“Learning How To Live A Life Of Loss”
Coulee Community Church
May 12, 2019
Welcome back to the third week in our series based on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This wonderful letter teaches us how to experience joy during tough times.
Key Scripture: Philippians, Chapter 3
A quintessential attribute and point of the Christian life
Learning How To Live A Life Of Loss
During week one, we covered chapter 1 of the letter, where Paul urges us to live “as if” God is in control. During the second week, we looked at chapter 2, where Jesus, our Lord, is presented as a perfect example for behavior in times of difficulty and persecution. He is our model for enduring tough times.
Both messages are available on the podcast if you missed them, and I’d strongly encourage you as end time believers to listen to the messages when you can’t be here on Sunday morning- you need that truth an encouragement to feed your soul.
So now in week three of this series we will look at Philippians chapter 3, where we see that the apostle Paul is also a model for us in learning what it means to endure hardship.
Suffering and hardship should come as no surprise to us. The bible is full of examples of people who went through suffering. One of the longest prophetic books was written by a man named Jeremiah, who was known as the weeping prophet.
Perhaps we cannot explain the meaning of suffering philosophically, but we can go through hard times in a Christlike manner.
Jesus said, “If they’ve persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20)
The Apostle Peter, in another letter, said, “Don’t be surprised as if some strange thing we’re happening to you when you encounter hardships” (1 Peter 4:12).
In another context, Paul himself encouraged new believers with these words: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
In fact, one of the last messages given to us by Paul (in 2 Timothy) reminds us, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Today as we will look at Philippians chapter 3, we will discover that Paul offers himself as an example for how to go through hard times. Very near the end of this chapter, in verse 17, he says, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
As you read through the New Testament, you’ll find that this kind of exhortation is common in Paul’s letters. He often offered his own life as a personal example.
The church of the Philippians had a unique perspective in understanding how Paul endured persecution. The Book of Acts records that in the very first days after Paul arrived in the city of Philippi, he was thrown in prison.
He responded to this imprisonment by singing praises to God!
God responded to Paul’s praises by supernaturally breaking him out of jail! Even the Philippian jailer was impacted by Paul’s example: the jailer took Paul into his own home, bandaged his wounds, and became a follower of Jesus. (He and his whole family were baptized as new converts.)
Paul’s example while he was planting the church in Philippi is instructive in two ways.
First, there is frequently a connection between fruitful ministry and difficult days.
We talked this last Wednesday during our bible study about the great falling away predicted in the scriptures (2 Thess 2). These prophetic warnings are in the bible to tell us that no matter what- even if everything looks dark, and hard times are coming we are still to be about the master’s work, looking up and crying out Maranatha Jesus- not just to get us out of here- but calling Maranatha Jesus to come into the lives of those we love and live around.
Second, the world is watching as followers of Jesus endure tough times. How Paul responded (and by extension how we respond) becomes a means of evangelism. Our actions authenticate our message.
Perhaps you have never been thrown in jail for your testimony of Christ. Perhaps you have never been beaten because you were a follower of Jesus.
But difficult days come in many forms. There are plenty of believers who have suffered the loss of family relationships because of their belief. There are plenty of believers who have been passed over for promotions at work because they put their faith first and their work second.
There are plenty of believers who make choices involving in personal loss in order to remain faithful to Jesus their Lord and to His mission for their lives.
Perhaps you are one of those believers. Or, if you have not faced difficult days let me encourage you as Paul and Barnabas encouraged the first church they planted: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” The question is not whether we will face hardship or suffering.
That’s a certainty.
The only questions are when and how will we face the trouble.
When you first became a follower of Jesus, did anyone share with you that you were signing up for difficult days ahead?
Well, they should have!
In fact, trouble and persecution are a part of the Good News. Perhaps you are here today (or listening to the podcast) investigating the claims of Christ. I will not deceive you by telling you that your life will always be easy as a follower of Jesus. In fact, a sincere desire to follow Jesus often involves loss and suffering, but with very good news as well: you will be headed for a joy unspeakable that is full of glory!
So today, in chapter 3 of this marvelous letter, I would like to give you five points to help you understand how Paul is also an example for us in facing difficulties and trials.
Let’s look at chapter 3.
1. In verses 1-3 Paul says,
“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh . . .” (Philippians 3:1-3)
Do you see Paul’s warning there in verse 2?
We should watch out for people who preach a false gospel.
Now, false gospels come in many forms.
During Paul’s day, it was common to hear a message like this: in order to follow Jesus you must first submit to the Law of Moses. This is what Paul is talking about what he says watch out for “those dogs.” This heresy has been met and dealt with, but in our day, we will more commonly hear a false gospel filled with false promises of comfort and ease.
We will be told the following Jesus always leads to prosperity or better health and more happiness. Now of course, eventually these things are true, but the false gospel in our day is all about becoming wealthier, healthier, and happy right now.
It’s not unusual to hear phrases like, “whatever flows, goes,” as if following Jesus is just a ride down a lazy river.
But the path of least resistance makes both men and rivers crooked. Perhaps you have heard a gospel that says God will never let anything bad happen to you. Many people’s faith can be on the verge of folding simply because they begin to face hard times. The promise of instant wealth, health, and happiness may sound like good news, but the true good news is that Jesus will be with us through whatever we face, in good times or in bad times.
This is why I’m a stickler at teaching correct doctrine, because bad theology creates its own difficulties.
Bad theology can become a harsh taskmaster. What do I mean?
What’s so evil about health and wealth theology?
It can force us to lie about our circumstances in order to convince everyone that everything is just ducky. After all, if God is all about health and wealth then if I have neither everyone will look at me like I’m in sin, or not even saved.
Bad theology can also lead to feelings of guilt if things are not going well, or conversely, cause us to ignore feelings of guilt, feelings that could lead us to repentance and life!
Paul is warning his friends in Philippi that they should be on guard against bad theology, the theology of dogs. At its core, “dog theology” says that you can impress God and others with your religious behavior.
Think about how you train a dog- it’s performance based isn’t it?
Don’t use the rug as your bathroom
Sit, speak, roll over. Do all that upon command and you get a treat.
Dog theology. Performance based.
But you and I aren’t dogs. We are created in the image of God.
So don’t you believe the gospel of satan. He wants to slap those performance chains around your mind and heart to deaden the power of the true Gospel of freedom through Christ Jesus.
The second point we find in Chapter 3 of Philippians is
2. In verses 4-7, Paul explains how “dog theology” had fooled him. He had been taught that he could impress God by keeping all of the Jewish laws and by “earning” his own salvation. But notice what Paul says about his past life:
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:4-7)
From Paul’s past perspective as a Pharisee, this is an impressive list of credentials. But no: these credentials mean nothing to him. Paul says that he considers the past to be loss.
But this doesn’t only apply to the Apostle Paul. As we begin our journey with Jesus, we are called to leave behind whatever investment we have in the old way of life.
Another way to say this is that- Jesus is for losers.
That’s right: we must lose our own way of thinking and we must lose whatever confidence we have in our past accomplishments.
It’s not just the people who are down-and-out who need the gospel. There are people who are “up-and-out” who also need the gospel—people who have climbed the ladder of success only to find they had placed the ladder on the wrong wall! Both groups need to know that, in Jesus, their past does not matter, whether that past is good or bad. The only thing that counts is the new creation in Christ.
3. This brings us to the third point as we look at this chapter. Listen as Paul continues the same line of thought in verses 8-9. I’m going to preface this by saying- these are some of my favorite verses in the bible.
It’s my life goal so to speak
10“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
One lesson that Paul had learned, and that he shared with those in Philippi and that he shares with us today, was that we should lay all of our accomplishments on the altar of God.
The prophet Isaiah understood this well when he said that our righteousness was as “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) The gospel does not care about our achievements or about our failures. The gospel cares only for us, and what will happen after we decide to follow him.
In fact, Paul calls this the “surpassing worth” of knowing Christ Jesus. What about us?
Do we consider knowing Jesus to be the greatest thing about our lives?
You may have overcome significant hardships; you may have survived a difficult childhood and found a stable and happy life; you might have overcome abuse from a loved one or someone you trusted; you may have overcome some kind of addiction and found sobriety and peace; you may have worked hard to earn an advanced degree from University or achieved a high level of success in the business world.
But we should learn from Paul’s example: he considered EVERYTHING loss even going so far as to call it dung–even the good stuff.
He considered it a loss to the world, and used it only for the Kingdom.
Every talent, every skill, every gift that you have isn’t to enrich you in this life, it’s to enrich the Kingdom. God gave you those for His benefit.
Paul says it’s worthless compared to the “Surpassing Worth”
Do you know this “surpassing worth”?
What is it?
To Know Christ Jesus our Lord
I’m asking both believers and seekers. Perhaps you have never made a decision to follow Jesus: I’m here to tell you there is a surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.
It will surpass whatever difficulties you face or whatever achievements you have claimed. But I am also asking those of us who have already decided to follow Jesus: do you know the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus?
It’s much easier to settle into trusting lives of comfortable religious habits instead of knowing Jesus more and more and more.
But Jesus calls us into a pursuit of knowing HIM more and more the long we live.
4. This brings me to our fourth point from Philippians chapter 3. There is more to know of Jesus. Here’s what the apostle Paul says:
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
We should be amazed at these words!
Here, the great apostle who served Jesus and accomplished great things for the kingdom of God. No one did more for the church than Paul, and he says plainly, “I want to know Christ.”
There was more of Jesus for Paul to get to know. We might be tempted to think, “If Paul does not know Christ, then who does?” But Paul’s point is that our eternal, infinite Lord always beckons us further into his goodness and his glory. There was more of Christ for Paul, and there is more of Christ for us to know.
Paul’s gives a list of those things which he still wants to know and experience:
• the power of his resurrection;
• the fellowship of sharing suffering with Jesus;
• becoming like Jesus in his death;
• and attaining a new quality of life both now and in the resurrection.
Here Paul is most definitely an example for us. We are on a journey with Jesus. And because our Lord is infinite, there is no arrival point. There is always more of him to know, always more of his love to receive, and always more of his mission to join.
5. This brings us to our fifth and final point from Philippians chapter 3. Jesus had something in mind when he picked the Apostle Paul, and Jesus has something in mind for each one of us:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Do you see it? Paul understood that Jesus had taken hold of him for a reason. And it was Paul’s personal mission in life to lay hold of “that” for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. Do you see this one simple word: “that”?
We should all mark this simple word in our Bibles. This simple word reveals the fact that God lays hold of each one of us for a reason. He has a purpose in mind for us.
Jesus had something in mind when he picked you! Paul knew the secret of his life would be revealed as he followed hard after Jesus.
And notice the connection between Christian maturity and discovering our purpose: Part of being a mature Christian is finding and knowing God’s purpose for your life.
Do you long to know the purpose for your life?
We can confidently follow Paul’s example: that in joyful obedience to Jesus we will discover that for which he laid hold of us. This is a tremendous comfort, whether in times trouble or times of ease. What would the world see if they watched us as we discovered—and fulfilled—the purpose for our lives?
And the good news is that Jesus will reveal our purpose. He did it for Paul and he will do it for us.
The application for us today is simple- could we point to our own lives as a model for living through tough times?
I believe that God has called us to reach a joyful union with Jesus, that is living and vibrant whether in good times or in bad.
That union shown to the world through our faith and joy will demonstrate to the world that our faith is genuine, and it will be something that they want as well.
“Becoming like him in His death”