Summary: This optimistic letter has been used of God to comfort, encourage, and challenge Christians all through history to be optimists in a fallen world.

The things that can go wrong in Christian service could fill an

encyclopedia. Tal Bonham has recorded just a few. A note in the

bulletin said, "Ladies don't forget the rummage sale. It is a good

chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the

house. Bring your husbands." He tells of a pastor who preached on

Samson, and unknowingly called him Tarzan through the whole

sermon. Another pastor, when he asked, who had special prayer

requests to raise their hands, had his mind on the previous business

meeting, and he said, "All those opposed, same sign." Another

pastor introduced the new choir director by saying, "We are

delighted he is coming to lead us in our sinning."

Even Billy Graham has made his occasional slip of the tongue.

The police chief of Memphis, Tenn. asked him to help promote their

traffic safety campaign. So Graham pointed to the large neon sign

which said 150 days. "You see that sign," he said, "That means that

there has been 150 days without a fertility." His mistake was not a

fatality, but it was terribly embarrassing. Several world renowned

clergymen almost fell off the platform in hysterics. Chuck Swindoll

preaching on Joshua at Jericho meant to say, "They circumscribed

the wall," but it came out, "They circumcised the wall." It brought

the house down. The point is, you have got to be an optimist to

believe God can use such a fallible creature as man to accomplish

His will on earth.

Paul was just such an optimist, and the main message of his letter

to the Philippians is that everyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ

is obligated to be an optimist. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord

always," and just in case you didn't hear, he says it again, "and

again I say rejoice." Pessimism is one of the greatest sins of the

Christian, and Paul fights that negative spirit in this letter. It is a

sin for a Christian to be ever gripping, complaining, and grumbling.

Behind every silver lining some Christians can find a dark cloud.

Their pessimism becomes a bad habit. It is like swearing. Some

people do it so often they don't even realize they are doing it. So it is

possible to think negative so often that you don't even realize you

are being a pessimist.

Like the persistent pessimist who grumbled to his neighbor, "My

hen hatched out 12 chicks, and all of them died but 11." The

negative had distorted a positive reality into a negative feeling. This

habitual focus on the negative leads to the unconscious prayer of the

pessimist-"Give us this day our daily dread." If you are going to

focus your attention on the problems of life, then anyone can be a

pessimist, for problems are part of every life, and Paul the optimist

was no exception. He was not writing this letter of joy from his

yacht in the Mediterranean, or from a luxury villa in Rome. It was

written from a prison, and not from the warden's office either, but

from the dungeon. He was there unjustly for serving his Lord, and

blessing people with the good news of the Gospel. Yet, out of this

unfair and unjust suffering Paul does not fire off a bitter letter of

anger, but a letter of joy and optimism about the church and God's

plan for it.

This optimistic letter has been used of God to comfort, encourage,

and challenge Christians all through history to be optimists in a

fallen world. Gene Daille, the great French expositor told of how

deeply the Indians of the new world were impressed by the white

man's ability to put marks on a piece of paper, and then convey it to

another at a great distance, and thereby, bear a message to them.

Letters were magic to them. It is marvelous to us too when you

think of it. By means of letters the Apostle Paul, long dead, can go

on speaking to the church all over the world, and urge them to

rejoice always, and be incurable optimists. Paul was the first in a

long line of Christian writers who wrote Christian literature in

prison that influenced the church to be optimistic in spite of


We have to face this reality, however. Paul had more reason to be

optimistic about the Philippians than other churches to which he

wrote. We need to see honestly that Paul had a different

relationship with this church then other churches. There was a

loving friendship here that was not the case with others. He had to

scold and blast the Corinthians, and focus on their many defects in

ways that do not happen in this letter. Paul Rees, the one time great

Twin City preacher, wrote, "Philippians gives us a Paul we do not

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