Summary: Persecution could not stop Paul from getting the message out, in fact he used his chains to glorify God.
Lat week we talked about Paul’s heart, today we are going to talk about Paul’s troubles. We’re going to see that people cannot stop the spread of the gospel through persecution. In fact God uses attempts to thwart his purpose to actually strengthen what He wants to do. Today Paul wants us to know that we can use any negative situation to our advantage when we are focused on God’s will.
It is not persecution by our enemies that causes the Christian mission to stall, but as in the story of the Ethiopians, it is apathy among God’s people that brings the spread of the Gospel to a halt. … Let’s look at how:
I. Paul’s Problems Bring Blessings (vv 12-14)
A. They Advance the Gospel
Paul says that his imprisonment has actually served to advance the Gospel. Talk about looking at the glass half full. You know, there is tremendous indirect pressure for us to be negative in this culture. We are a “yah, but” culture. We start a new job and are all excited and optimistic, only to hear from a coworker, “yah, but just wait, in a couple weeks you’ll be like the rest of us”. Our culture doesn’t appreciate enthusiasm except maybe in sports.
God is also a “yah, but” God. Only His goes like this: we complain, complain, complain, make excuses, and God says “yah, but I gave you my Spirit, are you using the power I have given you?”
We can’t seem to stand someone who is positive in seemingly negative situations. We even have an official term for it, “Pollyanna syndrome”. Now this term came from people seeing themselves in an inaccurately positive light. But we have extended it to include people who choose positive thoughts over negative. In essence we have become a society that discourages freedom of thought, that “if such and such happens, this is how you have to think”. Young children aren’t like this, they have to be taught to think as society wants them to.
So much positive thinking has been labeled as “unrealistic” or even insensitive. Now maybe you don’t want to go to a funeral and be happily dancing around saying how wonderful it is that so and so went to heaven. But at the same time isn’t it really our own self-centeredness that causes us to mourn instead of celebrate.
It is OK to think positive, realistic thoughts based on God’s promises, and His spirit, even when circumstances are not so great. Others may not like it, only because deep down they wish they could do the same. Being this way is another positive Christian witness that goes against cultural norms.
Antidepressant # 3: Depressed and anxious people often use the past to color the present and future. But they usually use the negative aspects of the past. This often causes them to withdraw from the world, so bad things aren’t as likely to happen.
Many bad things have happened to all of us, but usually they end up having a positive purpose of learning something, bringing people together, changing our course, or developing character traits. We must use these memories when things are going badly to realize that God has a purpose behind everything and will ultimately use the experience for our good or someone else’s if we persevere. Acknowledge that it looks bad now but be encouraging that God will use it in a positive way eventually.
I don’t think Job really appreciated losing his family, his wealth, and his health either. But he wouldn’t stop praising God and in the end he got more than he ever had before. That won’t happen to everybody, but the point is that we must find a way to rejoice and praise God in the midst of the valley, trusting that He will do what Romans 8:28 says. That he will work everything out for good for those who love him.
In the first chapter of Philippians, and we will see it throughout the book, I think Paul is making the effort to show that the way we think, and how we choose to perceive something is what influences our feelings. And, that we have a choice about this, therefore having a choice about how we feel.
God gave us a mind, he will renew it through the Holy Spirit if we ask him to, and he wants us to experience his joy and inner peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled (or depressed), do not be afraid (or anxious).”
Well he also gives us instructions. Remember in Luke 10 he sends out the 72 to go into the harvest field and tell the world that the Kingdom of God is near, to heal the sick, and even to pronounce judgment. And the 72 returned with joy. Jesus then, full of joy through the Holy Spirit says: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the enemy; nothing will harm you. However do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”