Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning Perspective from Paul

[Did anyone take me up on last week's homework challenge? As promised, here's my reflection on the assignment. I wrote the following as a response to the "Paul and the Philippians" study I had to complete for my class a few weeks ago. It was a challenge to be so brief...I hope it is clear enough to be edifying even for those who did not do the study and are not familiar with the class material!]

In the trials Paul faced and the successes he enjoyed, he knew: God is using this for good. God (and I, in Him) will be victorious in the end. God is great, His glory is foremost, He is the ultimate Treasure—all else fades in His light. Paul had perspective.

In studying Philippians, I’ve seen how Paul’s perspective—his understanding of who God is and what He has done and promises to do—fueled his unnatural responses to difficult circumstances. Paul was able to trust God’s purpose in trials, cling to hope, work hard and love people well because Paul knew who he was and Whom he served.

So often in my life, although what I say I believe has been completely orthodox, functionally I’ve held false beliefs or outright unbelief.* I’ve misinterpreted reality, and my faulty perceptions of reality have fueled sinful and self-absorbed emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

Looking to Paul as an example, I must begin to interpret reality in light of God, rather than interpreting God in light of [my flawed perception of] reality. In faith I must choose to trust God's reality map, rather than creating my own.

When I try to make sense of life independently of God’s character and promises, I make nothing but a mess. My inner monologue is useless, even dangerous, because in reality I am not center stage, single spot, all eyes on me. My life is meant to be lived in dialogue with and worship of the One who alone fills the spotlight—who IS the Light—and I can only see what’s truly real when I see His light and see all of life by that light.

If I, like Paul, shift to a gospel-centered paradigm, beliefs rooted in who Christ is and what He has done, my perceptions of reality shift. I begin to draw conclusions about my circumstances based on who I know God to be and what I trust He has promised to do, rather than succumbing to lies about Him based on wrong interpretations of my circumstances. I begin to see and savor the eternal pleasure found in God, and the earthly pleasures I grab for lose their magnetism. And I begin not only to see light, but to reflect light—I shine like a star in the universe, holding out the Word of Life, displaying the beauty of my Savior so that others might undergo that same radical change of perspective.

*The concept of "functional beliefs" may be a foreign one to many of you...please say so in the comments if it's unclear/unfamiliar and you'd like me to try to post more about this. I don't know how well I'll be able to articulate it, but I'll be happy to try if it's necessary/helpful.

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