No small portion of Paul’s joy came from his awareness of his true country, his permanent home. He lived for the day (he lived for the day, think on that, he LIVED for the day…) when his spiritual citizenship would become the real thing. (Real. Believe that.) He lived in expectation of seeing Jesus face-to-face. (unwavering belief in the possibility) He waited eagerly for his final transformation into Christlikeness, (he desired it, yearned for it, he sought greater obedience, perfected obedience, falling upon grace) and he was sure it would happen because he trusted God’s promises. (Trustworthy, faithful, unwavering, dependable, the God who knows all things, sees all things, orchestrates all things according to His sovereign plan. HIS sovereign plan.)
We are citizens of the same heavenly country, but often it fails to bring us the joy that it brought to Paul. We tend not to be heavenly minded. (say that again, “We tend not to be heavenly minded.” “tend” might be an understatement.) We aren’t focused eagerly on the return of Jesus Christ, (or the reign of Christ now) but on our families, jobs, time, money, (the president, crime, unfolding problems, uncertain futures and anything that threatens our happiness) and overall well being today. (Here it comes…) We live to mold our lives around what makes us happy today. (Contrast that to Paul who lived for Christ.) We struggle to admit it, but heaven just seems so far away and unreal. (This world and it’s comforts are more real to us. Thoughts of heaven can be easily avoided if with them comes facing God as our first parents did in the garden of Eden) Today is what we have to deal with; we will think about the return of Jesus and the life to come at a more convenient time. (As if there is one. We justify the delay and tell ourselves we’re being well meaning, that we’ll find a time which we never take the time to find.) But Paul had just as many daily cares as we do. It seems clear, then, that he made a choice of where to place his hope. (Hope doesn’t just happen to us by random occurrences that come up in our lives and makes us feel good and give us direction. We have a responsibility as Christians for “placing’ our hope. Placing. It’s an action word. It speaks of responsibility, which means with that responsibility comes accountability to God.) and it wasn’t (Paul’s focus that is…) on working out the earthly details to his best advantage.
We have the same choice on the same daily basis. Paul’s mindset was a choice, and what he chose to focus on fueled his joy (a joy that doesn’t corrupt and weaken us, derail us from our duties and responsibilities, or compete with our heavenly priorities)…[Paul] looked at what God had already worked out for him–his salvation in Christ–and for all it would mean to him for eternity. (And that changed the way he viewed life here. It influenced the decisions he made here, the duties he chose to attend to here, and what he was devoted to here. The pleasures of this life are nothing, meaningless, without an understanding of Christ and eternity.) Paul was no Pollyanna, looking for an optimistic twist to every difficulty. He was looking at his reality, which was his real home in a permanent kingdom. That is our home, too, if we belong to Christ. (If not, all of this will make little sense, be seen to have little value, because the world, the present, or perhaps even the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, are more greatly esteemed in our estimation than Christ) Compared to eternity, our life on earth is shorter than the blink of an eye, yet we are so consumed by what occurs in that one quick blink. Paul understood this, which is why (he wasted no time in service for his Savior while here on earth) his focus on the next life was no mere avoidance technique. It was his reality. It is ours too. (And we should acknowledge that.)