Shift of Focus

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi while in prison. He encouraged a life of righteousness and unity within the body of Christ, but he acknowledged that the gospel was being preached by some with pure motives, some with motives of envy and jealousy and some with motives of rivalry. His attitude was that regardless of the motive behind it, the gospel message was advancing. Paul even acknowledged that his imprisonment was giving confidence to believers and was bringing more visibility to the gospel message as well. I thought about this in the context of today’s culture, and it challenged me to shift my focus away from division and disagreement- even among the body of Christ. This is not to say that we shouldn’t challenge each other in our motives, but we can’t get hung up on disagreements to the point of division. Paul celebrated that the gospel was being preached and spread even with the motives of imperfection, and even as he sat in prison wrongfully. What wrong has been done to us that we can use as a platform or an opportunity for the gospel? We can actively and hopefully pursue our deliverance (as Paul was doing) while also maximizing the opportunity to spread the gospel. If we are consumed with the wrong that is done to us our hearts will be polluted, and we will miss these opportunities. What I really pulled from this is that the spread of the gospel has very little to do with our circumstances and more to do with our focus. There will always be trouble, hardship, and disagreement but that can’t be our focus. If we focus on those things we will be tempted to wait to move when our troubles are gone. That time is never so our priority needs to be the gospel and just watch what happens to our circumstances as we advance God’s kingdom.

The Maturity of Wisdom

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Proverbs 2 reminds us that if we seek out wisdom as fervently as we do wealth, we will not only have the protection and the favor of God, but the very wisdom that we have stored up in our hearts will lead us on paths of righteousness. As I read this it occurred to me that if we choose wisdom and are in the habit of reading, meditating on it and walking in it, we will find less opportunities that we will need God to rescue us from situations. Although there will always be opposition, most of the trouble we find ourselves in stems from unwise decisions we made that opened opportunities and paths to trouble and hardship. We are often our own adversary because even if we know what the wise choice is, we easily sabotage ourselves by listening to our impatience or our flesh that demands instant gratification. When we do this, we are aware of wisdom, but we have to deceive ourselves by justifying an unwise choice. We may talk ourselves into believing we found a shortcut to success, or we say things like “just this one time”.  As much as we would like to blame the devil for every bad influence, our own flesh is responsible for more than we would like to believe. It surprised me to read in Revelation that during the period of time that the devil is locked away and has no influence on the earth, there are so many who will still not turn and repent. How could this be and how do believers backslide? I believe this has everything to do with our habits and discipline. No matter how much we know, our discipline (or lack of) is what determines our reality. If we are in the habit of following our flesh, we will hear that voice louder and will allow our appetites and emotions to lead us, but if we discipline ourselves with wisdom, we will hear the voice of wisdom louder and be able to overcome the voice and the pull of our flesh. The more often we deny our flesh, the easier it becomes. This is why the verses 5 and 6 advise that we seek it out like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure. When we do, we will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. When this happens, we will value it even above the desires of the flesh and it will be like a shield of protection for us. I’ll never forget the day my daughter expressed her love in a way that only a 3-year-old could comprehend when she told her daddy “I love you more than candy!”. Because even at the age of three, her flesh was pulling on her in the form of a strong sweet tooth, and she was well aware of it. She valued sweets so much that the only comparison she could think of for love was candy. At this age money, or “silver” meant nothing to her because her pursuit was for the sweet things. This desire got her into all kinds of trouble as a toddler. She chased after it so persistently that I often found her in dangerous places climbing furniture to get into high cabinets. She once got Nestlee Quick chocolate powder up her nose because she had taken the giant Costco sized can and tried to tilt it toward her mouth to sneak a taste. The giant can of powder weighed so much that when she tipped it the powder came rushing at her like an avalanche. As innocent as this all sounds, this is a perfect example of our pursuits when we are not ruled by wisdom. Fortunately, my daughter is all grown up now, and she still loves sweets, but her desire for them no longer rules her behavior. As she grew up and matured she learned to allow wisdom to lead her. This is how our maturity in Christ should look. As we grow and mature, we should be led more and more by the voice of wisdom and we quiet the childish and selfish voice of our flesh.