Summary: Someone wisely said, "Problems are a part of life. All of us will have problems right up to the moment we die. And some of you will have problems after you die." (Powerpoints Available - #344.)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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TEXT: Philippians 1:1-11 (New Century Version)
This morning I would like for us to go back nearly 2,000 years to the city of Rome. It is an exciting time to be in Rome, a metropolis of gladiators, chariots, & palaces. But we’re not going to the coliseum or the emperor’s palace.
Instead, we’re going into a drab little room. Inside we see a man seated on a bench. He’s an older man, shoulders stooped & his head balding. Chains on his hands & feet are also attached by a longer chain to a Roman guard.
He is the apostle Paul, who has traveled all over the world of his day. He who was once bound only by the will of God is now bound by chains, restricted by walls, accused by enemies, & set for trial before the cruelest of emperors - Nero.
Paul is writing. Maybe he is preparing his defense before Nero. Or possibly, like the prophet Jeremiah, he is compiling a list of his hardships - a N.T. version of the book of Lamentations. You see, he has every reason to complain.
But no, he is not complaining. Instead, he is writing a letter that now, 2,000 years later, is known as the “Letter of Joy.” And that letter to the Christians at Philippi is the letter we will be looking at this morning.
ILL. A golfer once remarked, "Have you ever noticed how much golfers practice? And many smart businessmen have taken advantage of that, developing public driving ranges & putting greens where we can perfect our skills."
"But I wonder why someone hasn't developed public sand traps? Sand traps are an inevitable part of the game of golf, & every golfer really needs to practice how to get out of trouble."
APPL. I think that's true of everyone. For even as we talk about being thankful for the blessings that come our way, we must admit that problems also come our way.
ILL. Someone wisely said, "Problems are a part of life. All of us will have problems right up to the moment we die. And some of you will have problems after you die."
So it makes sense, if we're going to be facing problems, that we learn how to handle them. And the letter to the Philippians, written by the apostle Paul, can help us do just that.
He writes this letter while a prisoner in Rome under what we would call "house arrest." Today, courts enforce "house arrest" by attaching electronic monitors on the wrists or ankles of prisoners. But back then, they simply chained the prisoner to a series of Roman soldiers 24 hours a day.
Now that was usually better than being in a dungeon, but Roman soldiers could be cruel, & "house arrest" was not something to desire. Yet, Paul's letter to the Philippians is filled with thanksgiving. And in it, Paul writes that he is "always praying with joy..."
PROP. So let's look at the first 11 verses of Philippians 1, & see what Paul says about "praying with joy".
I. PRAYER SHOULD BE A FIRST RESPONSE, NOT A LAST RESORT
A. Paul begins by saying that prayer should be a first response rather than a last resort. Listen to Philippians 1:3, "I thank my God every time I remember you, always praying with joy for all of you."
Then, in chapter 4:6, he writes, "Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks." He is saying that whenever anything happens to him, whether good or bad, he prays. That's his first response.
He prays, "God, thank you for the blessings, & I even thank you for the troubles that come my way. Now teach me the lessons that I need to learn from them." Paul always started with prayer.
B. But many of us wait until we're knee?deep in the sand traps of life. Then we call upon God, "Help me. I'm in trouble." We turn to prayer almost as a last resort.
ILL. About 20 years ago a large cargo plane crashed near Pittsburgh, PA. The cause was a mystery, because the plane just seemed to fall from the sky.
So the investigators were particularly interested in hearing the information recorded in the plane's black box. It revealed that there were only a few seconds between the time the pilot detected trouble until the plane crashed.
In those few seconds the black box recorded these sounds in the cockpit: First, there was an "Oh!" followed by a profanity & a string of curse words, then came the crash, & silence.
If you suddenly discovered you had just a few seconds left to live how would you react? Would you curse or would you pray? Sociologists say that since you wouldn't have time to think about it, you would respond instinctively.