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Thursday, 21 July 2016

"Our Greatest Longing"

Message Summary: Paul looked forward earnestly for that day when he would see the Lord and often expresses it in his writings. The healthy state for the believer is to "long for" His appearing. That's our greatest longing. Let's keep our focus on that today!
"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).

For a number of years here in Lancaster County the Women and Babies Hospital was right next to the Hospice Center of Lancaster.* The two buildings are quite a contrast; one primarily for the transition into this life (birth), the other for the inevitable transition out (death). In the course of our ministry we have made many visits to both the Women and Babies Hospital and to the Hospice Center, on occasion our visits coincided on the same day. That's just part of seeking to provide good chaplaincy and pastoral care.
Pierce family
It's a special joy to visit with the excited parents of a new baby. The photo to the left was taken the day David Pierce made his entrance into the world. David, who just turned 9, is now in Brooksyne's Sunday School class. She especially enjoys his desire to learn his weekly memory verses, and he does so regularly, with the helpful support of his mom and dad. Seth and Bethany, who came along after David, complete this delightful family who seek to honor the Lord

Hospice visits are very different. When Brooksyne's mom passed on some 15 years ago hospice proved to be a great support medically and emotionally. We have a number of friends serving as hospice chaplains including Mark Pulliam, who was my supervisor many years ago, and Lou Guiliano who was recognized as the New Jersey hospice chaplain of the year.

Both the Women and Babies Hospital and Hospice deal with expectations. But an entirely different form of expectation takes place in each. In the one we have those excited about the beginning cycle of new life. In hospice there is an entirely different expectation, as families hesitantly face the end cycle of one's life. For some it's a sense of fear and dread, but for others it's a glorious expectation of their pending transfer to heaven. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ it is a lifetime longing and preparation finally being fulfilled after their fierce mental, physical, and emotional battle. Finally their perishable body goes to the grave, while their spirit takes on the imperishable state.

Today we are all "longing for" something. There are many secondary longings that come and go in the course of a lifetime. Consider what we longed for as children, teens, young adults. There are good temporal longings as well as harmful and destructive ones in which we seek deliverance. But all we who love Christ should have a deep, abiding desire for the appearing of our Lord. This should be our greatest longing that is unfleeting, unwavering and exceeds any of our temporal longings.

Paul in our daily verse has come to the closing days of his life on this earth. In the previous verses he solemnly acknowledged that "the time has come for my departure" (v.6) and stated, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (v.7). He supremely looked forward to receiving "the crown of righteousness" that had been stored up for him, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, would award him on the appointed day.

Since Paul's remarkable conversion on the Damascus Road he had given his life in service for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some 30 years passed since that time and Paul had stayed the course. I sense such a confidence and peace in his words, even as he faced a martyr's death. Earlier in this very letter he expressed his absolute assurance, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" (1:12).

There's something else in the verse that I like. Just five little words but they speak volumes to those of us who, like Paul, who strive to stay on course with Christ in this decadent age. 

"And not only to me."

Paul gives us a great word here that you and I can cling to today. He doesn't go on to say "and for you also Timothy", to whom he was writing.  Instead he writes to each reader, "but also to all who have longed for His appearing." Paul looked forward earnestly for that day when he would see the Lord and often expresses it in his writings.  The healthy state for the believer is to "long for" His appearing. That's our greatest longing. Let's keep our focus on that today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber



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