The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian church, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21; ESV). Paul lived with a sense of urgency centered in Jesus Christ. God wants us to live with this same sense of urgency.
Unfortunately, there are times we live with a sense of complacency, or quiet despair. At other times, we live with a sense of urgency, but not centered in Jesus Christ. How might we live with a sense of Christ-centered urgency all the time?
Paul spoke of his sense of urgency while under house arrest in Rome. To add insult to injury, according to Paul, some preached Christ out of envy and rivalry to stir up trouble for Paul in prison, though others were encouraged to share the good news in love and good will based on Paul’s imprisonment (Philippians 1:12-18).
One could think Paul would despair because of his challenging circumstances. But he did not. He lived with a sense of confidence that what had happened to him served the advance of the good news of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:12).
Paul’s sense of urgency stemmed from several factors, including his sense that he may die soon (Philippians 1:22-26). How many of us, no matter how vibrant, realize that our lives could be snatched away at any moment? We are foolish if we operate as if we will live forever in our current state. Now, as recorded here, Paul appeared to have a choice in the matter as to whether he would live or die, and he decided to stay on for the sake of the church, even though he desired to depart and be with Christ, which he realized was far better (Philippians 1:22-26).
Related to Paul’s sense of life’s brevity, he also realized that he was abnormally born spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:8). Perhaps he thought he had much ground to cover to catch up. Paul certainly sensed that he was the least of the apostles for having persecuted the church (1 Corinthians 15:9). His sense of gratitude for God’s mercy was palpable. And so, he worked harder than all the other apostles due to God’s grace at work in his life (1 Corinthians 15:10). As Jesus said, those who are forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47). Paul’s keen awareness that he had a debt of gratitude to pay Jesus helped to foster his sense of urgency.
In addition to Paul’s sense of life’s brevity and debt of gratitude, Paul also lived with a sense of God’s providential care and direction. Just as he believed God is at work in believers’ lives, so Paul believed God was at work in his trying ordeal (Philippians 1:6, 12). This is not Russian roulette. There was nothing random about Paul’s circumstances. God was leading, directing, drawing people to Christ through Paul’s prison trials. The whole imperial guard and others had come to know of Jesus Christ through Paul’s presence and that Paul’s imprisonment was for Christ. In fact, people from Caesar’s own household had come to believe in Jesus! (1:12-23; 4:22)
A person once came up to me at a conference in Portland, Oregon where Dr. John M. Perkins and I were speaking together on the subject of urgency in ministry. The man began weeping, confessing that he did not have a sense of urgency in his life. While I grieved with him, I also rejoiced because he realized how often we waste our lives in quiet complacency, when God calls us to live life to the full in Jesus. There is hope when we sense our need and reach out to one another in the hope of receiving encouragement to be courageous and pursue Christ like Paul did: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”
As we grow in the awareness of life’s brevity, of our debt of gratitude for Jesus’ grace and mercy in our lives, and of his providential direction, we will grow in our sense of urgency to live life to the full for Christ. Let’s encourage one another to that end.