Summary: If anyone had ever had a reason to be afraid and discouraged it would have been Paul as we find him here in a Roman jail writing to one of his closest friends. How can we have a positive outlook when we are living in a negative situation?
Our Victory is Certain
Purpose: To describe the commitment we should have to serving Christ.
Aim: I want the listener to be inspired to stand up for Christ every day without wavering.
INTRODUCTION: If anyone had ever had a reason to be afraid and discouraged it would have been Paul as we find him here in a Roman jail writing to one of his closest friends. His public ministry had been taken away from him, his freedom as well as his friends were also gone. He was alone and he knew he was about to die. He didn’t even have a coat to keep him warm in the fast approaching winter.
Faithful followers of Jesus Christ often have to go through times of hardship and loneliness. John Paton, a Scotsman who lived a hundred years ago, was no exception. He took the gospel to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, today’s Vanuatu. Within months his wife and son died. But Paton spent the rest of his life, until he was an old man, planting the church on the Islands. He quoted Jesus’ words, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," then said, "Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name" [John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebredes, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother, p. 154 Quoted from a sermon by John Piper, The Lord Stood By Me...That All the Nations Might Hear”]
Once he was surrounded by a mob seeking his life. He hid in a tree above them and spent a terrifying night there. He wrote later,
"Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul . . . as I told all my heart to Jesus. . . . I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.” [John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebredes, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother, p. 200 Quoted from a sermon by John Piper, The Lord Stood By Me...That All the Nations Might Hear”]
✔ How can we have a positive outlook when we are living in a negative situation? As we come to verses 16-19 we can’t help but notice Paul’s unwavering positive outlook on the future.
1:1-2:13 I. How Should a Christian React to Stress?
2:14-26 II. How Should a Christian Relate to Fellow Believers?
3:1-17 III. How Can a Christian Reside in a Hostile Culture?
4:1-22 IV. How Can a Christian Remain Faithful to Christ?
Vs.16-19 D. Have confidence in God’s plan
Paul sketched out God’s plan for us in the first 8 verses of this chapter:
Vs.1-5 A. Put first things first “preach the word”
Vs.6-8 B. Focus on the joy of our reward “crown of righteousness”
Then Paul showed us that it is important to
Vs.9-15 C. Ask others for help “come to me soon”
Vs.16 1. Especially when other Christians fail “no one supported me”
It was customary under Roman law for accused prisoners to have a preliminary hearing before their trial. At this hearing, witnesses could speak on behalf of the accused. In Paul’s case no one had come to his defense.[Bailey, M., Constable, T., Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (1999). Nelson’s New Testament Survey : Discover the Background, Theology and Meaning of Every Book in the New Testament (487). Nashville: Word.]
When other Christians are not faithful, it should motivate us to work even harder for the Lord. When we see that others are not standing in the gap, we should see even more reason to be faithful where God has put us. Ezekiel 22:30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (NAU)
God used a situation like that in my life once. I gave my life to Christ when I was 12 years old. Around that time, my brother, who is three years older than I am, also came to Christ. Several years later he felt that God was calling him to preach. But then, it appeared that he was not living very close to the Lord. I remember telling the Lord that even though I didn’t feel called to preach, I would be willing to take my brother’s place and serve the Lord. Thankfully, my brother got his life straightened out and he has been serving the Lord faithfully ever since. It wasn’t until many years later that I sensed God’s call on my life to serve him as a pastor.