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March Madness and Winning.

Sadly, we are coming down to the end of March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching, rooting, while yelling at my television screen, 'get the rebound!' And then the underdog winning, like my local North Carolina State, a real sweetheart story. But as fun as it is, March Madness has nothing to do with the ultimate 'win'. Paul kept that win always before him.

And in his dailiness, he kept what he knew to be true foremost in his mind.

Things like: 

->God who called you is faithful.1

->He will not leave you to your own devices; he will never leave you.2

->having faith is a requirement of those who call Jesus 'Lord', for without faith it is impossible to please God.

->God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful.4

->there is joy when believers are in community. There is fellowship, strength, support, love and freedom.5

->we are not citizens of this world, but of Heaven6


It seems that Paul was able to keep these thoughts present in his mind as he writes to the Philippians, some 800 miles away from where he was in Rome. He is well aware he might not see them again; he might not see freedom again. In reality, he is aware that he just may be executed - if for no other reason, for preaching a gospel the Romans viewed as subversive to Caesar. 


He writes: [Father, give us your wisdom as we read, guard against distraction]

~ for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 

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.                                        

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

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! I am torn between the two:

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain,

and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Philippians 1.19-26


Do you hear his heart? Do you see his mindset? May we find it attractive, may we be desirous of the same.


"I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ ..." > Paul trusted that his fellow believers were praying for him, and that because of their combined prayers, (his and theirs), he could be expectant of what Christ was going to do in his life, including giving him the courage to accept whatever hand he was dealt -life or death.

" that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body"  


> from the time Paul came to know Christ, his entire purpose was to honor Him. I would like to think that is the way I live my life, but I forget. Some days, I wake up exhausted, stumbling for my caffeinated Peet 's elixir, hoping it will help me accomplish what I am meant to do cheerfully and lovingly as I read my Bible and pray ... but later in the day, from this or that, I can forget that my sole purpose is to honor God with my body and mind. 


Indeed, like Brother Lawrence, I wish to be mindful to practice the presence of God. "When we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence, and set him always before us, this hinders our offending him, and doing anything that may displease him."  ... Brother Lawrence7


"~so that now as always Christ will be exalted..." Paul lived to please God. How tempting it is to live our lives to please people.  'Tempting?' you say, 'I am enslaved by my own nature, constantly trying to live up to someone else's expectations of me!'  Be free, Man. Be free, Woman. Be courageous, and live to honor Christ.  What is required of you and me is the same as our brother, Paul - live in such a way "so that now as always Christ will be exalted." And drop the comparison game. Look to God only.


And then the most ironic statement: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Either way, Paul wins. What is your definition of a 'win' for your life?

I remember and love what Billy Graham said of his life, "Someday you will hear that Billy Graham is dead.  Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the Presence of God."


To which I say, 'March Madness ... what?'

Something about this perspective, listen:


Philippians, #9

1  1 Thessalonians 5.24                                                                                                                        2   Hebrews 13.5                                                                                                                                   3   Hebrews 11.6                                                                                                                                   4   James 5.16                                                                                                                                       5  2 Corinthians 3.17                                                                                                                            6  Philippians 3.20                                                                                                                             7 from the little book Practicing the Presence of God

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