Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Lord Thou Art My God And King"1 (Lyrics)
Philippians 3:14 – I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (NIV)
Summer is arriving here, and soon, our roads will be cluttered with annoying construction projects — just when we want to go on holiday trips. It means slowdowns, dust, and delays. There's no escape! Yet we know that ongoing road work makes smooth travelling possible. Really, the more we can appreciate the good outcome of those temporary inconveniences, the more we can remain joyful on hot summer trips.
That's a Christian outlook. "Rejoice in the Lord always," Paul tells the Philippians believers (Philippians 4:4 NIV). They had valid reasons to be downcast. Yet nothing was to dampen their joy in the Lord — even in the midst of grief and concern. Everything that happened was part of a work in progress — God's good work which He had begun in them and which He would carry on until the day of Christ.
How many of us, when we're held up by "roadwork", would instinctively swell up with joy because we can see God's good work in progress? Not me. When I encounter aggravating setbacks, I think mostly about my plans. Delays are nuisances; they frustrate my sense of control, and I fear that I will let people down. In those moments, I don't see setbacks like the apostle Paul did — as a potential means to advance the gospel. That's where Philippians helps me.
In Philippians, we can see that Paul understood, with acute precision, the nature of God's good work. This was the lens through which he saw everything, good or bad. It caused him to regard his good religious heritage as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ. Even evil had purpose: It could (1) raise the courage of believers, (2) advance the gospel regardless, and (3) ultimately prove who had God's favour and who did not. It all served God's purpose, and so, Paul could say, "Because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice." (Philippians 1:18b NIV)
Paul exemplifies spiritual maturity. It is joyful living that flows from knowing our destiny with unshakable conviction. It's seeing where the road is taking us: to the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. It's seeing any and all situations as God's ongoing work in progress, and those of us "who are mature should take such a view of things". (Philippians 3:14 NIV)
To be spiritually mature is to be emotionally healthy. Our inner joy will easily be robbed by complaining or arguing. When we know how maturity looks and feels, then we will be able to recognize signs of immaturity in us. But even they are part of God's work in progress! They can point to Paul's promise to the Philippians: God can help us! Therefore we can humbly and joyfully look to God and pray:
Prayer: Lord, we are weak and needy and distracted. Open our eyes that we may clearly see Your prize. Free us from encumbering ways of thinking so that we may press on in this race, accepting all of life as Your good work in progress. Amen.