Picture a small tea light candle. Once lit, its flame burns for a few hours before the wick has been fully consumed and its wax is gone out of it. Now, imagine with me that the main goal of that candle was to ignite other things. How far and wide could that candle travel and what all could be the magnitude of its flamed influence in its short lifespan? As I think about a little flame burning, in my mind, I connect this burning to our lives. Like the little candle, we have limited time here on earth. Because of that limited time, our influence and efforts are limited in their scope and reach. The igniting of other things on fire by the little candle is somewhat like the influence that we have on those around us. Much of the influence we exert will burn out after we are gone, but will there be anything that lasts?
In verses 8-9, Paul expressed his humble excitement to be a part of the proclamation of the gospel. He saw this opportunity as the most wonderful experience that he could ever be a part of, and spent his life and health accomplishing it. Paul saw his life as a flickering flame soon to go out and be exhausted, so he sought to spend his life igniting as many others as he could. If this meant walking hundreds of miles on foot, or sailing across seas, nothing got in the way of Paul making his life count. Like a flickering little candle, he sought to spread his life far and wide, influencing as many as he could.
Did it cost him his health? Certainly. Did it cost him his freedom? Absolutely. Did it mean that he had little to no earthly possessions? Yes. But, by spending his life affecting others, did his life matter after he was gone? Seeing that we are talking about him nearly 2,000 years after his death…clearly the answer is a resounding “YES!” Furthermore, seeing that the gospel spread around the world because of his efforts (and eventually to you and me), it doesn’t seem that he wasted his flickering candle, but rather made the greatest use of it. Paul bought into the message that Jesus himself taught and lived, “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul…seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
As we arrive in verse 13, we then understand his wording when he says, “I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you.” In effect, he is saying, “God chose me for this life of service, and I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” He had exhausted himself in the service of communicating to the world the great truth of God’s love and grace. He would light as many flames as he could while his wick shortened and his wax burned away.
Now, in verse 14-16, Paul turns to praying for those whom he had preached to. He does not merely pray for their physical needs, rather, he prayed with eternal vision. The same things that motivated him to live selflessly in the service of God and others, were the very things that he prayed for. How inconsistent would his life be if his prayer life didn’t match his living? Paul spent his life delivering the message of the gospel, and now, in his prayer he prayed that God would grant not just the receiving of the His grace, but the strengthening of his grace in those who had believed. Paul desired that God would comfort and empower those who had come in faith to Him. Paul’s life and Paul’s prayers were in line with one another. He desired to tell others of God’s goodness, and he prayed that God would extend that goodness to them.
Reflect: Do you see your life as a candle that will one day burn up and be gone? What is your driving life goal? What is the basis of the majority of your prayers? How do they line up with Paul’s?