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Bible: Paul’s Call to Remain

Tonight, today, or should I say lately? I’ve been feeling this great desire to develop some good solid Christian friendships. Good, right? The thing is this desire has started to lead me away from friendships of the past (not bad friendships, definitely good ones, but not so godly). Well tonight, as I started thinking about these friendships, I felt something was just not right and got led into this pensive mood. I decided to set out on an adventure through Scripture to find some sort of encouragement and decided to go to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. After my New Testament class, I realized that Philippians is a great place to find verses on perseverance with an outcome in mind. So figured, “Why not find some encouragement to persevere?!” haha. Here’s what I found.

[21] For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. [22] 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. [23] But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; [24] yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, [26] so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Philippians 1:21-26

Caliente? I would like to say it is very much so! haha. We all know the first verse, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Yippee! Live for Christ, but death is the great end goal for heaven is so much better. What got to me now though is the latter portion of the passage. Paul becomes split between the glory of being with Christ and the responsibility to extend God’s Kingdom. He realizes that it’s much better that he stay with these people for their sake and the sake of the Kingdom of God so that Israel, God’s people, may grow in community and relationship with one another.

When I read this the first time through, I didn’t make the connection between death and Paul’s desire to leave. I interpreted it as Paul thinking it would be much better for him to seclude himself that he may grow himself than stay with God’s people. Boy did I have it wrong, but similar concept. My desire to withdraw from those old friendships that aren’t “satisfying” me spiritually is wrong. Yes, Christ calls us to be set apart, like a city on a hill in Matt 5:14; but in the next verses, He calls us to not hide our light but let it “shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

By withdrawing from my “non-spiritual” friends, I’m withdrawing some of their opportunity to se the glory of God, and what unreasonable attitude is that? I love how this passage reminded me that although I am called to be set apart, I can’t be so set apart that I’m doing nothing to further the Kingdom. The Kingdom is most important, the rest comes later..

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