A couple weeks ago I wrote about Pursuing Joy and my need for repentance in this area. After a week of thinking about the best way to go about finding time to study and still be faithful to my family in other areas, I began studying Philippians this past weekend. As I read the ESV Study Bible introduction to the letter, something they said in their analysis not only stirred my affections for Christ, but also showed me how I came to the point of not pursuing Joy the way I should.
The introduction said that Paul’s main purpose in writing Philippians is because he wanted the Philippians to continue to make progress in their faith (Phil. 1:25). Even though the church was relatively healthy compared to Corinth and Galatia, despite having some conflicts (Euodia and Syntyche, 4:2), Paul urges them to not relax or think they can rest, but be ever vigilant in their pursuit of Christ. The world is too perilous, and the gospel too glorious, for them to be content with past achievements.
And that’s where I went wrong.
When I got married there was so much to learn about each other and both of our roles and work changed a bit and SO MUCH NEW! So it became easy to kind of coast for a bit.
I would tell myself this, or other phrases like it, to essentially make myself feel better about not being able to do it all. I was new to marriage, new to coming home and not being able to shut down, new to not being able to spend four hours a night reading and/or writing every night. All of this was good change and change for the right reasons, but I still found myself wanting to be able to do everything I used to do as well as fulfill my new marital responsibilities AND not walk around like a total zombie!
So, I would let the study time dwindle down. And down. And down. Then I realized that it had been a couple months since I’d even looked at my Bible outside of church, much less studied it. Then I’d try to do some things to spark the old interest I had in studying. I studied through Ephesians with some guys and wrote out a lot of thoughts in Evernote.
But it all fell short because I forgot the one thing that was so abundantly clear when I was single.
In the midst of all of the new blessings God gave me I became the one thing that is absolutely damaging to any soldier in combat. I became comfortable. I wasn’t alert. I wasn’t expecting an attack. I lost focus.
I became comfortable with how most of the aspects of my life were going and I lost sight of the rest.
This is where Paul’s reminder to the Philippians hits home. His challenge to remain vigilant even in times of relative peace resonates because I have seen and felt first-hand how damaging losing focus can be. Not just losing focus of the war around us, but losing focus on Christ and the gospel that brings me life and Him glory.
Now I’m a father as well as a husband, and it is even more imperative that I remain focused on Christ and keep the gospel close to my heart.
I can’t be patient with my seven month old without the gospel restraining my sinful heart and opening my ears to the Holy Spirit. I can’t lay down my life to serve my wife without the gospel reminding me that this is about something bigger than the two of us, and even bigger than Calvin seeing how I love and treat his momma. God will always be glorified, of this I am sure. What is at stake is how well I image Christ by mirroring His glory, and how effective I am at teaching Calvin and leading Angela to do the same by my actions as well as words.
The gospel isn’t the introduction to the Christian life. The gospel is the whole of the Christian life. It is the fuel that drives us and the wisdom that tempers us. It is the gospel message that reminds me that because Christ has won, I am free to lose. That because Christ was strong, I am free to be weak.
The gospel is what gives us the focus to be alert and to remain constantly vigilant.
And it is the gospel that reminds us we can still come running home when we’ve dropped the ball.