HARD PRESSED

I never thought I would be in full-time ministry.

To be honest I have wrestled with what it looks like in our day to be a full-time minister of the Gospel. I have sought the Scriptures for clues and insights as to what is the essence and heartbeat of someone who has given their life to make Jesus known and to reconcile people back unto God. And then this famous text, which I have read maybe a hundred times, leapt off the page and revealed to me the heartbeat of a true son or daughter of God. Though it may be hard for many of us to identify with the Apostle Paul since for many he has been deified, I feel God’s invitation to embrace what is possible when a life is surrendered to Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And this, I believe, is the secret to an effective man or woman of God.

“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. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

 

Philippians 1:21-26

Hard pressed. HARD pressed. Paul is saying he is like a Christian panini sandwich being pressed on either side of his soul. There is a part of him that aches and longs to simply be with Jesus. He welcomes the thought of death without fear because it means being with Jesus face to face. He is not being fatalistic or dark, he is a man who is no longer afraid of death because he knows as soon as he departs from this earth he will be with the One whom his soul loves. It consumes his thoughts in the morning and when he goes to sleep at night. This desire for Jesus is not something he is “supposed” to feel, it is a deep ache in his soul that wears on him. Hard pressed.

Yet on the other side he acknowledges that his fruitful ministry among the believers is so rewarding that it too presses on him. His life in the flesh, his ministry, is producing fruit among the believers and this brings Paul great joy! This desire also is so strong that it presses on him.

And here we get a glimpse into the man of God’s heart, we see what makes him tick. We discover that behind his fruitful ministry is a heart that first and foremost, above all things, longs to simply be with Jesus. Yet second, not far behind his desire to be with Jesus is the joy and fulfillment that he feels as his ministry causes other believers to experience “progress and joy in the faith” (v25).

Compare this to many of us today who are hard pressed by finances, circumstances or difficult relationships. We feel pressed by the pressures of life and cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. Because of our many cares it is hard to imagine our lives bound by an aching love for God and a passion to see people grow in their faith but this is God’s great vision for those who desire to leave His mark on the world.

Regardless of where you are today, begin to pray and ask God to form this heart in you.

Father, make me a “Panini Christian!”

You cannot in your own spirituality or strength manufacture this type of thing. It is the result of truly knowing God and becoming so intimate with him that his heart becomes our own.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • I love this analogy! Good word. 🙂

  • Craig Groshans says:

    Good stuff. (Get it? Stuff?—A little panini humor.) But seriously, what a great tool to diagnose the heart!

    What IS this that is pressing so hard upon me??

    If the answer is ANYTHING OTHER than:

    My longing to be with Jesus in intimate contact, or…

    My desire to see others experience the love of Jesus in an intimate and extravagant way,

    …then I’m in need of some calibration.

    No criticism or condemnation needed, JUST RECALIBRATE.

    I love it. Thanks Peter.

  • Thank you for this post Peter! The title Intrigued me. For many years I have been in full time vocational ministry as a pastor until recently. I left my pastorate last summer as a result of feeling a call to Dallas TX. My wife and I left our home in WV and trusted God. After several months, my wife became so miserable that we had to come back home.. now I’m working a secular job to pay the bills. I’ve ministered to people on the job as I believe that, my income source doesn’t determine whether or not I share Jesus with those around me but my heart does ache to be in full time ministry again. Am I wrong? Any insights you could offer would be helpful. Thank you again!

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