I was listening to an interview with a man whose job is to provide legal support for Christians who find themselves discriminated against for their faith in the UK. He said that, if we read the whole Bible, we will find that God has spoken on many things which are current issues, but God’s perspective may be quite different from that of our news media and politicians. Even some Christians, however, do not read the whole bible. They miss out on knowing God’s unchanging truths because they focus on passages which emphasise God’s grace, but do not read those on holiness, repentance, and sanctification.
The apostle Paul wrote to the ‘saints’ in Philippi from a place of imprisonment, not knowing whether he faced death because of his faith in Jesus. He wanted these new believers in Philippi to press on towards the goal. He wanted them to grow and mature in their Christian faith. He wrote, ‘And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1:9-11).
The Philippians were surrounded by spiritual darkness and Paul prayed they would shine the light of Jesus Christ into that darkness. ‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain’ (Philippians 2:14-16).
Paul was choosing not to think about the past, but to focus all his energy on what lay ahead. He was holding on firmly to his personal relationship with Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, and fully trusting that he would finally be transformed to be like Jesus. He urged the Philippians to be standing firm.< em>‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!’ (Philippians 4:1).
I recently heard a Gospel singer singing an old hymn, ‘Higher Ground’. Some of the words had a powerful impact on me. Verse two has these words: ‘My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay. Though some may dwell where these abound, my constant aim is higher ground’. The next verse says, ‘I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled’.
I am sure that Paul would have thoroughly agreed with these words, written by John Oatman Junior in 1889. I think they are relevant for today’s world. It is all too easy to let oneself become discouraged with the doubts and fears others have, as well as the attacks of Satan upon our faith. The first verse of the hymn says, ‘I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day; still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground”’.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to shine like a star for You in the spiritual darkness of this world. Plant my feet on higher ground, above the darts of Satan, so I can rise above the doubts and fears all around me. Help me to move on from the past, focus on You today and look forward to what lies ahead. Help me to stand firm in my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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