Summary: How you look at something can make a world of difference in how you behave. Life is like that. What you focus upon in life will generally determine the kind of decisions you make. (Powerpoint available - #138)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this sermon are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for #138.)
ILL. Have you heard the story of the farmer who was discouraged with his farm? So he decided to sell out & move somewhere else.
He engaged a realtor to look the farm over & prepare a sales ad. But before putting it in the paper, the realtor called & read the proposed ad to him, saying, “See if this meets with your approval.”
The ad spoke of a good location, a well maintained house, sturdy barns, lush pasture lands, a beautiful pond, fertile soil, & a great view. The farmer listened carefully, & then said, "Read that to me again, slowly."
So the realtor read it to him again. Finally, the farmer said, "No, don’t print that ad. I’ve changed my mind. I’ve always wanted a place like that. I’m not going to sell."
You see, how you look at something can make a world of difference in how you behave. Ella Wheeler Wilcox stated that same idea when she wrote: "One ship sails east & another west with the self-same winds that blow. ’Tis the set of the sail & not the gale which determines the way they go."
Life is like that. What you pay attention to, what you focus upon in life will generally determine the kind of decisions you make.
Paul gives us great advice in Philippians 4:8. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things."
Now we ought to commit that verse to memory, realizing that what so many are doing today is the exact opposite. Look at the TV listings, the popular magazines, even our newspapers & you will often see glorification of things that are impure, wrong & untrue. People focus so much on the negative that the media seldom features positive news because they’re afraid they’ll lose their audience.
PROP. But let’s break that pattern this morning, & look at the Apostle Paul as he focuses on the positive.
In Philippians 1:12 26, Paul does mention some very negative things that are going on in his life unpleasant circumstances, unreasonable people, & his uncertain future. But Paul goes on to show that God was able to use those negative things in a very positive way.
I. UNPLEASANT CIRCUMSTANCES
A. Paul begins by talking about unpleasant circumstances. In vs. 12 he says, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel."
We think we have troubles, don’t we? But how does your list compare to that of the apostle Paul? How many times have you been shipwrecked? How many times have you been beaten near unto death? Or how many times have you been arrested & imprisoned & chained up 24 hours a day?
Yet Paul says, "I remember all these trials, & I see that they have all served to advance the gospel."
Now the Greek word translated "advance" here in vs. 12 has an interesting history. It originally was used of "wood cutters who go before an army, clearing a way through the underbrush so that the army can march forward unimpeded."
Paul is saying, "All these things that have happened to me have resulted in clearing the way so that the gospel might be preached more effectively."
B. In vs. 13, he says, "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard & to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ."
Now here is the situation. For 24 hours a day Paul is chained to Roman soldiers, each serving a 6 hour shift. So every 6 hours a new soldier comes in & chains himself to Paul. The soldier was doing his duty, making sure the prisoner wasn’t going to escape.
But Paul saw this as a wonderful opportunity to tell the soldier about Jesus. There was no way that the soldier could escape. And it worked, for in the closing chapter of this letter, vs. 22, Paul writes, "All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household."
Now that tells us that some of these soldiers became Christians, & the gospel made its way into the pagan household of Caesar all because Paul was in prison.
C. There was a second positive result. In vs. 14 he says, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously & fearlessly."
Paul is saying, "Because of my hardships, because of the things that have happened to me, other Christians have been encouraged. They have seen how God has protected me through difficult situations, & encouraged me, & given me strength beyond my own power."