March 6, 2012

Living in the Dot?

A little book called “The Treasure Principle” by RandyAlcorn uses a diagram to illustrate life and afterlife. It is a circle or a dot with an arrow coming out of it. It looks something like this: •―――――>
This author says the represents this life here on earth, while the arrow indicates everlasting life in heaven. He talks about how nothing from the dot can be taken from it out into the arrow, yet most of us live as if the dot was all there is. This is the opposite of the values expressed by the Apostle Paul.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21–24)
Paul expressed the pressures of dot vs. arrow. He wanted whatever would bring the most glory to God and be to everyone’s advantage in the long term. His personal desire was to depart from this life (the dot) and be with Christ which would be better by far for him. Getting out of the dot would release him from persecution and other hardships. But he also knew that the Christians at Philippi needed him, so for their sake it was more important that he remain in the body, or stay alive living in the dot. 

Yet Paul never lived for the stuff of the dot. His sole purpose was to live for Christ while in that dot, knowing that eternity was far greater. 

This applies to us today also, but from a different perspective. Our dot may or may not contain persecution. Where I live, it is more likely to be appealing rather than something to escape. That is, many modern Christians are finding it easy to choose the “bigger, better, more” idealism of the American dream with all sorts of other temporal purposes, goals, priorities and pleasures, than living for Jesus. In fact, some can barely relate to Paul’s focus on Christ and his desire to be with Him. It is too easy to be more interested in the dot and all that it offers, even if this dot-stuff does not last. 

Living for Christ is not pie in the sky talk. Every decision I make each day flows out of the priorities and values I have chosen in my life. If I decide I’m going to live for the dot, then I will behave and make choices that fit that decision.

My sister and I talked this week about our respective to-do lists. She is an artist. Sales of her work supply the family bread and butter, so some of that dot work is important to sustain life. Yet Christ and living for eternity is high on her priority list. I mentioned all my choices each day, including creative projects, but that I was also working on the Bible studies I’ve written to make them available for others to use. So far, only two are ready, and her church purchased and is using one of them. She said, “For the sake of the world, keep working on those Bible studies.”

We both know the brevity of life and that this dot is small and contained. We can only do so much before we embark on that eternal arrow. Not only that, if I focus on the stuff of the dot, any gain will eventually wind up in the dump. My home, artistic work, even my writing cannot go into eternity with me. However, if I do things that help others know Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, that becomes eternity stuff, fruit that will last. 

Further, God shows me that this is His choice for my life by a promise. He says He will definitely supply all I need for when I choose to get my eyes off the dot and live for the stuff of the arrow.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
His purpose for my life, as was His purpose for Paul’s life, is to do that which will last. That is why He promises that whatever I ask for that concerns eternal matters, He will give it to me. 

From this amazing connection between living for the arrow and answered prayer, I can better understand Paul’s pressure about staying here or dying and being with Christ. He wanted to step outside the dot, but he knew that if he stayed, God would give him all he needed to draw others out of living for the dot into living for Christ. 

Lord, all I can think about this morning is to ask You for the same passion that Paul had to bear fruit that will last, even the same passion to live for Christ and live for others who also need Him.

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