S and T are leading a STINT Team (and raising five girls) in East Asia. Like many of you they just came back from midyear/vacation time. After their midyear, there was a 'big people’s conference' for all those serving in their country from numerous countries and including the national staff. (I will leave off numbers for security sake but it was a lot people from a lot of countries and a lot of nat’l staff.)
Speaking of the nat’l staff, S writes, "(they) are heroes to Tom and me. They have chosen to make a stand for Christ in a way that seems unthinkable to us. They have devoted their lives to sharing the gospel with the people of their own country. Though they are among the most educated in their country, they have forgone lucrative jobs in order to make a difference for Christ. Most have been Christians for less than 5 years. Due to the government regulations the risks to them are very real. It was a privilege and so humbling to worship alongside these faithful ones. I think the heart of the Father was filled with delight."
"The country director shared the vision and direction of the ministry," S goes on to say. "It is clear that the vision goes well beyond national borders. It was so challenging to hear them asking God to give them these dark unreached places of the world. It reminded us that God is serious about fulfilling the Great Commission and He is gathering people from every tongue, tribe and nation for Himself. That is what Heaven will be."
On the last day of the conference, T and S got another reminder about the closeness of Heaven. They received an early morning call that their family friends Drew and Nita Meadow’s 2 year old son, Brock, had gone to be with the Lord. He had died very unexpectedly during his afternoon nap. S writes, "We talked with Drew and Nita, their hope is the certainty of God’s goodness and the reality of heaven. We share that hope and it gives reason for tomorrow."
The apostle Paul penned these words from a smelly Roman prison to the church in Philippi, "Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. To live is Christ and to die is gain." For the Apostle Paul things did not turn out as he had expected. Years earlier, he had penned another letter to the church in Rome that he was coming to visit them, raise support and head on to Spain to launch movements. Not long after he penned this, the Holy Spirit warned him that he had been assigned. He would not be STINTing in Spain but he would go to Rome, albeit in chains.
I imagine that many men and women labored before in the country where S & T and never dreamed of what S & T saw this past month. Maybe along the way they were disappointed that their plans got changed. Maybe many days they thought it wasn't worth it. Maybe they were not chained but they felt like they might as well have been. Maybe they thought they were failures and not good enough. Maybe they thought what it was all a big mistake that God choose them and sent them.
To Live is Christ, not 'to live is Andy' or 'to live is ____ ' (put your name here). It's not about me or my plans. It's not about you or your plans. It's about Him. Our hope is not in what we do, its in what He did. It's not in who I am (or think I am) its in who He is.
In a couple of chapters later in this letter to the Philippians, Paul would say that those things he did trying to gain status in God's eyes and churchfolk was really loss / rubbish / pile of dung when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.
It's Christ. He is the One we serve. He is the one we live for. The gain is knowing Him and being with Him; its experiencing His righteousness that comes only from Him. He will come for us when our STINT on this planet earth is o'er. He will transform our measly bodies to be like His glorious one. To Live is Christ.. to die is gain.