Now and Then
Do you remember visiting family when you were a child? Perhaps some visits were met with dread because the person you were visiting wasn’t someone you felt close to or warmed to. But then there were the special visits with those you really loved. Maybe you were greeted at their door with a hug or the smell of freshly baked cookies. You couldn’t wait to see them! They were precious to you, and you looked forward to being in their presence.
For the apostle Paul, Jesus was such a person. Paul was joyful, even while imprisoned, because of what Christ meant to him. He looked forward to the prospect of being ushered into His presence. Jesus was his all in all.
Can you and I say the same about Jesus? Or is our joy earthly, fixed on temporal matters like our marriages, children, livelihoods, or influence? If all that thrills your soul and all that forms your identity is wrapped up in worldly matters, then being with Jesus loses its allure. So we would be wise to remember that our identity is found in Him, because one day everything else will be left behind.
You may have heard of someone being so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly use. Well, we can also be so earthly-minded that we’re no heavenly use. Sometimes, we are tempted to want things like perfect health, an end to sorrow, and life without any uncertainty right now. The reality is that we are going to lose loved ones, receive dreadful hospital reports, or face disappointment and disaster. But that is all part of the now. Paul’s dilemma in this letter was balancing the now with the next. Although he desired to depart, it was not so that he could escape his current circumstances. He certainly endured many difficult trials, but for him, heaven was not simply relief from earthly suffering. He was not shuffling off life to embrace death; he longed to be with Jesus because he knew it would be fantastic.
Living faithfully in the present while anticipating the reality of being with Jesus is something we all have to work out. Paul recognized that while he still drew breath, he was to continue steadfastly in his earthly ministry until Christ called him home to heaven. So spend some moments considering Christ in all His loving perfections. Then spend some time enjoying the great truth that one day you will see Him as He welcomes you into His glory. Then reflect on the truth that the doorway to that moment is death. This is your future. One day, it will be your present. And until then, you can do what Paul did and live all in for Christ, knowing that death will be only gain.
6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
9Do your best to come to me soon. 10For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia,2 Titus to Dalmatia. 11Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
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