When those times come, as they do to all of us, when I'm tempted to give in to discouragement and despair, and yes, self-pity, the Lord brings to mind the life of the apostle Paul.  What must have it been like for him, a man whose heart was bursting with new and fresh insight from the Holy Spirit, who was hearing His voice more deeply than ever before, yet, all the while confined to a cramped prison cell, chained to his guard?  How did he live in the midst of those extremely trying circumstances?  How did he live with the knowledge, as he most certainly did, that he would not leave that cell, that his destination was not further and fulfilling ministry, but death?  How did he live?  The answer to that is found by simply reading those "prison letters," of his, and one sees that as, what he called, "the time of his departure" came near, Paul lived fully and richly, in Him.  Christine Caine said that it was her hearts desire to "Die living, and not to live waiting to die."  When Paul's time of departure, of his death came, he died living.  For those of us who give in to the seduction of discouragement, of despair, frustration, self-pity, we will only be living as we wait to die, and that will not be living at all.   
     One of the great lines in the movie The Shawshank Redemption is the one spoken by Morgan Freeman's character, that a person needed to either "get busy livin', or get busy dyin'"  Which speaks to you and I today?  Are we "busy" with the business of dying, or living?  Though we may be physically alive, does spiritual death grip us, keeping us from the fullness of His life?  Discouragement, despair, fear, self-absorption, these are the markings of death.  Hope, joyful expectation, peace, these are the fruits of His life at work in us. These fruits cannot be quenched by anything, not even a dank, dark, prison cell, where the executioner is literally around the corner.  Even in such a place, we may be "busy about His life."  Paul's life in the midst of such a place was of such quality and power, that the entire Roman garrison knew of him and the life he was living.  What is known about the quality of our life today to those who surround us?  Are we living and breathing life, or death?  
     Paul wrote Philippians 3:13-14 on the brink of his "departure."  "I focus all my energies on this one thing; forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I strain to reach forward to the end of the race, and receive the prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us up to heaven."  The upward call; Paul's life was a portrait in responding to that call, right until the very end.  When it came time for him to leave this realm, this life, I know that he left it "straining, reaching forward."  May it be so of me, of you.  May we die living, busy about His life, always moving upward in response to that call, knowing that no cell, no cave, no affliction, not all of hell unleashed itself, can keep us from it.  This is His life.  May we fully live it.  May we never cease straining forward to have it, till the time of our own departure comes.


Blessings,
Pastor O
 
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