Summary: Difficulties are not designed to destroy us. God's plan is to glorify Himself. Whether that includes suffering or success or significance is up to God. It is up to us as how we respond to what we face.
Intro: When Trouble Strikes (Our Daily Bread) Dave Dravecky had pitched with remarkable success for the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants baseball teams. But his pitching arm developed an unusual soreness. Medical tests identified the problem--cancer. Surgery and months of rehabilitation followed. Then, after pitching for a time in the minor leagues, Dave made a widely applauded comeback to the majors. But in Montreal, as he was delivering a pitch, his arm snapped. The cancer had not gone away. To save his life, doctors removed his arm and much of his shoulder. A committed Christian, Dave didn't wallow in self-pity. He said, "There is no struggle about feeling sorry for myself. The question is not, 'Why me, God?' The question is, 'What is Your plan for me? " Then he said, "I see this as God giving me the opportunity to share the gospel with a lot of people."
Joy is the pleasure that comes from our relationship with Jesus. Joy does not come from a change in our circumstances it comes from a change in our character.
I. Don’t be discouraged God will use what you are facing (Phil 1:12-14) “Now I want you to know”
A) In order to draw people closer to Him
Paul understood that adversity and difficulty are designed by God to remind us of our desperate need for Him. Writing to the church of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul was in chains in a prison in Rome. We often think of chains as limiting us or restricting our freedom. The chains did nothing to keep Paul from rejoicing in the plan and presence of Jesus in His life. Whether we have physical, mental, emotional, or any kind of chains God often has a plan for drawing us and others to Himself.
Marine Lieutenant Clebe McClary was permanently disabled when and enemy grenade exploded in his foxhole. He said,
“I don’t think my suffering was in vain. The Lord has used my experiences for good by drawing many lives to Him. It’s hard to see any good that came from the war in Vietnam, but I don’t believe our effort was wasted. Surely some see was planted for Christ that cannot be stamped out.”
God has just as powerful plan for your suffering and struggles as He does your victories and success. A lack of chains does not mean that God approves of you more than others. An abundance of chains doesn’t mean that you are out of God’s will. Know that God wants to powerfully use your chains for His purposes
B) In order to display His grace and goodness (in the cause of Christ)
When trouble strikes, destroying our dreams or crippling our bodies, do we react with self-pity? Or do we see an opportunity to demonstrate the sufficiency of God's grace? -- V C Grounds
What is the cause of Jesus? In dying for the world Jesus came to put God’s grace and goodness on display. Ephesians 2:7 “so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
God’s grace was displayed in Paul’s response to his circumstance. Instead of seeing his chains as an obstacle he viewed them as God would an opportunity. It is often that God wants to reveal His grace in the way we respond.
Paul and Silas singing in prison
Stephen and his face shining like an angel as he is stoned
Paul’s imprisonment the letters he wrote and lives he touched.
II. Don’t be confused God’s plan is to have Christ Proclaimed
Paul’s great desire and joy was to make sure that Christ was proclaimed. Paul was not placed in prison simply so that He could suffer. He was placed in prison by God so that Caesar and his whole household would hear the gospel. Often it is the pressure and pain we face that presents an opportunity to proclaim Jesus.
Listen to Acts 8:1, 4 “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news.”
We as the church have one mission one purpose one goal. We are called of God to be faithful in proclaiming Jesus Christ. We don’t have to support missionaries, we don’t have to have VBS, we don’t have to send youth to camp, we don’t have to have a food pantry. We do have to proclaim Jesus!
A) The wrong reason to proclaim Jesus
Paul talked of those that proclaimed Christ from contention. The word actually means “to canvas for office in order to support. Their aim was to get people to follow them.