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First by Deon Crafford

Philippians 1:21-24 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.

In 1964 Nelson Mandela addressed the court in his treason trial and ended with the words, “it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. His ideal was that of a democratic and free society. Paul many years before said something similar to the Philippian Church, that his desire to be with Christ would have him happily welcome or embrace death. For many of us, such an attitude confronts us aggressively and in a sense paints us into a corner. It leaves us with the question as to what desire or ideal could so become our priority that we’re even ready to forsake life for it. And the second question following that is, when does life here on this earth become sufficiently devalued that I no longer frantically wish to cling to it. We all know people who because of disease or organ failure may have come to a point where they desired death more than life. In Paul’s case he felt the suffering of not dwelling with Christ such, and in Nelson Mandela’s case it was the suffering of not seeing his people live free.

Priorities determine how we spend our lives, what we do with our energy and our resources, who and what we engage with, and how much discomfort or even suffering, we are willing to endure. To the one pursuing academic excellence and recognition, the sacrifice of hours upon hours of studying and research comes easy. To the one pursuing wealth, to live sparsely whilst saving is an easy suffering commitment. To the runner or the cyclist preparing for that epic endurance race, the suffering of early morning training – come cold, rain, snow or darkness – is easy to embrace. And to the Christian then ….. what suffering am I willing to embrace in order to deepen my relationship and presence with Christ? Lofty ideals are not achieved by merely thinking or verbalising them. Ask anyone who pursued and achieved a dream, whether they got there by meditating on it or whether by expending effort and more effort in pursuit of it. If I am indeed pursuing an intimate and close relationship with Christ, is it evident in my priorities?

“Life happens”, is often the response we give when we get to the point where we realise the wiring diagram of our priorities has been corrupted. We’re constantly challenged with pursuits, programmes, standards and timeframes, that tend to fill the available space of priorities. Often the quality of my relationship with Christ suffers because of this. Often I am confronted by the realization that I took Christ for granted. But then also by the assurance that His presence supercedes my neglect. How deep the Father’s love for us, is what we sing. How deep our longing for the presence of Christ, is what we shall live.

Love to all