I hear Church-planter Paul making amazing faith declarations, like “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am,” (Philippians 4:12) and I know that this is no small thing, because I’ve read the travel journal he left behind. He spent most of his life uprooted, on the road, hunted down, in pain, cold and hungry. At odds with the culture around him. But still he could think of himself as peaceful and happy, because he had already found a home in God. His heart is on full display in his letters: “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….” (Philippians 3:8-9)
I know in my spirit that what Paul says is right and true– that Christ is a treasure, worth more than anything else in this world. I also recognize that my heart has a long way to go before it can find joy in every loss, if it means having more of Jesus. But maybe that’s not one big lesson I have to learn all at once. Maybe it is more like countless in-the-moment choices to invite Jesus into my experiences. Maybe it is as simple as accepting His invitation to come live with Him, and do as He says. “Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (John 15:9-10) Just come near to Jesus and live there, this one day. Then do it all over again tomorrow. And whenever you wander away– when emotions get bullied by circumstances and thoughts whirl– just turn around and run Home again where you are safe and Someone loves you best of all. We understand that He gives eternal life, but somehow that seems like a far away destination most of the time. We forget that when Jesus talked about being reborn, it was for the here and now. See, eternity isn’t something waiting for after we die. New life begins the moment we ask Him to remake us, when we begin living in the Eternal One. Jesus describes it in gardening terms: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Maybe it is easiest for us to understand when we feel alive and growing, and we can see the fruit He is producing in us. I know how the hard days can blind the heart, so that we rush into instinctive flight…or fight back with whatever is readily on hand. As if we could ever beat back the darkness of this world with more of the same. But the secret Paul learned is that even in times of loss and pain and fear, God’s presence was his refuge, a safe place to run. He wrote in one of his letters, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation… present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Live with Him, talk to Him, thank Him, expect Him to answer. This is how Jesus wants us to understand His simple everyday invitation, and He promises that when we stay close to Him, our prayers are already worked into God’s plans. When life is difficult, there is no better place to live, to put down roots, than the Source of all comfort and strength and healing. Just keep coming Home with your needs and trust the loving Father to take care of you. The Musician-King set it to music some thousand years before: “Whsoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ ” (Psalm 91:1-2)
Not all of us have known the blessing of a healthy home on this earth, but we all do share that longing. We want to have that commitment to family, day in and day out, until memory overlays memory, all the good and the bad shared by people who love one another, and the place becomes rich with it. We want that comfortable haven where we can be most ourselves, the place we feel accepted and secure, at peace. Sometimes the days are messy and struggling, but we choose to persevere, hold onto faith that it will work out for good. This creates a place to call home, whether we’re taking about a place with walls and a door, or a residence for your spirit. This is what Paul learned day by day: to make his heart’s home in Christ’s presence– through good and bad, obeying what Jesus had taught him and trusting His love. Until after all the years he could say without a shadow of a doubt that it had been worth it. That what he had lost didn’t even matter in light of all that he had gained. And if you think about it, what could you possibly lack when you have an intimate relationship with the God of heaven and earth? Paul’s home was wherever Jesus was, and Jesus had never left him, no matter what strange lands Paul traveled. It was a connection as elemental as a plant rooted and flourishing in a vineyard.
So this is how we begin, simply as children, taking Jesus’ outstretched hand and staying close beside Him one day and then the next. Just keep on coming Home to His presence. In all those small choices– to obey, to trust, to be close to Him– we are growing strong and secure in His love. And someday we will be able to say confidently with Paul, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
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. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
Can’t go back to the beginning;
Can’t control what tomorrow will bring;
But I know here in the middle
Is the place where You promise to be.
I’m not enough unless You come–
Will You meet me here again?
‘Cause all I want is all You are–
Will You meet me here again ?
Here Again, Elevation Worship
Not for a minute
Was I forsaken….
The Lord is in this place,
The Lord is in this place.