The utter devotion of the Apostle Paul is just astounding to me. His entire life was given to the service of Jesus and to do his own part in helping to spread the gospel. Paul's devotion shows a lack of my own at times. Something he says in his letter to the Philippians is especially striking:
Philippians 1:20-24 NIV (20) I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (22) If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! (23) I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (24) but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
When my prayers reach the place where my only concern is that Christ is exalted regardless of my circumstances; when my prayers are not for escape from trouble but for courage to navigate it; when my discomfort is deflated completely of its power in exchange for the beauty of exalting Christ. That's the way I should live.
However, I usually have a limited supply of exaltation for Christ. Perhaps you're this way too. We exalt Him when we receive an answer to prayer, but not when we're travailing in prayer for the answer. We exalt Him when we've brought into the green pasture, but not while we're navigating the shadow of the valley of death. We praise Him while the music is playing, but cease when the song is ended. That's limited exaltation. That's conditional exaltation. I don't want to be a fair-weather friend to Jesus. I want to be wholly devoted in every way.
What if there's something completely joyful about our faith that we're missing here by living out this limited exaltation? What if exalting Jesus as Lord and King was not only to be a byproduct of deliverance, but also sustenance during difficulty and persecution? So few Christians choose to praise God in the midst of their difficulty, that they likely would not know the benefit if they were to try it. What if reports given as "answers to prayer" were reports of God providing courage to endure, not escape and comfort?
What if all complaint was replaced with exaltation?
What if all prayers for deliverance were turned into prayers for courage?
What if all woe was turned to awe?
What if you and I stopped limiting our exaltation of Jesus in this world?
What if our exaltation of Jesus became truly unending?
Let's try it and see what happens. Perhaps we will discover what Paul did.
May it be so,
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.