2003-08-03 - Philippians

Part 7

  1. The Single Mind - Cont'd.

    So Paul can rejoice, can be filled with joy. Why? Because he understands that as he is obedient, as he depends on the Lord and trusts his circumstances to Him, all that occurs will benefit the work of the ministry. Paul doesn't have to understand how this will occur. All he needs to realize is that it does occur. By truly trusting God, he lives in the reality that God knows best, and that he isn't called to understanding, just faithfulness.

    Think of the freedom of simply trusting, without being burdened by always having to understand. We don't have to have answers to everything in life.

    Verses 18b-26: Paul is so confident in God he is able to trust Him with his very life. He praises the Philippians, because he knows that through their prayers and the work of the Holy Spirit, he will be delivered. But what is unclear to him is: Will the deliverance be the freedom of death, or the freedom of release from prison? After all, for Paul, there are three tenses of salvation: (1) past,:salvation through grace, (2) present, sanctification or the working out of our salvation and (2) future:.

    "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).

    It is in these verses, that we can see while Paul can be joy filled in the midst of trials, he isn't unaffected by them. He prays God will provide him the courage to live or die in a way that honors God. We all need to be dependent on God to live in a way that honors Him, just as was the case with Paul. We see this, because he makes it clear he would be much better off if he could die and go home to be with the Lord. Have you ever felt that way? Is this a reasonable way to feel?

    What hits me here as the most important principle is: It may be great to get out of a difficult situation for something better, be it life for Heaven, a bad marriage for peace and quiet, or poverty for comfort. But Paul is saying that what is best is being available to God for the advancement of the kingdom. This is true even if it means being stuck where we are. What strikes me with the WWJD "fad" is that while it is good theology, I wonder if people remember that what Jesus did, was put the will of the Father ahead of His own "needs." And this is where true joy comes from.

    But even as Paul speaks of going home, he isn't just talking of a benefit that will come to him in Heaven, but that there would be a benefit to the furthering of the gospel through the agency of his death. So even here, his focus remains unchanged. If the gospel can be advanced by his continued presence on Earth, then he is more than willing, though not thrilled, to remain. And if the gospel is advanced through his death, then he can also rejoice. Paul understood that, if for no other reason than to benefit the Philippians, it was better he continue to live. While it was obviously much better for his personal existence to die, but it was better for God's work for him to live.

    There is nothing wrong with longing for the Rapture,

    "For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18),

    but we should long even more for the opportunity to serve the living God. We will have an eternity to be with and worship Him, but we have only a very short time to serve Him here.

    Verses 27-30: Now Paul, having answered their question concerning his suffering, moves on to them. Their responsibility is the same whether or not Paul lives, whether or not he can come to them. They too must rise above circumstances in how they chose to live, motivated by the same thing as Paul, the advancement of the gospel. They must strive for that same unity of focus and purpose, not being overwhelmed by circumstances and the people that would interfere with the ministry, even though many of those people were fellow believers.

    In the final analysis, it is the testimony of the believer life, the confidence in the Lord in the midst of circumstances, that shows the non-believer what is missing from his life. It is the centrality of focus that prevents circumstances from stealing joy, and therefore that joy becomes a beacon to the truth of the gospel, and the presence of God in the life of the believer.

    Paul closes this section with the thought that suffering for Christ is actually a gift from God. And if we understand that the gospel is furthered through our trials, then we can understand how this is possible, and how therefore we can rejoice.

Questions or Comments?

[email geoff] gkragen@aol.com