Title: Finding Joy In Your Circumstances, Part 2
Series: Philippians (8/20)
Reference: Philippians 1:15-20
Alright, if you are just joining us, visiting with us for the first time we have been studying through the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. We are still in chapter 1, the title of today’s message is Finding Joy In Your Circumstances, Finding Joy In Your Circumstances, and I am still preaching the same message that I did last week so you can write Part 2. So I am going to begin reading with verse 12 just to get the context. I am going to ask if you are physically able, let’s all stand in honor and reverence for the reading of God’s Holy Word.
The Word of God says in Philippians, chapter 1, beginning with verse 12:
“Now I want you to know Brethren that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel so that my imprisonment and the cause of Christ has become well-known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else, and that most of the Brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. Some to be sure are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill. The later do it out of love knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then, only that in every way whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body whether by life or by death.”
Father would you add your blessing upon the proclamation of your Word and it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. You can be seated.
Well last Sunday we started thinking about how can we find joy in our circumstances. And we are talking about the hard things, right. The hard, difficult, adversity, gut-wrenching circumstances of life. How can we find joy there? How can we model the example of the Apostle Paul here who found himself in very dark circumstances but yet was able to write what has become known as the letter of joy. Those of you here last week will remember that I said a big part of this really comes down to one word, and what was that word, at the count of three shout it out – one, two, three – its … oh, come on now, that was really, really weak … alright, one, two, three – perspective. It really comes down to perspective. And to illustrate perspective we talked about the Winnebago. You guys remember the Winnebago illustration so you got this big trip planned for the Grand Canyon, and you spent all this time and energy planning and you take your family there to take in all the beauty of God, the greatness of God. Just as you get to your campsite, you get everything settled in, you get ready to park in your favorite lawn chair, and then comes this joker driving this old beat up rundown Winnebago and he parks right in front of you.
We said you only have a handful of options here and we talked about some of the different options. We talked about focusing on the problem. We talked about ignoring the problem, just pretending that everything was okay, and then we concluded that probably, yeah … yeah there’s the picture of the … nice right! [picture of old run down beat up Winnebago on the screen] and we figured out that probably the easiest thing, and probably the simplest thing for you to do is just to move your chair, right, just move your chair. In difficulty and adversity a lot of times that is just how it works in our circumstances, so discovering joy in difficult circumstances is really all about perspective; it is about moving your chair, it is about shifting your focus and looking on beyond the ugly thing right in front of you to see how God might be working beyond that in and through the difficult thing.
Paul just illustrates this so well in chapter one. His physical circumstances are very dark, his physical circumstances are not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but yet he is able to see God working in that, he is able to look beyond the difficult thing, the hard thing, and he can see God working through that very dark thing in his life. Last week I told you that when Paul looked beyond his circumstances, he immediately saw God working in two different ways.
Number one was evangelism. We pointed out verses 12 and 13 and we pointed out how Paul said that through his time there in jail members of the palace guard there were actually becoming aware of the cause of Christ, the Gospel of Christ. Then we flipped over to chapter four, in Philippians 4 we saw that reference that some people within Caesar’s household had actually come to faith in Christ and it all pointed back to Paul being in jail. It all went back to his imprisonment and God working through that to advance the gospel in ways, they had all been praying for the gospel to get to Rome, they had all been praying for the gospel to penetrate into the very heart of Rome and now here is Paul in jail and the gospel in the very center of the Empire.
So through evangelism, and then we said the second way that Paul was able to see God moving through those circumstances was just in encouragement. So we pointed that out in verse 14 where Paul says again because of his imprisonment other believers were becoming more confident to share the Word of God without fear. Right, without fear. How many of you would love to be able to talk to your loved ones and friends about Christ without fear. It is such a beautiful picture of what God is doing in this dark time and we talked about how that often when we face difficult things, when we face hard things in life we can kind of step back and from a perspective, maybe even after the hard thing it becomes a little more clear, but we can see God, God often works in these same two ways. Through evangelism, like the gospel is shared often by us just walking through adversity and hard things really well. The gospel goes out, the gospel advances in the hearts and the minds of the people and we get to witness that and we think man, where did that strength come from. Where does that kind of hope come from. Where does that kind of confidence come from. Well, it comes through Christ.
And then we talked about how through encouragement, the reality is God uses your life, right, your witness to encourage other believers, to spur them on in the faith, and to move them further along in their love and devotion to the Lord Jesus. So that is everything that we looked at last week, that is all number one on your notes, so there is a little more meat and taters there but you can listen to that on the internet, you have the jest of that, so let’s pick up on number two.
How can we find joy in difficult circumstances? How does Paul do this? What is the shift that Paul makes in perspective that lands him at this place of joy? We talked about looking beyond the circumstance to see the work of God. That’s number two. Paul looked beyond the personalities to see the main thing. Paul looked beyond the personalities to see the main thing. Now remember we are talking about perspective here. And perspective means it is all on me, this is a choice that I make. No one chooses my perspective but me, right? No one can do that. I am the sole owner, right, I have ownership of my perspective. I have no one else to blame if I have a lousy perspective, right. Amen or oh me! Right, Amen or oh me. If I come to church this morning with a bad perspective, I have got to own that, no I can’t blame anyone else, I can’t blame anything else, that is 100% on me. Turn to your neighbor and say that’s you buddy!
Now with that in mind, look at what Paul says, you have got to take ownership of perspective, so look at what he says beginning with verse 15. Remember the immediate context, Paul says hey look, he writes back to these believers, they are concerned, they are worried, they have heard he is in jail, they have heard that he has been beaten up, they have heard that he could very well face death, they write, they are concerned. Paul says look, don’t be praying for me to get out of here, you will never believe how God is using this to advance the gospel. He has got these palace guards who are learning about Christ, people in Caesar’s home are learning about Christ, so what we have been praying for is happening, it is just hasn’t happened the way that we probably thought it would shake down and that works out a lot with God. So Paul writes them back, and he says it is crazy, the gospel is going forward, and then he says some to be sure are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, verse 15, but some also from goodwill. The later do it out of love knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel, the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than pure motive, now look at this, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. And so we can look at Paul’s circumstances and we can say this cat’s got it pretty bad, this guy is facing some really difficult things, he is in jail, he is away from the church where he wants to be, he is away from loved ones that he wants to be near. Although there are calls to rejoice there is a real concern here that he could lose his life. And then in the midst of that, to add to that Paul says you have these other people proclaiming Christ which is a good thing, but they are doing it for motives that are not pure thinking, right, it shows intentionality, these guys are thinking how can we make life harder for the Apostle Paul. How can we make his heart heavier? How can we cause him distress in his imprisonment?
I don’t know if you have noticed this or not, but adversity, it is just the way it works in life. When life is hard, when life is difficult, when you have some gut wrenching, some soul pressing, the one person shows up who just happens to have the spiritual gift of making your life miserable. Right? It just seems to work that way and sometimes, listen to me, sometimes, it is not the adversity that wears down our soul, it is the people that God allows to come into our lives. Sometimes it is not the hard thing, it’s not the trial that we are walking through that really causes us to become discouraged, and our heart becomes heavy, but sometimes it is just those people who show up. I like to call them vampires. We have vampires in our lives. People that show up and they suck the blood, they suck the life right out of you and sometimes that is the more difficult thing to walk through.
So how do you handle that? How do you handle those personalities in your life? To follow Paul’s example, how do we shift perspective and find joy even when there are people in our life who are making things difficult. So what does Paul do, let me give you two things, two things that he did if you are taking notes. Number one: Remember those who are working to make things better. Remember those who are working to make things better. Yeah, I guess it is just part of human nature or something that we just always focus on the negative. I mean, isn’t it true, we just always think about the negative thing. Like let’s just imagine, you went home and you painted this beautiful, magnificent masterpiece of the risen Christ and you brought that to church some Sunday, shared your testimony about how God lead you to this place where this was like a picture of your soul, and you shared all that and everybody is just captured with that and this amazing thing, this is unbelievable that you could do this and then there is one compliment after another and another, and then there is that one person who says well, I don’t know, I guess it is okay, do you think the sky is that blue. You go to eat lunch, what do you remember? That one person. Later that night, what do you remember? That one person. The next day, the next week, the next time you see them, right. What do you think you are thinking about, that one thing. So back up in verse 15 Paul says some people are preaching Christ from envy and strife, but notice that he also mentions those who are preaching Christ from goodwill. And down in verse 17 he says, yeah, you know it is true, some people are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition but then he is also careful back in 15 to mention those who are preaching Christ out of love. You know what we need to do, this would be a great thing for you to do, any time your heart gets really discouraged, what you need to do is take a sheet of paper and write the name of that person who is making life hard for you, just write their name on that piece of paper and then on top of their name begin to write down everyone’s name that is in your life that makes it a little better. Just write over the top of them, every single person that God has brought into your life that gives you cause to rejoice and to be glad and take heart and strength in the Lord. That is how you handle those who make things worse. You have to shift your focus. You can’t dwell on that one person who had that thing with the blue sky, right. You have to shift your focus, you have to go back to the Winnebago, you have got to get up out of your chair and just step this way a little bit and remind yourself of all the good people that God has brought in your life that make things better. So remember those who are working to make things better.
Number two: remember the main thing. Remember what really matters in life. This is what Paul does, this is just so good here. Look at what he says, let’s go back to 15. Some to be sure are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill. The later do it out of love knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then, that is to say, so what is my response? How am I going to respond to this? What really matters to me, what is going to be my reaction? That should be the question anytime we face difficult things in life. So what then, what am I going to do? How am I going to respond? What is my reaction going to be? What am I going to do? What am I going to say?
Paul says in verse 18, what then only in every way whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. Man, what kind of perspective is this! This is amazing! You talk about keeping focus on the main thing. Paul says Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. I told you last week the advancement of the gospel was more important to Paul than his own personal comfort. This is huge! Paul’s utmost concern is not about himself, his utmost concern is not how to eliminate his problem, get rid of his suffering. Paul is not occupied with his own comfort, he is not even occupied with building up a defense for those people who are preaching Christ with impure motives. Paul is living for a higher purpose. His eyes are focused upon the Lord Jesus and his primary concern, even above his own personal comfort, I mean this is so amazing, Paul is concerned about the gospel even if he has to suffer to see the gospel be advanced. This is amazing. This is such an amazing image of what Christian maturity looks like. We studied Job this morning in Sunday school and Job is like the Old Testament picture. You want to know what it looks like to be a mature Christian man, to be a big boy Christian, a big girl Christian, look at Job in the Old Testament, look at Paul in the New Testament. I got to tell you, I mean, isn’t there something in your soul that wants this. Isn’t there something in your heart that rises up when you see an example like this, when you see a man step forward and say it doesn’t matter that I am suffering, the gospel is moving forward. And that’s the main thing. It doesn’t matter if I get what I want, the gospel is moving forward and that is the important thing.
And that is what Paul is saying here, his primary concern is about gospel advancement, not personal comfort. I just have to be honest with you and tell you, in my heart, boy, this is where I want to be. This is the level of Christian maturity that I want, not just for me, but for you, for our entire church. To say there is nothing more important than to see the gospel go forward. Nothing like when it comes to our life and our church, everything is on the table, everything is on the table except the gospel. Except the Bible, right. Everything is fair game except that. Paul says, verse 18, what then, only in every way whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed. And in this in the advancement of the gospel I rejoice. Let me ask you something. Do you, could you rejoice in your difficulty if you knew the gospel was moving forward? Careful! Think about that. Before you give me the right answer, think about what that means for your heart.
Remember me talking last week about the most difficult, hard pressing thing on your soul right now, could you rejoice in that … could you rejoice in that if you knew that God was going to advance the gospel in the heart and the life of someone else. Could you do that? Amen or oh me. Amen. Well, that’s hard, isn’t it? That’s hard to even think about. That’s such a gut check to see if we are truly focused on the main thing. In your difficulty, in your adversity, in your challenge, right, in that one thing that is pressing down on your soul, it could be health, it could be family, it could be relationships, it could be financial stress, it could be anything. Could you rejoice in that if it meant that the gospel was moving forward? Think about this as a church. Could you rejoice when the church doesn’t sing songs that you like if the gospel was moving forward? Could you rejoice in that? Boy, I am getting closer now, right. I am about to offend somebody up in this place. Could you, let me go a step further, could you rejoice if the church did not look like you want it to look if that meant the gospel was being advanced? Could you rejoice in that? What, hold on, I am not done. Could you rejoice, what if, what if we did church like we never did church before? What if the church looked like it never looked before. The gospel is still the same. If it was still Word-centered, God-exalting, what if all of that was still the same, but everything else looks different, could you still rejoice if the gospel was being moved forward?
Boy this is hard. I am just telling you, this is hard. It is easy to say amen, but you are lying if there is not something in your heart that says oh me, that is going to be hard, that is going to be a hard thing to do. But I pray, I pray, this is the thing that we look at and we say God, that’s what I want to be, that’s the kind of faith I want to have that I would willingly, willingly lay down personal comfort to lay down advancement of the gospel. Paul has arrived at this place in his Christian life where he realizes that it is just not about me, it just is not, it is not about me, it is not about me being comfortable, it is not about me getting my way, it is not about me, look, I say this all the time, your comfort will always get in the way of you following Christ. I just said that to someone in the church just two weeks ago. He called me and asked hey, what do you think I should do, and I said it is just a principle; your comfort will always get in the way, look God does not want you to be comfortable, God wants you out of the boat. In the boat is comfortable, right. You know what, when you stay in the boat it is a secure place, it is a safe place, you don’t have to activate faith, you are not living by faith, you are living in your blessed assurance. God wants you out of the boat because when you get out of the boat it engages your faith, and now you have to trust God for something, now you got to look to God, now you got to say to God, God I need you to do this. It engages your faith, your comfort will always get in the way of you following Christ and Paul has simply arrived at this place where he gets it. I mean he really gets it. It is not about me. You say what is not about me? Everything! I mean everything, your life, your family, your money, your talents, your gifts, your resources, your church, your Bible study group, your smoke, none of it is about you, it is about Jesus, and if Jesus is marching forth, if the Kingdom of God is taking ground from the enemy we ought to be able to rejoice regardless of what we got to lay down.
What then, Paul says in verse 18, only that in every way whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. It is like a note of resolution. It is almost like Paul is looking into the future and he really doesn’t know how this is going to shake down. We will get into this next Sunday, where he says I just don’t know what is going to happen, am I going to live, am I going to die, will I get to see you again or is this the end of the road for me. Paul really has no clue how this is all going to end for him. And we know that eventually he is released and then later on in his life he ends up back in prison again, but it is almost like he looks into the future and he says whatever happens with this imprisonment it is fine, it is really fine with me, Jesus is being proclaimed, the gospel is going forward and in this I will rejoice, I will, I will rejoice. You know what that tells me? Your rejoicing, even in things you may not personally like, is a choice. Let me say that again. That was a really good place for an amen. That tells me your rejoicing, even in things you may not personally like is a choice. Amen. It is a hard choice. But it is a choice. Paul says I will rejoice. I am not going to focus on the negative because it is there. I am not going to focus on the darkness because it is there. I am not going to focus on how maybe a part of my heart wished that things could be different because that is probably there too, but I am going to rejoice that Christ is being proclaimed.
So three shifts in Paul’s perspective. Number one. Last week we talked about how he looked beyond the circumstances to see God’s work. Number two. Right, that was last week. Number two we just talked about how he looked beyond the difficult personalities to see the main thing, and then the last one, number three, Paul looked beyond the temporary to see the eternal. Paul looked beyond the temporary to see the eternal. Look at verse 19. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything but that with all boldness Christ will even now as always be exalted in my body whether by life or by death. Man, that is some kind of perspective. I love this phrase in verse 20, earnest expectation. Paul says I know this is going to turn out for my deliverance according to my earnest expectation. That phrase was often used in the context of a watchman on a tower or something like that and he would be on the lookout and he would maybe see something in the distance and kind of, you know, kind of do this number, right. Kind of turn the head, stick out the neck, try to get a little closer to focus on that which is in the horizon. Right. You guys should know that look, right. If not you should come up here on Sunday, I see it a lot. It is like gazing into the distance, the head is turned, the neck is outstretched, your really intent on something, I am sure you have been talking to people before, I mean they are right here in front of you, and then it becomes really apparent they have seen something. Their head turns, their neck goes out, and they are turning and they are thinking what is it. A couple of months ago we were coming home after a long, long Sunday afternoon and if you have never talked to me on an early Sunday afternoon I am just not all there, right. I am just, I am tired, I am exhausted, I just need to rest, I just need to drink some water, but anyway, we were pulling into our driveway in our beast of a minivan and we were getting ready to get out of the van, I see the upstairs curtain move. Immediately I had the earnest expectation look. Haley says what is it? I said I think someone is in our house. I told the kids, you guys stay in the van, let me go in first. Then I looked at Haley and I said do you want to go in first? [laughter] No, I didn’t say that! Hey, I have slayed dragons for this woman! Someday I will tell you that story. I said let me go in first, I got it babe, you just stay here. If I scream you call 911. So I go in, I love to work on wood so I have got wood laying around everywhere, so I grab a piece of 2×4 and I am just walking through the house. You know you are on edge, you are like oh man, I am pretty sure somebody is in my house. Every room you go in you are just waiting for it. And I go through the whole house. I don’t see a single soul. And I come to figure out what had happened was that the curtain had got on the outside of the air conditioner vent and the air conditioner kicked in right when we were pulling in and curtain whoosh, I was certain someone was in my house.
This is the word Paul is talking about here. That intense, serious, deep intense look, I mean I have got to focus on this thing, I see something, I think it is this, I have got to fix my gaze on this, and what is Paul focused on? What are his eyes fixed on? It is not the temporary, it is not this world, this life, these possessions, but it is the eternal. He says according to my earnest expectation and hope, right, here is what Paul is concerned about, that I will not be put to shame in anything but that with all boldness Christ will even now as always be exalted in my body whether by life or by death. Paul says I am not looking at these circumstances, I am not focused on this world and this life, my eyes are fixed on something else, my gaze is fixed on something else and I am focusing on Christ and how Christ can be exalted which means to be magnified. You know what that word means, to magnify something, Paul says do you know what my concern is, do you want to know how to pray for me, then pray right now in my life that Christ might be brought up close so that others can see. Pray that Christ will be enlarged so that others will know him in my life and I won’t have to be ashamed about anything. Whether by life or by death.
Hey, let me ask you, what are you focused on this morning? Where is your gaze? On that adversity? On that difficult circumstance? On that hard thing? Peter found out that he could walk on water as long as he was focused on the right thing, probably the right one would be a better way to say it. He could walk on water, he could walk on top of his circumstances when he was focused on the right one, but the very minute he turned to the circumstances, he turned to the storm, he noticed the raging waves and the blowing wind, what happened? He began to sink, he began to sink. And he prayed, when he was sinking, he prayed, probably one of the simplest but most profound prayers in the whole Bible, he says Lord save me, Lord, save me. Let me ask you something, do you feel like you are sinking? Do you feel like the hard circumstances are dragging you down and you are almost being overtaken by the difficult things, bouncing up against you in life? Where are you focused? Where is your gaze, and maybe, just maybe like Peter you need to cry out to the Lord, save me. Realign my focus and in a moment Peter found himself safely in the boat. Maybe that is how we need to respond this morning. Maybe that is the big so what for you this morning. It is an opportunity for you to shift your perspective, to look beyond the hard thing, the difficult people, the ever changing up and down circumstances of this life, and to refocus on the eternal never changing, always sufficient Christ. Perspective is on who? Me. I can’t blame anybody else for a lousy perspective. I can’t blame anything else for a lousy perspective. It is all me. Let’s own it and let’s focus on Christ.
Let me pray for us. Father, as always we are thankful for our time together in your Word. Father, we are so thankful for your Spirit within us, your Spirit among us, helping us to understand, pressing your truth down upon our hearts. Father, I pray help us, help us, help us to make this shift. As we face difficult things, as we go through hard things, soul taxing things that seem to mount up on us, Father, Lord help us to change our perspective, help us to make the choice, to look beyond and to see what you are working on, and to remember the main thing, and to focus not on this life that is so fleeting and changing but on what really matters, on eternal things. Father, we need your grace. Lord if we are going to do that, God, we just need your grace. Father we pray for those who might be in the middle of a hard season, in the middle of a very difficult season in their life, they feel like they are losing ground, they feel like they are drowning, they are losing hope, beginning to go down, overwhelmed by all the pressure. Father, would you give them grace to cry out, just like Peter did, Lord, save me. Help them Father to turn their gaze back to you and to refocus on what you are doing in and through their lives and in the lives of other people. To this end work in their lives Father, for we pray in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.