Summary: *This sermon and series is based from the package marketed by Outreach Ministries and was adapted for my personal use* A sermon showing us how to live with the assurance that no matter what is happening in our lives, God is in control.
“Living As If God Is In Control”
I’m very excited about this new series we begin today. We will look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians and discover a joyful community living together in times of testing.
In these next four weeks, we will look at each one of the chapters in Paul’s letter. This letter shows us a community learning how to live together; with one another—and in God’s presence—during difficult times.
And this is a great place to start, recognizing that God’s people will always face times of trials and testing.
Trials and testing started in the early church, which faced times of trial and testing during the Roman Empire
It continues today in places like China and Iran, or even places most of us barely could find on a map like Sri Lanka
Wherever Christians are persecuted, God’s people will always be confronted with difficulties.
Now, you may think, “Those places or events are centuries or continents away. What does this have to do with me?”
Times of trial and testing do not only happen on the large social scale. They also happen on the individual and personal scale, to people like you and me. We should take note of this. Near the end of his ministry the Apostle Paul said, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Paul learned this lesson during his time in Philippi and years later when the Philippians came to his aid while he was in prison. That’s what the Book of Philippians will help us to understand.
For background- The Book of Acts (in chapter 16) records the roots of the church in Philippi. As you follow along in this sermon series, you can read that part of Acts and see how God used Paul to start a brand-new work in this city that had never before heard the gospel.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In the first decades of this new Philippian church, they experienced both success and difficulties.
Have you ever thought about that possibility? We can experience difficulties even during times of success.
Some might be tempted to think that the presence of difficulties means they are somehow living outside of the will of God. But that’s not necessarily true.
Sometimes Christians can be right where God puts them,
doing exactly what God has asked them to do
and still face persecution, opposition, misunderstanding, and suspicion.
This is true at a larger social level and also at an interpersonal level.
I again would encourage you in the next week to read Acts 16 as it will set the scene for much of what we will be talking about.
Acts 16 shares the story of how Paul and Silas found themselves in prison there for sharing the good news in the city of Philippi.
We should keep this story from Acts in mind as we look at the letter to the Philippians, because it reminds us that we will go through trials.
And this phrase is important: we will “go through” trials.
Trials are made to be gone through: we will not remain in them. Trials are made to go through because our God is bigger than any trouble man can dream up.
Perhaps you are facing some sort of personal trial today. It could be at work, or in a relationship, or have something to do with your finances, or illness, or you may even be a person who has suffered violence for the sake of the gospel.
Part of the good news is that even as we experience trials, we can have the confidence that we will pass through the trouble. God will not abandon us and leave us stuck in our difficulties. In fact, one type of Christian maturity is our ability to rejoice even when things are not going our way.
We can rejoice merely in the fact that we are in the center of God’s will.
Another thing to consider
Even if the trouble is of our own making because we’ve acted foolishly, it’s still true: trials were made to go through—not to remain in! Even if my trial is the result of my own stupidity and sinfulness, I can rest assured that I’m at the center of His love.
God doesn’t abandon His people when they are in trouble.
That’s all introduction
Now, when we get to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, 10 years have transpired since the account in Acts 16. Some things have definitely changed. The church in Philippi is prospering and healthy. They are not only a thriving community in their home city, they are a community that looks after the welfare of others, people far away who may be in some kind of need.