Short Meditations in Philippians: 11. A Resource?
Phil 1:24 it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body
Sometimes Biblical teaching comes indirectly out of the actions, or even reflections of individuals and that is what we find here. Paul is here in prison and expects to get out but is not so brash as to be absolutely confident. God may will something else and so he ponders on death and as he does so he makes this comment above, that if he remains alive it will be more beneficial for these believers.
Why? Because he is an apostle, a father figure who helped this church come into being and he has taught them and longs to continue teaching them, hence this letter. He is a resource for them. This is why he says, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me.” (v.22) i.e. I can carry on serving the Lord here on earth. Is that our desire? I know it is something I pray daily: “Lord please use me.” Paul is torn between life and death, so great is his perspective: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (v.23,24)
But it is his awareness that so far the Lord has used him as a resource to the church – to bring the church into being and to build it up – that I find challenging. It is too easy to let scripture remain words and leave it there. I find the Lord challenges me – and perhaps you? – will I be a resource to other people? Will I be a resource that He can use to draw others to Himself? Will I be a resource who, at the very least, He can use to encourage and strengthen and build up other people? Will I be a resource who, regardless of the faith levels of others, will remain faithful to Him and remain available to Him?
Are my resources His resources? Am I generous, hospitable, caring, compassionate in practical ways? I don’t find an automatic ‘yes!’ to every one of them; some of them I feel slightly hesitant about. These are areas for prayer and seeking Him for more grace because, at the end of it all, it is His grace in me that will enable these things to be. I can desire to be like this, but I still need His grace, His power, His presence to actually be like this.
We touch on a fundamental teaching here, that of the ‘body of Christ’ of which I am a member (1 Cor 12:27) and, I hope, you are a member. The concept is of something that Jesus can continue to use to do the will of his Father on earth – then and now. Am I a resource to the other members of this body? Can we collectively be a resource to the rest of the world, an instrument (to mix metaphors) in the hands of God, available to him, in some measure at least, like the apostle Paul, careless of death, available in life?