I’ve been pretty stressed recently. I’m in the middle of buying my first house: trying to get financing and negotiating repairs with the seller. It’s hard for me to concentrate. I often have this strong feeling of unease.
But wait, don’t you work at a church? Aren’t you supposed to be all holy and have the peace of God and stuff? Well… yes. Were that “ought” were “is.”
Paul was under house arrest when he wrote Philippians. He was potentially facing execution, an all too common punishment in the Roman world. Certainly he mentions his imprisonment. It shapes his writing, but it’s not his focus. He’s concerned with the advance of the gospel, the health of the churches. He continues to teach.
You may have heard Pastor Mark quote Star Wars, “Your focus determines your reality.” Unlike myself, Paul had his focus in the right place. He wasn’t focused on his captivity. He concerned himself with the mission God had given him, to tell others about Jesus. He even says:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
What are you focused on? How is it affecting you? Are you directed toward Christ or something else? If anything or anyone but God is the primary object of our attention, we are practicing idolatry, even if that other thing is a good thing.
Idolatry can have eternal consequences, but it also impacts our lives here and now. We were designed to have God at the center of our lives. When we replace him with something else, it throws our whole world off. We become stressed and irritable. We lose perspective. We act selfishly. We have no peace. Believe me. I know first-hand.