Summary: Attitude that determines whether we have joy in our circumstances.
Restoring the Joy
Sermon # 2
It’s All In How You Look At It
In today’s message we note that it is attitude that determines whether we have joy in our circumstances. But by attitude we do not mean a foolish optimism, like so many express today, in “the power of positive thinking.” Not like the man who fell off a forty story building and at the tenth floor was heard to say, “So far so good.”
We see the attitude that I am talking about in the story of “Maurine Jones, a 92-year-old woman, when she was moved to a nursing home. Her husband of 70 years had recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, she was provided with a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. "I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. "Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room ... just wait."
"That doesn’t have anything to do with it," she replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it ... "It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away ... just for this time in my life.” What a wonderful way to begin the day and wonderful outlook on life.” [www.sermonillustrator.org/illustrator/sermon3/attitude.htm]
The Apostle Paul displays such an attitude of joy in his letter to the Philippians. Paul had dreamed of going to Rome as a preacher in order to present the Gospel to the emperor, Nero. Instead, he wound up n Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial. The details of the experience that Paul sums up (v. 12) in the sparse phrase, “the things which happened to me” are given in Acts 21:7 - 28:31. Here we are told that he was arrested on the false accusation (21:28), he was misrepresented before the court, incorrectly identified as an Egyptian renegade, he was kept imprisoned because of official craving for popularity (24:7), or for money (24:26) and through a show of false legalism (26:32). When he was finally reached Rome he was incarcerated and all but forgotten for two long years. Yet through it all Paul maintains a joyful outlook on life. This morning I want us to examine how he managed to do that.
First, We Can Be Joyful In Spite Of Our Circumstances (vv. 12-14)
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, (13) so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; (14) and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
“The Message” translates these verses,“I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. (13) All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. (14) Not only that, but most of the Christians here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah”
Paul could be joyful in spite of his circumstance because he did not see himself as a victim. When we see ourselves as victims we are nothing more than the sum of the things that have happened to us. But Paul said, (v.12) “the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” The word translated “furtherance” (prokopen) – sometimes translated “progress” - is a word used to refer to army engineers who went before the troops to open the way to new territory.
Paul could be joyful in spite of his circumstances because he viewed the guard he was chained to as a captive audience not a infuriating restriction. How can a person think like that? The answer depends on the question we ask ourselves when we face such a situation. Write down these two questions! Either we ask the negative: “Why did this have to happen to me?” Or we ask the positive: “What does God have in mind to benefit me in this situation?”