Can You Always Be About What You've Always Been About?
Paul lived a great adventure, but he is running out of opportunities.
Paul had a bloody past when he persecuted the church but experienced a miraculous conversion in a blinding encounter with the resurrected Christ along the Damascus Road (Acts 22:1-11). In his new life, he has spanned the Roman Empire planting churches for the cause of Christ.
But presently, there is no opportunity for travel. He is not planting churches. He is in prison. He would like to see the Philippians again, but he makes no plans. He is left only now to prayer and his pen as he senses that he may be nearing the end. He would like to head toward them, but he will most likely be heading off into eternity.
With the limitation of incarceration upon him, Paul sees only two options. He is either going to live or die. That’s it.
And it is in the context of limited opportunities that Paul makes one of his most powerful statements.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.Philippians 1:18b-21
When we are young, life offers lots of options. As we age, it seems that we are met with more limitations. We make plans and have great aspirations, but a pandemic hits, our health fails, love is lost, the economy tanks. I’m not trying to be morbid, but that’s life. For Paul, it was incarceration; for you and I, it will be something else, but one way or another, life comes with limitations.
So I offer a sobering question. Can your life always be about what it’s always been about?
Music is My Life
My family enjoys watching The Voice. The Voice features some amazing singers. Many of them say in their introductory vignettes, “Music is my life.” So let’s apply our sobering question to the aspiring musician. If music is your life, can you always be about what you’ve always been about?
Let’s not fail to mention the millions who never make it in music. They can sing, but they cannot make enough to eat. So what of the few fortunate enough to make a living making music? Can they make a life of it?
Eventually, the vocal cords fade. In time, today’s hits become tomorrow’s classics. Pop passes you by. Country music goes down a different road. They don’t make the same albums in 2021 that they made in 1981.
If music is your life, you can’t always be about what you’ve always been about.
My Kids are My Life
Some people say that their life is their children. And that sounds virtuous. We love our children and make lots of sacrifices for them. But if your life is your kids, can you always be about what you’ve always been about?
I love my daughters, but that one who wouldn’t let go of my leg when she was little fell in love with another man and married him. I’ll always be her dad, but she dropped my last name like a hot rock. Now she has his. They moved two hours away, and they are starting their own family. I’ll always love her. I’m very proud of her, but my life can’t always be about her.
My Work is My Life
Some people have very satisfying careers and say that their life is their work. If I applied to my life as a pastor, I would say that my life is my church. It sounds spiritual and noble, but if that were true of me, could my life always be about what it’s always been about?
Many of the men I admired in ministry when I started this journey (now nearly 30 years ago) are no longer pastors. In some cases, their churches or the schools they started no longer exist. Some loved the church but lost their family. Some had health issues that cut their ministry careers short. Some sensed the call of God to go on and do other things.
People are crazy. Churches rise and fall. God moves. If my life is the church, there is no possibility that I can always be about what I’ve always been about.
So What Can We Always Be About?
The danger of “being about” most things is that those things can come to an abrupt end. Those things have limitations.
So if our lives can’t always be about our talent, or our children, or our vocation, and it can’t even be about the church, then what can our lives always be about? Is there anything everlasting?
Paul found the one thing he could always be about. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
If Paul lives, he will live for Christ. If he dies, he will be with Christ.
That mentality is transformative for talented musicians, doting parents, and people who love their jobs. When you do what you do for an eternal reason, you can make an eternal difference.
When the music fades, the kids grow up and move away, or when employment comes to an end, those otherwise crushing moments of limitation are transformed by an eternal perspective.
Whether I stay or go, it’s about Jesus.
Whether I have or have not, it’s all His anyway.
Whether my time is up or I have time left, it’s for His glory.
Whether I live or die, here or there, now or later, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Whatever comes to an end, you realize that it’s not the end. If your life is Christ it can continue to be about what it’s always been about. It’s truly a life without limitation.