Summary: This message focuses on Jacob’s complaint as seen in the title. We learn, as he learned, it was not so. Brief mention is made of Paul’s triumph over his difficulties. There are lessons and applications for our daily Christian walk.

Charles W. Holt



By Charles W. Holt

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that

the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; (Phil. 1:12)

And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me. (Genesis 42:36)


We all love personal testimonies. Stories that people tell of tragedy and triumph interest us. Television is exploiting this desire of ours to know what¡¦s happening in the lives of other people whether they are around the nation or around the block. The so-called newsmagazine shows such as 20/20, Dateline and 60 Minutes are built on this format. Newspapers and magazines call them "human interest" stories. They help sell newspapers and magazines. They attract large TV audiences.

Have you ever suffered a setback? It¡¦s sometimes called a "reversal of fortunes." Setbacks are the gristmill for personal testimonies as seen on TV or read in newspapers. Something good has turned bad. For many it was when the job they were so secure in closed and they joined the ranks of the unemployed. The loss of employment creates a severe setback. Loss of one’s health, unexpected doctor or hospital visits, having to pay outrageous prices for prescriptions can be a severe setback especially for those who are on a fixed income. Setbacks are common to all of us. As a minister for more than 50 years, I have experienced a few setbacks especially when I have been, shall I say, uninvited to serve as the pastor of a church. This has happened on a couple of occasions. All setbacks are by their very nature stressful. We derive no pleasure from the forces at work that are creating the setback. We can however learn some lessons as a result of the setback. IF we want to!

I was reading from the Book of Philippians a couple of weeks ago when I found part of a sentence that I thought would make a good heading or title for what I want to talk about. The words are: "The Things Which Have Happened to Me." It sounds almost like a book title. It could be the title of your interview on TV when you are asked to share your life experience.

When Paul wrote those words he was not writing to complain but to inform. He is not writing to detail his discouragement but rather his victory and triumph over adversity. He had plenty he could have complained about. But it’s the victory over the trials that he emphasizes and this is what will be a vital part of our theme on this subject.

There is, however, another passage that stands in start contrast to Paul’s words of victory and joy that are found throughout his letter to the Philippians. They are in the Book of Genesis. They are the words of a father named Jacob. We will hear Jacob sob and whine as he complains, "all these things are against me!" From these two passages,from these two entirely different perspectives on life’s shifting fortunes--I intend to build a case for the fact that we all have things that have happened to us. Some of these things have been very good. Some of these things have been very evil and destructive. Paul looked at the things that had happened to him and he saw victory. "The have, "fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Phil: 1:12), he said. Jacob, on the other hand, looked upon the things that happened to him and cried, "they are all against me." They reflect two different points of view, two different reactions. What is happening to you and me can either bring us a smile or a whining complaint. The key to either response is in our hand.

James Gordon Gilkey says: "Misfortune cannot be conquered by furious and continuing resentment. It can be conquered only by quiet acquiescence (submission). We win the victory over bereavement only when we face our loss, accept our loss, and then make our way through and beyond our loss. You ask how we make our way through it and beyond it? We do so by deliberately reentering the world of daily activity . . . the busy world of problems, duties, friendships, opportunities, and satisfactions. A life lived in the role of a martyr, resentful, angry, self-pitying is a doomed life. Only the life which deliberately picks up and starts again is victorious."

I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said, "Life is Fragile! Handle with Prayer!" All of our life issues, decisions, problems, and cares--should be handled with prayer. This is especially true of the disappointments we often face. Unless we face these disappointments with a courage that flows from our faith in God’s faithfulness they can wreck and ruin us forever.

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