by John Howard Farmer
OK, Just Hold On
Philippi had been a Greek settlement, home to the Macedonians, established as far back as 360 BC. It was a military outpost established to protect the gold mines. By the time of this writing the area had become a Roman colony. The Book of Philippians is a part of the Pauline epistles (letters) that can be grouped together with Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. Scholars often refer to these letters as Paul’s prison letters, as they believe them written from Rome during the time that Paul was under “house arrest.”
There is a thrust of joy in the writing. It comes out of a bad time in the life of the writer. No matter the press of life, Paul finds joy and faith possible in the face of persecution. It draws from a deep well of conviction and encourages past and present readers to hold fast, to hold on. There is an implied gratitude for the things done for us (and the author) by Christ.
Paul had come to know Jesus late in life. It called him from being a persecutor to one who would be persecuted for the balance of his existence. We, like Paul, come to know Jesus by submitting to the kingdom of God as we are confronted by a Savior who becomes our Lord (he who rules over us).
Paul would say that his faith is like the kingdom of heaven: it costs everything because it is worth everything.
All about me, all of the time I am infected by the woes of others. Great sadness invades churches, groups and families. Illness, disappointment and doubt loom. Yet we, who of the household of faith need to draw strength from the Biblical witness. We can parallel the lives of these ancient saints and be equipped for the living of each and every new day. We are reported to be a people of conviction, with principles. Alas, we are so easily wounded. Take heart my friends and hold on. The best is yet to be.
Let’s sample the letter a wee bit today: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.
Only let us hold fast to what we have attained,” (Philippians 3:10-15).
Paul anchors the letter from that point of his momentous decision to surrender to Christ. He therefore “knows” the Risen Lord. It is not so much the we cannot go back to Golgotha’s hill; rather the man of the cross comes to us, each individually. For the people of faith, our lives, like Paul’s, are being transformed through Christ. He gives us power and purpose and a calling to others. We don’t just get to know Christ; we keep on knowing him.
Often the stress under which we labor is carried upon our shoulders because we have not rested our problems in the life of Christ. It requires an investment in the knowledge and faith of the believer. Christ who did, is the Christ who does. We establish a relationship with Him that gives us the power and courage to carry on, even in the most difficult of times.
Christ knew great stress. Paul experienced it vicariously with him. Paul’s suffering is the fodder for many books, many stories of faith.
In many a cry for help a respondent has yelled, “just hold on, help is on the way.” That is a grand way to think of Christ’s involvement in our lives. Help is on the way, all the help you and or I will ever need. We have to keep the faith, maintain the walk and hold on. Everything is going to be all right.
Sustaining a life of faith is not about a sense of false perfectionism. God, through Christ overlooks all our shortcomings. None of us ever really feels good enough. It is not about our goodness, rather his.
If Paul experienced any sense of martyrdom it is that he relates his predicament to that of Christ’s. He touched the suffering servant and finds healing in his own suffering.
Yes, friend, times—at times—may be bad. Take, heart help is on its way. Hold on. Press on.