The Joy of Difficult Circumstances – Part 2 - Philippians 1:12-30
Last week we opened our series on Joy by looking at the promise of Jesus that we can have joy and not just have it but have it overflowing in our lives.
Then we looked at Paul and his close friendship with the church at Philippi. We looked at how these close friendships brought joy into Paul’s life.
Then we looked at the opening verses of Philippians and discovered that friends behave a certain way with each other, they treat each other a little nicer ad they have better attitudes towards each other. These are the 7 things that we looked at specifically:
1. Friends see each other as equals or partners.
2. Friends want the best for each other.
3. Friends support or help each other.
4. Friends realize that we’re not perfect, but still stick with us.
5. Friends love each other with the love of Christ.
6. Friends focus on the other’s needs.
7. Friends pray for each other.
In all of this we saw how our Christian friends can be a significant source of joy in our lives.
Tonight, we are going to continue on in the book of Philippians and discover that we can find joy in difficult circumstances.
Getting back to our place in Philippians we find that the Philippians wanted to know how Paul was doing. They had sent a monetary gift to Paul, as well as a man called Epaphroditus to be a servant to care for Paul. They were wondering when Paul’s case would come to trial? What was going to be the outcome? What sentence will Paul get? All of these questions were no doubt going through the minds of the Philippians and they wondered what they could do for Paul. So they sent Epaphroditus to find out. In Paul’s letter to his friends at Philippi he doesn’t answer their questions but he shares with them his perspective on his current situation that really makes their questions irrelevant. It is in what Paul says here that we can discover that we too can have Joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.
God Turns Bad Circumstances Into Good Results
Philippians 1:12-14 (NAS), “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in 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.”
Being in prison did not stop Paul’s ministry, it did however bring a refocusing on how he was going to spread the Gospel (as well as severely restricted his travel plans.)
Because Paul was a Roman citizen he did have a few more privileges than the inmates that were not. As a Roman citizen you were able to have your own “quarters”, where you didn’t have to be locked up with the other prisoners. Paul was still bound and guarded by a Praetorian guard 24 hours a day, he could not come and go when he pleased and he couldn’t travel anywhere, so it was definitely still prison.
But can you image what it must have been like for those palace guards. They changed shifts every six hours, so four different men would have been a captive audience to Paul each day. They are within ear-shot to the man who said he prays without ceasing. They were there when Paul was visiting with Epaphroditus, as Paul further taught him in the ways of the Lord. They were there when Paul dictated his epistles to Timothy his fellow missionary; the books of Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians and Philippians. These guys were there and they heard it all, and most historians believe that most of them received Christ.
But not only the Praetorian guard, but also the palace officials. They all heard the gospel of Christ while Paul was a prisoner at Rome. Paul had stated on a couple of occasions (Acts 19:21, Rom. 1:15) that he wanted to preach the Gospel to the Romans but I doubt that he wanted to do it from prison! But he did, God used Paul’s chains to be the method by which the Gospel was delivered! And that brings us to one of our main points for this lesson,
In Genesis 50:20 (NIV) Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
God can turn your greatest misery into your most effective ministry!
It doesn’t matter what the situation is that you find yourself in, whatever it may be that Satan is trying to use to harm you can become your most powerful testimony. It all depends on how we respond to it!
Paul refers to his chains being in Christ,
ASK, “What do you think that Paul meant by this?”
Because of his faith in Christ he was in chains and because of his chains and how he choose to respond to them, his faith was spread.
It’s all about our attitudes and point of view.
ASK, “What are some of your thoughts about Paul’s attitude and point of view?”
We could spend all night here but we need to move on.
The Important Thing Is The Message
Philippians 1:15-19 (NLT), “Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know the Lord brought me here to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will all turn out for my deliverance.”
Bringing the Gospel message to the Praetorian Guard and palace officials was not the only benefit of Paul’s imprisonment. His situation was encouraging other Christians to preach more boldly.
Now Paul states that there were some who were jealous of him and their motive for preaching was to try to overshadow or somehow discredit Paul. But Paul didn’t care, regardless of the motives of some, Paul rejoiced in the fact that Gospel was being preached with more fervor.
Paul’s point of view finds the upside of his circumstances and then he chooses to rejoice in that.
Because of Christ we can choose to be joyful no matter what the circumstances may be.
Hebrews 12:2 says the Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. I believe that the joy that was before Him was that He knew that He was doing exactly what the Father wanted Him to do and while doing that He knew that the lives of humanity could forever be changed. If we can have this same attitude and point of view, then we too can have joy in the difficult times of our lives.
When Jesus is talking about taking up your cross and following after Him in Matthew 16:24, we have to recognize what the cross meant to Him. Ultimately, the cross was the Father’s will for His life. So when Jesus says that we as His followers must take up our cross, He is saying that we must find and grab a hold of God’s will for our lives and run with that, all out, 110%. If we do that, when we face difficult circumstances in our lives, it won’t matter, because we know that we are exactly where God wants us to be, we will be tapped into our source of joy!
Life or Death – Either One is Good
Philippians 1:20-26 (NLT), “For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don't know which is better. I'm torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live. I am convinced of this, so I will continue with you so that you will grow and experience the joy of your faith. Then when I return to you, you will have even more reason to boast about what Christ Jesus has done for me.”
What are some of your thoughts on this set of verses?
I firmly believe that when we have discovered what God’s will and purpose is for our lives, then we will have joy. If you are in the center of God’s will for you life, fulfilling your God given destiny, your focus will be on Him and the circumstance that you face won’t be able to steal your joy.
So No Matter What – Live Like This
Philippians 1:27-30 (NLT), “But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the Good News. Don't be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this fight together. You have seen me suffer for him in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of this great struggle.”
Paul’s outlook towards his own problems was too see them through big picture of what God was doing in his life. It takes a very mature Christian to do this. Paul knew that his friends at Philippi would go through tough times too, so he encourages them by reminding them that they are with Christ and that he was in the fight with them as well.
God knows that we are going to go through difficult times; if we are able to see them through the perspective of God’s overall plan for our lives then we will be able to have joy in the circumstance. If this is too tough for us to do then we can also be encouraged by the fact that we are with Christ and that we are not in the fight alone. Either way we can have access to joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.
I believe that this is part of what Paul is talking about when he says in Romans 8:37, that we are more than conquers through Christ. Even in the midst of the battle we can have the joy of the Lord.