George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Subjugation of Our Higher Longings
Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you--Phi 1:23-24
Paul's Love for Christ
One cannot wonder that the Apostle Paul had a desire to depart and to be with Christ. He longed for the consummation of his fellowship. Whatever difficulty there may be in reconciling Paul's views of the beyond, there can be no question that central to them all was the thought of personal fellowship with Christ. And in the Roman prison with its inactivities and its long hours for quiet meditation, that longing grew imperious and dominant. Death had no terrors for him. It was the swift passage to a full communion. It would unveil for him the well-beloved face of the Savior to whom he owed his life. He was not "half in love with an easy death," but he was passionately in love with Him into whose presence death would usher him. This was the deepest longing of his soul--to be with Christ which was far better. His highest ambition was to win that intimacy which would be uninterrupted and complete. He longed for the hour when, through the gate of death, he would pass into the presence of that Lord who had so marvelously rescued and redeemed him.
Paul's Burden for His Converts
But on that great loving heart of his, Paul bore forever the burden of his converts. He was their one spiritual father, and he loved them as a father loves his children. There comes a time in the life of growing children when they emerge from the control of fatherhood. Trained and disciplined, they stand on their own feet now and fight their own battles with the world. But Paul's children were only infants yet in constant need of guidance and advice which nobody but he could ever give them. Thus it was that, through his highest longing, there broke the tender urgings of apostleship. Sweet would it be to see his blessed Lord--but what would all his little children do? Bereft of him and of his loving counsel, in a crooked and perverse generation, would they ever come to maturity of faith? To Paul that consideration was determinative. It laid a masterful hand on his desires. His yearning love for the souls which God had given him must be regulative of his deepest life. And so, in the interests of his own who leaned on him and needed him so utterly, this great heart rose to the lofty heroism of subduing the highest longing of his soul.
Discipleship Involves Renouncing Our Higher Longings
Now very often in the Christian life there comes a difficult issue such as that. The struggle is not waged around our worst; it emerges on the levels of our best. That there are lower longings the Christian must subdue is one of the primary findings of discipleship. This is in no sense self-repression, for sin is not of the essence of the self. Often the hardest moral problem meets us, not when called to subjugate the lower, but when summoned to subjugate the higher. Just as the sorest decisions that may face us are not always between right and wrong but are sometimes, in this intricate life of ours, between the competing claims of right and right; so not infrequently the hardest thing in life is not the conquering of our lower longings, but the quiet and lovely renouncing of our higher. Beautiful things we have set our heart upon, dreams we have long cherished, spiritual ambitions that have been our intimates since first we passed from darkness into light--to let these go, quietly to yield them up when the finger of God points us to another road, that is one of life's most lofty heroism's. So was it with the apostle in his prison. His whole soul longed to be with Christ. That (for the Greek is stronger than the English) was a very great deal better. And then in his fatherly yearning for his converts who leaned so hard on him and loved him so, he subjugated the longing to depart.
Renunciation of Higher Longings Comes in Different Guises
This higher spiritual renunciation may come to men in very different guises. It is various as the complexity of life. It may present itself to the young woman longing to give herself to Christian work, yet with little motherless children in the home entirely dependent on her care. It may face the young fellow in business whose fondest ambition is to be a minister, but whose business is the one support of a frail mother or an invalid sister. Many a young disciple has longed with all her heart to serve on the foreign mission field, and then the unmistakable pointing of God's finger has indicated another road for her. And perhaps no struggle she ever had with sin was so bitter as the sweet acceptance of a lowlier and more homely lot. It is hard to part sometimes with lower cravings; it is often even harder to part with higher ones--to lay our spiritual ambitions down at the call of simple duty or of love. And it is always a great thing to remember that the saints of God have shared in that experience and been perfectly familiar with its bitterness. Here was Paul, a prisoner in Rome. His great desire was to be with Christ. The deep, passionate longing of his soul was to get home, that he might see his Savior. And nothing is finer in that noble heart of his than the subjugation of that higher longing for the sake of those who loved him and who needed him.
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