I was speaking with one of the tradesman that is a part of our new building. He has been busy the last couple weeks preparing for a state certification exam. He was sharing with me the challenges of finding time to prepare with all the work and life responsibilities. I was reminded of our new series on Philippians of how the follower of Jesus wrestles with the same challenge of preparing for life’s final exam.
I would consider myself one of the sharper knives in the drawer when it comes to mental capability. Yet, it took me a long time to put my God given intellect to use. I lost the struggle that many smart children face, the battle with laziness. I was able to get by because things came easy. The end result- I was an average student. I remember the conversations with my parents after they had attended a parent teacher conference. The discussion went something like this. Joe, your Aptitude Tests scores show that you should be doing better on your grades. I came to learn later that the reality was I was lazy until what I call, my switch flipped shortly after starting college. The point is my lack of preparation robbed me of the blessing of my God given intellect!
I am reminded that many followers of Jesus fall into that same trap. I know that I have. It is easy to take the blessing of a relationship with Jesus for granted. Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 got me thinking about how we allow ourselves to be robbed by not “studying” for our spiritual development. Let’s look at one section of the prayer when Paul writes, “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” (Philippians 1:10) The word “approve” is a word that communicates testing something to prove it’s value or to critically examine something to prove that it is genuine. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Philippi was not that they would get over the cold, but that they would pursue spiritual maturity. Now, there is nothing wrong with praying for the needs in our lives. Jesus commands us to pray. My point is that Paul was praying for spiritual development.
The reason why Paul prays this way, and you need to read the whole prayer, is because there will be a “final exam.” The last part of our verse reminds us that there will be an accounting for how we have spent our lives for Jesus one day. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”(2 Corinthians 5:10)
I am afraid that many of us fall into the trap of being distracted from God by the pressing needs in our lives. Just like my friend, we are allowing the interruptions to keep us from preparing for life’s final exam. I do need to clarify that we are not talking about becoming a Christian. We are speaking about being faithful followers of Jesus.
So let me leave you with one final thought. If we are living in the end times and Jesus was to return would you be ready for your final exam?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson