We’re opening up our states, one by one, because working people need to pay their bills and to tend to their families. This pandemic has brought them to the brink of financial calamity, and we love our neighbors, so it must be done for the good of us all. This is what is best.
And yet, our rate of infection jumped as expected. Since I began writing this on Thursday, May 21, 168,000 more Americans have been infected. The world now has 5,800,000 cases, and the US has 1,760,000. If we don’t do this safely, infections will continue to increase. In other countries, when this has happened, they have had to shut down again.
Could we deal with shutting down again? How would this impact working families who have already been destroyed economically? We must find a sustainable solution, a safe reopening. The CDC urges handwashing and wearing masks in public. Are we doing this? What else can we do?Infections will increase, if we don't reopen safely. In other countries, when this happened, they had to shut down again. Could we deal with that? How would this impact working families?#KindnessMatters Click To Tweet
I’ve been revisiting passages written by an apostle who was held by Nero, a Roman emperor who killed people on a whim. Paul was confined for years, first in prison and then under house arrest. He knew uncertainty and the threat of imminent death. From prison, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The physician Luke, his friend, was with him, writing what we now call The Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts.
We have some of the most encouraging books ever inspired by the Holy Spirit, because of Paul’s imprisonment. Nero meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bless many with the lessons learned and the words written by these two men.
Though imprisoned, Paul’s letter to the Philippians informed them of his joy that his circumstances have advanced the gospel, thus turning his suffering into a lesson of reliance upon Jesus. We must learn this, too.
Paul’s greatest concern was that “now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (1:20). For Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). He told them to contend for the gospel “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you” (1:28).
Paul held up the example of Jesus as our model. Is living in a way pleasing to him what we’re concerned with each day? Do Jesus’ love, his words, his encouragement, his nearness, and the spreading of his kindness motive us?Jesus is our model. Is living in a way pleasing to him what we're concerned with each day? Do Jesus' love, words, encouragement, nearness, and the spreading of his #kindness motive us? Click To Tweet
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 1:1-4 NIV)
In Christ we do have encouragement, comfort from his love, common fellowship in the Spirit, tenderness, and compassion, therefore, we’re able to be like minded, rather than argumentative. We’re able to love one another, because we’re one in spirit and mind, rather than to be selfish and conceited. We’re able to look out for others ahead of ourselves. We’re able to have the mindset of sacrificial and loving Jesus. Do we?
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV).
Often, we simply need to gaze upon Jesus, to ponder him and what he did for us, how he took a servant’s role as he became human and died for us. Therefore, to serve others when we go out into the city, we wear masks to protect others from ourselves, we’re careful as we interact, and we try to navigate public outings safely — a particular challenge for those of us who have chronic illnesses and underlying conditions. We do what is best for all.
What better time to fix our eyes on Jesus? We need hearts like Paul, who kept his eyes on the Lord with joy in his heart during every hardship, ready to encounter whatever befell him. Is this our heart attitude? Are we leaning toward Jesus with our eyes on him?What better time to fix our eyes on Jesus? We need hearts like Paul, who kept his eyes on the Lord with #joy in his heart. Is this our heart attitude? Are we learning toward Jesus with our eyes on him? #Faith Click To Tweet
To maintain this attitude of worship and of fixed attention on the Lord, Paul wrote to the Philippians that he had adopted three mindsets:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Ph3:7-9 NIV)
1. Our credentials, our list of accomplishments, our pedigrees, our faith traditions, all of that is trash compared to the wealth of knowing Christ intimately. To fellowship with Christ is worth tossing all aside to gain him, being found in him, with his righteousness more significant than our own weak attempts.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (3:10-12 NIV).
2. Knowing Jesus with intimacy is our goal — comprehending the power of his resurrection, staking our lives on it, participating in his sufferings as we become like him in death, that we may one day rise to be with him on the last day when he calls our names. This, yes this, is our aim.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV).
3. Humbly recognizing that on this side of heaven, we will never attain Christlikeness in all its fullness, and yet continuing to strain toward him, forgetting what is behind, our hearts and minds fixed on him.
These three comprise Paul’s mindset. This example was written down for us, so that we might aim our hearts and souls toward true love and adoration of Jesus during hard times, just as Paul did. Do we?
One day we will stand before our Lord and Savior. He is our destination. We yearn to know him, to participate in his life, and one day to become like him in his death. We now live with this realization:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27 NIV).
We draw hope from these words penned by ones who loved the Lord dearly and who staked their lives on his promises. Because of their confidence in God’s faithfulness, we know that we can also trust our Redeemer. And so, we seek to obey these words of encouragement penned to the Philippians.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (4:4-6 NIV)."Rejoice in the Lord always. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Don't be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God" (Phil.4:4-6) Click To Tweet
Rejoicing in the Lord in every circumstance, being glad in him, and living aware of the Lord’s nearness cultivates gentle reasonableness. Our acknowledgement of his nearness quells our anxiety, as we give it to God in prayer, turning instead toward thanksgiving and gratitude for what the Lord is doing as we make our requests known to him. The result:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7).
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (4:8-9a NIV), wrote Paul from prison.
We focus on the love of God in Christ Jesus. We occupy our thoughts with ways to love others and to better serve them. There is power in godly thinking with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who embodies it all. The result:
“And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9b NIV).We focus on the love of God in Christ Jesus. We occupy our thoughts with ways to love others and to serve them. There is power in godly thinking, eyes fixed on Jesus. The God of peace is with us. #KindnessMatters Click To Tweet
We lean on him, who faced death and wept tears and sweat great drops of blood. He knows what it is to be horrified and yet to courageously complete his mission. He is our solution. He is our comfort. He is our companion.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength. . . My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:13, 19 NIV).
Turn to Jesus with all of your heart. Cry out to him about all of your needs and your fears. Fix your eyes on him. His arms are open wide.