Preferences and Desires

“Now, I am absorbed by the two. The longing I have is to depart and be with Christ for that is much more preferable; but to remain in the flesh is more needful on your account.”

(Philippians 1:23-24)

This is one of the major themes of the book of Philippians…considering the needs of others as more significant than the desires of oneself. We will see this idea developed more fully in chapter 2, but it is scattered throughout the theme of this letter. Such was the mindset of Christ, was the mindset of Paul, and is meant to be our mindset as well. I earnestly believe that the great majority of our conflicts…whether marital or in social settings…stem back to pride and selfishness…we want our way and what we desire and the needs of others are seen as secondary. If we could genuinely say with the Apostle Paul, “I would rather, but you need this more…” then I suggest that the vast majority of our conflicts would be resolved very differently than they are resolved now.

Paul begins these verses with the reflection that his mind is absorbed by these two things that are before him…he is not entirely sure what is going to take place next. He is pondering God’s direction. He goes on to assert his longing to be with Christ. He has had a long ministry that was filled with great triumphs but also with great hardships — just read 2 Corinthians 11 to put the hardships in perspective — Paul is waiting to complete his race. At the same time, he recognizes that the timing of that race’s completion is in God’s hands, not his own. He also is aware that there is still need that he continue to labor for the good of the church that is in its infancy around him. Thus, he recognizes the need for that which is preferable to be placed on hold so that what is necessary can be done. Fruitful labor will be God’s choice for Paul’s life, and though he desires to depart, what we see in this saint is that he will change his desires to align them with God’s desires.

And this is the lesson we must learn ourselves. Often, when God leads us into a new area of our lives or opens a door to minister to others, we may go through and do so begrudgingly. Often, we even say, “Yes, I would have much rather done something different, but God led me here.” While that statement may be true (at least at the outset), as Christians, we must not allow that statement to remain true for us. A big part of following God is that of taking our desires and aligning our desires with God’s desires. We should learn to desire what God desires and when God shows you his design, you should re-align your desires along the path that he reveals. I won’t suggest that is an easy task, but I will put forth that in Christ it is possible.

Thus, as you go forward this day, keep this model of the Apostle Paul in front of you. Seek to give priority to the needs of others around you rather than your own preferences and then seek to find your joy and desire in the things God would have you set them in…not in those things you prefer. And in doing so, see what God does through and in you.

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