Summary: This message is part two and focuses on Paul's ability to have peace in the midst of his circumstances.
“Hurdles And The Peace Of God”
This is part two of my message “Hurdles and the Peace of God.” Last week I used the example of someone running hurdles during a track meet. I used this example because a person must train specifically to run the hurdles. The hurdles are the same height for the men and the women and with that understanding we know that a short person must apply more of themselves to jump each hurdle versus their taller competitor. Spiritually this is important because an average Christian must work a lot harder to maintain and/or accept God’s peace in their lives when they are dealing with troubles (jumping their hurdles) versus someone who is walking closely with God and remembers how God has brought them through. Believe me when I tell you that I have had many sleepless nights when all I could do was remind myself of where God has brought me from to secure in my mind that He would continue to see me through. During those sleepless night I cannot tell you that I was allowing the peace of God to operate within me in those situations. So what I am telling you in this message is something that I have lived through and will probably go through again as I continue in my own personal faith walk.
I want to start this morning where I closed on last week, Isaiah 26:3. It reads “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You.” (NAS) The Amplified Bible reads “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind (both its inclination and its character) is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” I shared with you last week the definitions of the words perfect and constant. Perfect is defined as “complete in all respect, flawless.” Constant is defined as “not changing, continual, persistent.” The peace that has been promised to us is one that is complete in all respect; not changing, but continual and persistent. This morning we will look at this perfect and constant peace in action.
I. Paul’s Imprisonment
When you read the book of Philippians, you find a letter that Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi. When this letter was written, Paul was in a Roman prison. The Church at Philippi was founded by Paul and was one of the first Churches established by him. It would seem that they held a special place in his heart as you read the letter he wrote to them. This Church had helped him financially previously and once they heard he was imprisoned in Rome, they sent Epaphroditus with another gift. What we read in Philippians is a thank you letter from Paul to them for the gift that they had sent him and is the most personal letter Paul wrote to a Church. Epaphroditus had become almost fatally ill while he was with Paul and upon his recovery Paul sent this letter back with him. We will focus on what Paul wrote in the fourth chapter, but I want to read a few versus before we get there.
When you read Paul’s writings, he always extends peace to the receivers of his letters. In verse two of chapter one, he wrote “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He was extending peace to this Church from his prison. He tells them that he is thankful for them and that he was confident that the work that God had begun in them through Jesus Christ would be completed. Verses twelve through thirty of chapter one tells us all we know about this imprisonment. Paul knew that he was facing a great ordeal but he took great pains not to alarm his friends. His only focus, even from prison, was the advancement of the gospel. In verse thirteen he says “So that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.” This group of guards was different from the Roman army. They were assigned the duty of guarding Paul and were chained to him. These guards would rotate every 6 hours so this gave Paul a very captive audience for spreading the gospel amongst these guards. So let me ask you a question, if you were imprisoned for speaking the words of Christ, would you attempt to save the guards who were guarding you or would you be stressing about your situation and if you would live through it? Paul’s focus was on spreading the word of Christ!
Let’s examine something else he said in verse twenty-seven of chapter one for a moment. It says, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phil. 1:27) Focus on the word “conduct” for a moment. It was a political term meaning “live as citizens” (of heaven 3:20). To do this, believers had to stand, strive and suffer. Do you understand this? Christians were never supposed to live lives of ease because we are warriors for Christ in a world that does not want us here! If you hear someone tell you that because you are a Christian and walking in faith you should have an easy life, ask them what are they doing for Christ? You see, when you take a stand the forces of our enemy will always try to knock you off of it. If you are not standing for anything you can’t be knocked down. You can’t be knocked down if you’re already lying down. If you’re not standing up for what His word says you’re laying down for what the world says. I will leave that for another time. Paul told the church at Philippi to live as citizens of heaven – worthy citizens! When you understand that your life will be filled with troubles because of your walk with Christ, you can have His peace because this is just part of the job! Now turn with me to the fourth chapter.