You Hold A Special Place In My Heart

God’s grace and peace be with you this glorious day!

Summer is in full swing, and our thoughts are divided between work and the summer activities we desire to do.  Some are still making plans for vacation, while others are just awaiting the day to arrive where they can begin a new and amazing journey.  

Life is often like this!  Like working long hours and difficult weeks while planning for an upcoming vacation, most people move from one faze of life to the next, all the time anticipating how great it will be.  The kids in middle school dream of going to high school.  Once in high school, college is the dream.  Kids in college begin to look forward to graduation and beginning a career. You get the idea.  Most of us are at one stage of life and dreaming about what will come in the future.

Do you ever know a person who dreamed of getting old?  How about a person who looked forward to living on a fixed income?  I have never known a person who lived with the anticipation of contracting a disease or losing their eyesight or mobility.  We all look to the future with the anticipation that all will be glorious, and we ignore the true reality of life.  As an example, have you ever gone on a vacation where you did not come home exhausted, needing time to recoup?

We dream about the future in great and small ways and yet in our mind we always believe it will be exactly what we want.  Then when reality does hit and we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we are greatly disappointed.  The reason for this is we are focusing on anticipated events rather than the true value of relationships.

What is the value of a vacation other than the opportunity to share experiences and build memories with those you love?  What is the joy of the next phase of life if you are living it alone?  It is the people we share life with and not the experiences which make life worth living.  To only focus on the experiences and to do so in a self-centered manner will result in a person living out their days alone and filled with regret.

In our text the apostle Paul is in prison and yet the joy which captivates his heart is the relationships he has with the people he loves.  He has spoken of the joy of the Gospel which fills his heart as he reflects on his time with the people of Philippi.  Here Paul takes a step deeper.  Listen to his words.

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.   Philippians 1:7-8

Why is it that Paul can express joy even from a prison cell?  He says it, For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart. Paul has a deep, heartfelt love for the people in the church at Philippi.  The relationship was established when they were brought to faith through the Gospel ministry of Paul.  It is this joy which sustains Paul as he faces some of the worst circumstances of life that we could ever imagine.

What does it mean to you to know with absolute certainty, the certainty that comes to us through faith, that you will spend forever with your spouse or best friend, or even your children?  To know that regardless of the circumstances you face in life, be they good or bad, that those you love and who have lived life with you will be part of your life in eternity! This is the joy of Paul’s heart, and it can be the joy of our hearts as well.

The opposite is also true!  If in our lives we focus on the momentary circumstances, living for the great events of life and we do so with a self-serving attitude, and we end up alone and filled with regret, how great that regret will be!  Whenever we are focused on self the first thing which is forgotten is what Paul mentions in our text, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  To know that the people you love are Christians and that they will spend eternity with you will enable you to face the momentary circumstance of life with joy in your heart.  Now understand, momentary circumstances are greater than we might think.  Paul is in prison awaiting the moment he will be martyred for Christ.  While we are not likely to experience this, what will it be like for the doctor to speak the word “cancer” to us?  Or to hear of a dear friend who suddenly died of a heart attack?  

The tragedies of life are for the Christian but a momentary interruption of the continual joy which fills our hearts through Christ.  What God has created through the work of His Spirit and faith truly changes our perspective on everything.  For what is a period of a year with cancer when compared to eternity in the presence of God surrounded by those you love? In a way Paul declares this when he says, you all are partakers of grace with me.

Paul then concludes this short statement by saying, For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. What exactly is he saying?  What does it mean to long for someone with the “affection” of Jesus?  What it means is in the same way God yearned for His children and longed to have them restored to Him.  The love which moved the Father to send His only Son into the world to accomplish our salvation so we could be returned to Him! This all powerful love is what fills the heart of Paul as he thinks about his brothers and sisters in Philippi!

It is a love which is not normal and certainly not natural.  The people of this world know love based primarily on emotion.  If it feels good, it is love.  The people of God know love on a much deeper level. It is a love which binds them to God and to one another which is not dependent or even governed by circumstances or emotions.  It is a love which rejoices when you are together and yearns for one another when you are apart.  And it is a love which assures us that because its origin is in God Himself, it is love which will be fulfilled and which will never end.  

This love sustains Paul, and it is the love we share with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Pastor Russ

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