Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fast Forward


Ever had a bad day? One of those days that just makes you wish you had stayed in bed? I came across a story recently that made any bad day I have ever had seem “not so bad” after all. Read for yourself and see if you agree.

“A man pushed his motorcycle from the patio into his living room where he began to clean the engine with some rags and a bowl of gasoline. When he finished, he sat on the motorcycle and decided to start it to make sure everything was still okay. Unfortunately, the bike started in gear and crashed through the glass patio door with him still clinging to the handlebars. His wife came running at the noise and found him crumpled on the patio badly cut from shards of broken glass. She called 911 and the paramedics transported the guy to the emergency room.

Later that afternoon after many stitches had pulled her husband back together, the wife brought him home and put him to bed. She cleaned up the mess in the living room and dumped the bowl of gasoline in the toilet. Shortly thereafter, her husband woke up, lit a cigarette and went into the bathroom. He sat down and tossed the cigarette (between his legs) into the toilet which promptly exploded because the wife had not flushed the gasoline. The explosion blew the man through the bathroom door. The wife heard the explosion and her husband scream. She ran into the hall and found him lying on the floor with his trousers blown away and burns on his buttocks. The wife again ran to the phone and called for an ambulance.

The same two paramedics were dispatched to the scene. While they were going down the stairs to the street accompanied by the wife, one of the paramedics asked the wife how the husband had burned himself. She told them what happened and the paramedics started laughing so hard, one of them tipped the stretcher and dumped the husband out. He fell down the remaining steps and broke his collarbone.”

Talk about a bad day! I cannot fathom having those things happen to me ever in a lifetime. That poor guy had ALL of them happen to him in the same day. I can’t help but be just a little curious if he still rides motorcycles and smokes.

All kidding aside, life has its moments of difficulty doesn’t it? All of us have experienced those events that we didn’t see coming. That news that hits us like a punch in the stomach, knocking the air out of our souls. Being served divorce papers. Getting let go from your job because the company is downsizing. Having a doctor tell you the scans reveal cancer. Discovering your child has a serious addiction. Receiving the phone call that your loved one has just passed away. Experiencing betrayal by someone you love dearly.

In this life we have no guarantees of only sunny days. The skies will darken, the clouds will blow in, and the rain will fall. It would be nice if we could get an exemption card for all the tests in this life. Maybe you have noticed it doesn’t work like that. So how do we respond when our world comes crashing down? How do you not collapse in the floor when so heavy a weight is thrust upon your shoulders? Can we explore that for just a moment? I would like you to consider Paul’s words in Philippians 1:12-19:

12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.
13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. 15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

The Apostle Paul is the one writing this letter to the church in Philippi. He is not sitting in a penthouse or an executive suite. He is not sipping on a glass of cabernet and eating truffles while classical music plays in the background. NO! He is penning this epistle FROM PRISON. He has been locked up for refusing to obey Caesar’s “gag order” on sharing the Gospel. He has obeyed God, and doing so has landed him in the slammer. Surely someone in his position would be angry, jaded, frustrated, right? Again, NO. We see Paul talking about REJOICING! He views his trials as a good thing, because they have pointed a lost world toward Jesus. He knows that the other inmates and even the jailers understand that he is incarcerated because of his faith in Jesus Christ. And this brings him JOY! Furthermore, Paul knows there are false preachers out there who are preaching with impure motives. And yet even in this he REJOICES, because at least Christ is being preached. If anyone should have a reason to complain about a bad day, it would be Paul. And yet all we see is him talking about his JOY.

Paul has his eyes so fixed on heaven that there is nothing on this earth that can rob him of his joy. Trials. Imprisonments. Beatings. Shipwrecks. Betrayals. Paul defies them all with a joy that this life cannot touch. Let’s be honest—most of us would be lying in the fetal position and crying like babies over things way less severe. So how is Paul able to do this...does he know something the rest of us don’t? While Paul had an unbelievable amount of knowledge, I don’t know that it was what he knew that allowed him to be so joyful. Rather, I think it was where he put his focus. Take a look.

Philippians 1:21For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
Philippians 2:17But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God
Philippians 3:14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 4:4-5Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Paul did not fear death, because that meant he would be united with Christ. If he was to be killed, he would give his life an act of worship to God. Despite his trials and ugly past, his focus was on the heavenly prize that awaited him. He had joyful anticipation knowing the return of the Lord was near.

Did you catch it? Did you see the common link in all of those verses? They all involve focusing on ETERNITY. No matter what came against Paul, he just did a mental maneuver of “fast forwarding” to all the eternal things that God had promised him. The result? JOY! When you and I focus on our trials, we will inevitably sink in to the pit of despair. Like a tsunami wave crashing on the shore line, we will be overpowered. But the man or woman who stays fixed on ETERNITY has a joy that is unsinkable. I am not suggesting that we deny the difficulty of our situations. And I am certainly not making light of it. But today maybe you need to take a few minutes and just “fast forward” your mind to that day when for ALL OF ETERNITY you will be with the Lord. Think about living in the city that God has made just for you. Think about those golden streets. Think about all the saints of the Bible that you will meet and fellowship with. Think about eternal peace and joy. Think about freedom from sickness and sorrow, divorce and death.

I don’t know what you might be facing. But I can tell you that if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ you have a hope that is greater than this life. Today ask
the Lord to give you a fresh reminder of all that He has in store for you. Because when you get even just a glimpse of eternity, you will be able to say with Paul,

“What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18).

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