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.