2020 has been a hard year for everyone. And as much as we'd like our current trials to end with the arrival of the New Year, our hope for "normalcy" still eludes us. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the air. Nothing seems to be changing for the better any time soon.
What can we do when the next chapter in our story is garnished with the same troubles?
The third chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians might help us with an answer. In it, Paul reminds all the early Christians in Philippi of their citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Of course, this citizenship applies to all followers of Christ at all times at all places. When God, by grace through faith, brings salvation to our souls, he adopts us as his children (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5), making us co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17) and assuring us of a heavenly inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4)—assuring us of a heavenly homeland with our Savior. It's an assurance that significantly encourages us to live in certain ways amid our exilic sufferings on this earth.
Paul mentions two:
To begin, because "our citizenship is in heaven," we therefore "eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). In other words, knowing that we're already citizens of heaven encourages us to wait patiently for our Savior who will one day take us there (Jn. 14:2-3), the place we long for, where there will be no more suffering of any kind (Rev. 21:1-4).
Of course, our struggling point is our patience, but if your heavenly citizenship is guaranteed—and it is in Christ—then you can wait patiently for the one who will take you there to dwell with him forever. It's also important to note that our waiting does not mean inactivity. Biblically-speaking, our waiting as Christians is filled with activities of worship, service, and spiritual growth. So as we wait, we're also meant to live in faithfulness to all that Christ has called us to.
This leads us to our second point:
Because a heavenly homeland is assured to us, we can also "stand firm in the Lord" (Phil. 4:1). In other words, those who have a secured heavenly inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-4) are enabled, amid the sufferings of this life, to remain faithful to their Savior, because the assurance of heaven is itself a motive for us to stand firm in the faith, come what may.
In this life you will face things that will tempt you to depart from the Lord and his people, the church, as Hebrews 10:25 alludes to. But look to Jesus, who is preparing a place in heaven for you—who assures you he will take you there—and let the assurance of your eternal wellbeing encourage you and strengthen you to stand firm in Christ together with the body of Christ in service to Christ. Allow God's gracious assurance to move you toward godly faithfulness in all that your Savior calls you to.
Looking to the New Year
As your pastor who loves you and receives much joy and encouragement from you, I can’t think of a better way to encourage you as we get ready to usher in the New Year. Remember your ultimate citizenship. Our Lord made a great sacrifice to give it to you. He went to the cross thinking of you; he suffered greatly for you, all to guarantee heaven to you. So live in light of your heavenly homeland. Wait patiently for our Lord; stand firmly in faithfulness to the Lord; invite the Holy Spirit of God to help you do these two things in the New Year.
2020 will soon be behind us, but there is still a lot of uncertainty heading into 2021. My prayer for us all, as we continue in our exile, is for God to enable us through his Spirit to wait patiently and to stand unwaveringly, that we would continue to live for his honor and glory as we continue to trust in him as the Sovereign One.
In this New Year, let’s stand in all faithfulness as we await "the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward" (Phil. 3:14).
By God's grace alone,