Bargaining for Our Lives
I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:19-20
Most of us, in some painful life trial, have gone to God, bargaining with him. If you fix this problem, I’ll change my ways and live for you for the rest of my life. We desperately want something from God, and we believe that he wants something from us, so we devise a trade where we both get what we want.
I’ve done this. In the consequences of my addiction, I told God I’d do whatever it took to find and remain in recovery . . . if he gave me my family and career back. He said no. Those things weren’t guaranteed. There was no bargain except this – Follow me and I’ll save you from yourself. I wanted God to fix my life circumstances. God wanted to fix me.
Today’s passage reveals this profound concept. In it, Paul wrote from prison that he had confidence that God would save him, in life or death. What? When I first read the passage, I thought what most of us would think – that Paul expected God to free him from prison and return him to his normal life so that he could live happily ever after. Paul however, saw beyond circumstance.
Paul could look back and see that he’d already been saved from himself. He could look to the future, knowing that in life or death, he was in God’s hands and that nothing could change that. Prison was an inconvenience, but God used it for good, and prison couldn’t change the fact that God had already saved and would continue to save Paul. The Bible doesn’t say, but tradition tells us that Paul was eventually beheaded for his faith. It sounds bizarre, but even in being martyred, Paul would still say that God saved him, because Paul understood that salvation meant something very different than we often think it does.
We go to God, asking him to change our painful life circumstances. God takes our painful life circumstances and uses them to change us.
I did get my family and career back, albeit they were both radically changed, because God radically changed me first. We’re not guaranteed a fix to our life circumstances though. We are however, guaranteed that God will save us from ourselves when we turn to him. Then, we may experience life, joy, and peace in him, despite our life circumstances.