On Sunday, our passage was Philippians 1:12-18. The whole point that Paul was making was that it didn’t really matter what happened to him, as long as the Gospel was being spread. He could be thrown in prison or people could be smack-talking him, but he simply didn’t care. He could be losing his power and status and authority in the Church while rotting away in a jail cell for the name of Christ, but in his words, “What does it matter?” (Philippians 1:18) As we’ll see in next week’s sermon, “For to [Paul], to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
I’m good with all that. While I haven’t had any disastrous difficulties in my life – nothing more than the years of infertility, some chronic health issues, and the lingering effects of a number of my own stupid decisions – I think that I am steeled enough in my faith to endure whatever challenge the Lord might lay on me in order to advance the Gospel. The key words in that last sentence are “lay on me”.
Here’s what I’m wrestling with this week as I prepare Sunday’s sermon. It’s a question that is both a holdover from last week and a key for this coming week. How would I handle it if God starts messing with my family? Lord, do what you want to me. My health, my job, my reputation, my writing, everything that I have and that I am I give it willing to you. But, Lord, please keep your hands off my wife and daughter.
I’ll tell you straight out, I don’t like the fact that I feel this way. The very possibility that there is some faith Rubicon out there that I’m praying the Lord doesn’t cross shakes me a bit. I’m not saying that I would lose my faith if something happened to my family, but I do know that if there was anything that could take my ministry knees out, this would be it.
There may be some out there saying, “Steve, what are you doing? You’ve just given God an open invitation to come at your family! Nancy and Madeline are doomed!” First of all, God doesn’t need an invitation to come at my family. Second, I don’t think that’s how God works. God’s not up there saying, “Oh, so it’s your family that you’re holding back from Me. You better get ready, because I’m about to go all kinds of Job on you!” The Lord already knows my weaknesses, and so far He’s been okay baby-stepping me to greater faith rather than knocking me to the floor in some great act of “Okay, boy, you’re going to learn this the hard way.”
On my way up to church this morning, the song “Take My Life” by Third Day shuffled into my AirPods. In it, Mac Powell sings:
Please, take from me my life
When I don’t have the strength
To give it away to You, Jesus
Praise the Lord that He understands the best way to “take from me my life”. His dealings with us are not one-size-fits-all. When the grand gesture is needed, He’ll bring the grand gesture. When the subtle day-by-day growing surrender will do, He’ll dial it back from an eleven to a four or a two or a one.
Lord, all I am belongs to You, all I have belongs to You, and everyone I love belongs to You. Give me the strength to not only say those words, but to believe them and to live them so that in every situation and in every way, “Christ is preached. And because of this I [will] rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)