Thursday, March 29, 2007

Survival Isn't the Goal

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21
Have you ever wondered what Paul means when he makes this statement? Sam Crabtree, one of the pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church where John Piper preaches, helps us understand the mind of the apostle with a profound meditation. Here is an excerpt (you should read the whole thing here. It's actually a meditation on Isaiah 7:1-9.):
The battle is the Lord’s. But if we choose to make the battle ours, and choose to make survival the goal of the battle, then we start to figure the angles, make subtle accommodations, compromise here and there, demote moral conviction, and do anything to win, to survive. What we need is a fundamental shift in the center of gravity in our lives from focusing on survival of ourselves to glorifying God, even in death.

At the outset of his public ministry, Jesus was driven out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for forty days and nights, to be tempted. That’s a long time without nourishment. He begins his ministry about to starve to death. (At the beginning of your ministry, people will not beat a path to your bones.) Survival in jeopardy. And what does he say? “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” He could say no to Satan because he had settled the fundamental issue of survival. The issue was not bread, but obedience.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could remain faithful in the face of fiery flames because they had settled the issue of survival.

Daniel could persist in prayer because he had settled the issue of lions’ dens.

David could charge Goliath with a bag of small stones because he had settled the issue of what was worth dying for.

The martyrs in Revelation testified in the face of death threats and overcame Satan.
Revelation 12:11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

In contrast, Caiaphas had to survive (If we do not destroy Jesus we will lose our place.), and so he concocted a bogus legal proceeding.

Pilate had to survive (“You’re not Caesar’s friend.” Oh, so that’s the issue.), and so he washed his hands of it and said “Crucify him.”

Beware the impulse to survive. You may become something you didn’t intend. Ironically, if you don’t believe, you won’t last. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.

Dying is only gain when we love Christ and His glory and coming to behold the fullness of it in eternity more than we love this life and the comfort that it offers. When we love Jesus in this way then, and only then, will we join Paul in being indifferent to whether we live or die, caring only that Christ will be honored in our bodies (Philippians 2:20).

Who cares about survival? Paul didn't. Daniel didn't. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't. And Jesus surely didn't.

I pray that when my time comes, I won't.

Oh Father, make us a people who love Christ more than we love life. Only You can make this happen by doing a supernatural work in our hearts. May we desire the infinitely satisfying glory of Christ more than we desire pain-free lives. Do this for Your Son's sake, that we may show Him to be the infinite treasure that He is. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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