Remember how simple the holidays were as a kid? The big concerns on Thanksgiving were questions like where’s the candy dish, is dinner almost ready, and is Uncle Frank going to dominate the TV and make us watch golf?
Inevitably, as we get older, holidays aren’t so simple. There are more responsibilities and greater temptations to stress and complain, ultimately competing with our focus on Christ. So what’s your mindset with the holidays just around the corner? Are you eager for the festivities, anticipating the family fellowship, excited to see Christ’s birth honored? Or are you anxious about the busy schedule, burdened by the thought of shopping in the chaos, dreading difficult unsaved relatives, or concerned for that January Visa bill from the presents you’ve charged?
One of the greatest examples ever of a man being joyful regardless of his circumstances is the apostle Paul. It’s easy to see evidence of the work of Christ and the power of the gospel in his life as we look at his responses to life’s challenges. There certainly wasn’t much to envy about his circumstances – check out 1 Corinthians 11:23-31.
How could Paul have such an amazing outlook on life in the midst of all this? All glory for his outlook goes to God, because Paul’s mind truly had been renewed by the Holy Spirit. He knew who he was before Christ, and he knew the wrath from which he was saved. He simply wanted to preach the gospel (1Cor 2:2), which he referred to as “the power of God for salvation”.
And nothing stopped him from sharing God’s Word. When Paul was imprisoned and chained to a Roman guard for sharing the gospel (Philippians 1), he could have chosen a path of self pity. But by God’s grace, he opted to honor Christ. Remarkably, he continued to share while in prison and saw several people give their lives to Jesus Christ…including the guard chained to him for the purpose of shutting him up. I love that story.
Here’s a little closer look into the mind of Paul…
Paul – “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”
Paul – “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”
Paul – “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice”
Obviously I’ve never personally met Paul, but he still ministers to me daily. Sometimes when I consider the calling to imitate him found in 1 Corinthians 11:1, it’s tempting to laugh…until I remember his words which remind me to depend on Christ rather than self: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”