them as well. When a crisis develops somewhere in the world, such as famine or a natural disaster, it is often the Christians who lead the way in responding with help.
The truth is, if you are truly heavenly minded, then you will be of the greatest earthly good.
When Paul said, “To live is Christ,” he was speaking of the fact that he had an interest in the things of this life as well. A few verses later, he said, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (verses 23–24 nkjv). In other words, “I want to be with the Lord, but I have a job to do.”
What I appreciate about Paul was his practical spirituality. Paul loved Jesus and wanted to live for Him. Without question, he had a holy passion for the things of God. But it is also true that Paul was utterly human. He did not walk around with a little pedestal that he would climb up on when he wanted to say something. He was someone just like you and me.
We know from the Book of Acts and other passages that Paul had his conflicts. Paul would get upset at times. But he didn’t have a death wish.
On one occasion when his life was threatened, his friends lowered him in a basket over the city wall at night so that he could escape. Paul wanted to live, but he had his priorities in order. His was a balanced spirituality.
The godliest people I know are real people. They love God. Their priorities are in order. Yet there is balance to their lives. Theirs is a practical faith, not a spacey, wild-eyed, one-taco-short-of-a-combination-plate kind of spirituality. It is this real faith that the Bible proclaims.
I think many, if not most, first-century Christians shared Paul’s motto: “To live is Christ.” There were no social advantages to being a Christian. In fact, it could mean losing your life.
Yet the way these Christians impacted their culture is nothing short of breathtaking. They did not out-argue the pagans. They outlived them, outprayed them, and outpreached them. They proclaimed the message of Christ. And to a large degree, they won over a good portion of their culture. Like Paul, they could say, “To live is Christ.”We could effectively impact our culture, if we would say the same thing. To live is Christ.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.