Paul said, “to live is Christ.” In four syllables he explained the why and the what for his earthly existence.
Why was he living? Christ.
What was his point for living? Christ.
How would you answer that question. Fill in the blank. “For me to live is ____________.” What would you say? Whatever you place in the blank will do the following four things for you.
It will govern how you think about your circumstances.
It will direct how you respond to your circumstances.
It will control how you navigate through your circumstances.
It will set the course for and the outcome of your future.
You could think of whatever you placed in the blank as the foundation upon which your life will be built. Everybody has a “to live is __________” presupposition. We are all defined by something. This makes thinking about the thing that drives us an important matter.
Your world view is the thing that shapes how you will think about and respond to the people and events in your life. For Paul, it was Christ. The LORD Jesus was the filter through which Paul gazed upon the traffic in his personal universe.
Because his purpose for living was Christ, there was a predetermined outcome in place–Paul was guaranteed biblical success. The same is true for you and me. I’m not saying your future will bebiblicallysuccessful; I’m saying your future is predetermined. Whether you experience a satisfying future is dependent on your purpose for living.
If your blank says, “to live is Christ” then your predetermined future will be soul-satisfying.
If your blank is filled with anything other than Christ, then your future will not be satisfying.
Do not be deceived about this matter; there is only one right answer: to live must be Christ or your life will unfold in ever-increasing disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Did you know you could pre-script and predetermine your future?
Paul was explaining to the Philippians why he was not discouraged. He had a definition of life that empowered him through his difficulty. His level of joy was tied directly to the thing (person) he wanted most of all.
The thing you and I want most of all will determine our daily joy. If we are getting our utmost desire, we will be happy. If not, then our happiness will be in proportion to that disappointment. Paul did not live in disappointment, because what he wanted most was in his possession–he was in Christ and desired nothing greater.
Every person knows what is most important to them, whether they can quickly define it or not. The way we define what drives and governs us is by how we respond to life’s circumstances. We don’t need to take a poll to figure out what our treasure is. We only need to examine how we responded to our last disappointment.
The thing Paul lived for kept him from being controlled by the distressing circumstances in his life. The things that happened to him, though painful as they were, became instruments for the advancement of the Gospel rather than instruments that led to his despair.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. – Philippians 1:12 (ESV)
Paul was a one-trick pony. He was Johnny-one-note. There was a singularity to his world view that defined how he thought about life and the circumstances that came into his life.
He had a way of making sense of the things that were happening to him. He was not like many modern Christians, always on a mission trying to figure out the hidden mystery to why evil is coming to them. Paul knew the LORD was in his mess and he knew it was for the advancement of the Gospel.
He perceived the LORD was simultaneously working suffering and triumph into his life because Father God was giving Paul a greater platform for greater usefulness. The question he was asking about his suffering was not why is this happening to him, but how can the Gospel have greater effect through his imprisonment?
Trouble has come into my life. I am suffering. I know you are the Sovereign God of the universe who is always working all things into my life for your glory, my ultimate benefit, and for the good of others.
I am your servant. You are my God. I’m the clay in your hands and you’re doing a good work at this moment for a greater work later. Though I cannot perceive the goodness you’re bringing about because of the trial, I trust you.
Though I don’t see the whole picture, I’m learning to rely on you who is omniscient and omnipotent. Thank you for caring for my life. Thank you for always turning my bad into our mutual good. Thank you for not answering my questions the way I want them answered, but consistently driving me into a deeper trust of you.
Rather than me being on this endless hunt for the perfect answer to why bad things happen to bad people like me, you have given me a trust that transcends my trouble. This is glorious to my soul.
It sets my mind and my life aright and sends me in a better direction. It’s not a direction that will allow me to discover all the reasons for trouble, but it will permit me to find greater discoveries about your person and your grace.
I no longer have to put you on trial. I don’t have to have all the answers. The one thing I need to know is you are “for me” and this one thing has been forever answered by the death and resurrection of your Son.
You are on my side and you are in me. You are doing a great work through me. I have one job, which is to trust you and you alone. This, by your grace, I will do.
I don’t want to be a problem-centered Christian, where my friends and enemies know more about my problems than you. This is a shame, and every time I exalt my problems above you, may your sweet Holy Spirit penetrate the darkness of my heart and relieve me from this self-torture.
Release me to fully love you. This will only happen when I am completely crushed in the winepress of your love. This process of crushing will not change or remove my problems, but it will transform them into a sweet wine of joy that will bring benefit to me, healing to others, and satisfaction to you.
This kind of work from you will adjust my attitude, thinking, and behaving. It will also be preparation for the day when there will be no more sin, death, or suffering of any kind. I don’t want to wait until that day to be released from the tug of sin in my life. I want to be free today.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
Though this is other-worldly thinking, it’s not thinking that is outside of your power or your grace. You can bring this kind of transformation into my life. I want to be more of a man of love, more of a man of grace, and more of a man of humility.
I need what you are doing to me in order to make me the man I need to be. But it won’t come easy. There is a rebel in my mind who wants to thrust off your ways for my ways. I’m in a lifetime battle that will challenge me as each trouble, each negative circumstance, and each disappointment comes into my life.
I now know these troubles and tragedies are brought to me by your hand because you want me to stop relying on myself. Your perfectly prescribed and timed trouble is teaching me not to rely on myself, but on you, the only person who can raise the dead.
Please raise me to a higher level of living. “For to me to live is Christ.” Make that real for me today. I want to live for Christ right now, knowing the best life I can have and the only life I should desire is Christ.
Because I belong to Christ, Christ is in me. Because Christ is in me, my desire is to live for Him. The only way I can live for Him is by dying to myself. This, my LORD, is my definition of life.
To live life apart from Christ would have no meaning at all. For me to live is Christ. It has not always been this way for me. Through the years there have been many other things I have lived for and which have given shape and definition to my life. I used to live…
to be wealthy.
to be healthy.
to be strong.
to be approved.
to be safe.
to be superior.
to be comforted.
to be pleased.
to be successful.
to be happy.
I have been all of these things. Though the LORD Jesus has been a part of my life for a long time, He has not always been the singular point and purpose of my life.
Cornelius Plantinga said, “In an ego-centered culture, the self exists to be explored, indulged, and expressed, but not disciplined or restrained.” Dear Father, I am guilty of this crime against your sovereign highness.
This error in judgement has made me vulnerable in life. It has left me dissatisfied. I’m only as strong as the thing that means the most to me. Please let Christ mean the most to me.
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.
If this prayer resonates with you, then my appeal is for you to make it your own. Find a comfortable place and read it to your heavenly Father. Plead with Him to change you.
After you are finished with your interchange with the LORD, begin working through these three action items. A journal would be great. A trusted friend would be greater.
See the big picture – Ask the LORD to stop you from the need to see the big picture. You don’t need to know all the contours of the story. You need to know God. Knowing the reasons and the answers would tempt you to place your faith in what you know rather than who you know. The LORD is calling you to trust Him rather than the mysterious facts that make up your trouble.
See your sin in the struggle – The thorns the LORD brings into your life will tempt you to not deal with your sin when your sin is the one thing that will make your problems more complex. Ask the Father to show you your sin that He has pain brought to the surface of your life. Don’t mask it, deny it, or shovel blame onto others. Own it.
See Jesus – If the LORD Jesus is not exalted over your trouble, then your trouble will swallow the Savior’s grace and truth. He will become small and your problems will become huge. Do not become a problem-centered Christian. If you talk more about your problems than the sovereign God over your problems, then you must turn around and go the other way.
Do you want to follow the Son of God? This is the crux (cross) of the matter. If so, then to follow Him is to die to yourself, your will, your dreams, your desires, and your expectations. If so, your prayer will unfold like Paul’s: For me to live is Christ. – Philippians 1:21 (ESV)