Life In Focus - Philippians 1:20
Don’t you hate it when something is out of focus?
I’ve never been much of a photographer. In college I bought a second-hand 35-milimeter camera; you know the kind with the removable lenses, fancy flash attachment: the works! I even got to the point that I knew somewhat how to use it. I could set the aperture, adjust the flash, you name it. But the part that always got me was the focus – most of the time I just never seemed to get the picture perfectly focused.
It hasn’t gotten any better with our camcorder.
Because of that, I’ve become one of those “point and shoot” kind of guys who really appreciated “auto-focus”.
We like it when things come into focus easily, don’t we?
It’s been just over a month since that infamous day we will always remember as September 11th. We will continue to mourn and pray for those who suffer from that atrocity.
But you know what? I think for most of us, life as come more into focus since September 11th. While the media and financial institutions bemoan the fact that consumers are traveling and spending (they all it consumer confidence) I wonder if for many it’s more a case of “consumer focus”. Some things don’t seem nearly as necessary as they did.
Life has become a little more focused!
Life in the city of Philippi tended to be out of focus as well. What the believers in the church at Philippi began to notice was that when life is out of focus – joy is beyond reach. No focus, no real joy.
That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote the little letter we find in the New Testament we call “Philippians”. His desire was to help these young believers get focused and as a result regain the joy of living totally sold-out to Christ’s mission.
The Apostle takes on a series of what I call “joy suckers”: things that sap life of its joy including some of the trials and frustrations we face.
In fact in the few verses before our text this morning Paul challenges those who actually were using the Good News for selfish ambition and as a means of hurting other believers (including Paul himself).
What I’m amazed by, though, is how focused Paul remains. He doesn’t care why they are spreading the Good News, he’s just glad they are. He doesn’t whine and complain; he simply prays and asks for others to pray for him.
He stays focused; focused on what Jesus has called him to do.
He calls it “eager expectation and hope”.
“For I live in eager expectation and hope…” (Phil 1:20)
[Romans 8:19, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”]
As believers we often talk about the “hope” that Jesus is coming again. We all live in expectation that Jesus will come and we will spend eternity with Him – but the Apostle has a different focus in this passage –
The focus is not on what Jesus will do – but what “Paul” will do.
He fully expects – his life is totally focused on three things…
I. …that I will never do anything that causes me (or the Lord) shame
II. …that I will always be bold for Christ
III. …that my life will always honor Christ
These three determinations allowed Paul to stay totally focused on his life mission.
I. I will never do anything that causes me shame
Psalm 119:31, O LORD, do not let me be put to shame.
Proverbs 18:3 When the wicked arrive, contempt, shame, and disgrace are sure to follow.
STORY: In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah God gives us the historical account of a shameful nation.
Israel had been blessed and protected by God. They were given a priceless land and an eternal promise of His presence with them. Yet over the years they had walked away from God’s promises. Instead of honoring God for all He did for them, they found themselves wondering back into worshipping anything and everything but God. They had replaced God and His will for their lives with their own lust and greed.
In every town and in every street of Israel, instead of symbols of God’s work, they had erected idols and places to worship pagan gods.
Finally God sends Jeremiah with these words…
“the people of Judah and Jerusalem will pray to their idols and offer incense before them. But the idols will not save them when disaster strikes! 13Look now, people of Judah, you have as many gods as there are cities and towns. Your altars of shame…are along every street in Jerusalem.” [Jeremiah 11:13]
That’s not too far off from us today, is it? Instead of living our life totally sold out to God – we slowly allow our past sins to filter back into our lives. In the end we build “altars of shame”.
We worship the very things that take us away from an intimate relationship with God and His will. It’s shameful.
But Paul determined that he would not do anything that would cause him shame. He would tear down the altars – and more importantly, keep from building them in the first place.
APPL: WHAT ALTARS OF SHAME ARE STANDING IN YOUR LIFE – STANDING IN THE WAY OF GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE?
ILL: The “No Shame” campaign in Lake County, 1996
1 John 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue to live in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame”
I will never do anything that causes me shame.
Determination #1 for a focused life.
II. I will always be bold for Christ
The word for boldness here is translated at least four different ways in our English Bible. Words such as “openly, plainly, freely, confident” are used to explain “boldness”.
Paul determined not only to live a shameless life for God, but not to be ashamed of God.
I’ve come to the conclusion that every sold out believer of Jesus Christ is marked by boldness.
STORY: The New Testament book of Acts recounts to story of Peter and John, followers of Jesus. Their boldness had gotten them into trouble with the Temple officials…listen to their words:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,…’There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.’ 13The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
The boldness to simply proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to receive salvation – forgiveness of our sins and eternal relationship with God – that’s boldness is what marked Peter and John as having been with Jesus.
Their identity was not in what they knew – but in who they knew.
Ephesians 6:19 “And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God’s secret plan”
Did you know that one of the characteristics of a deacon is to be boldness? “Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have boldness in their faith in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:13)
Paul determines that his life will be lived shamelessly and he will not be ashamed of Christ.
Remember our verse from 1John? “…continue to live in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage (have boldness) and not shrink back from him in shame.”
Determination # 2 for a focused life: I will always be bold for Christ.
III. I will always honor Christ in my life (and death)
ILL: One of the coolest lenses for a good quality camera is the telephoto lenses. It allows things at a distance to be brought close. It magnifies far away objects. It allows us to see, to photograph what we never could without the magnification.
Do you realize that you are God’s “telephoto lenses” for the world? You and I are the means whereby the World sees Jesus. They see Him through us. When they see Christ “magnified” through us they see Him as they never could before.
STORY: (Acts 19:8-17) During one of the Apostle Paul’s missionary trips through Asia Minor he traveled to the city of Ephesus. While there he preached in the Jewish synagogues, but ultimately he was pushed out by opposition the religious leaders. Instead of simply quitting, Paul’s boldness led him to take the few who believed and simply move to a new location where he continued to boldly proclaim the message.
In Acts chapter 19 tells us that for the next two years Paul preached in Ephesus and the surrounding towns – sharing the Good News and even performing miracles and healings. Others who opposed Jesus tried to copied Paul’s preaching and miracles and Acts 19 tells of their fate, but in verse 17 of Acts 19 it tell us that ultimately “and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.” Jesus’ name was magnified!
APPL: What did it take to see Jesus’ name magnified?
- it took consistency (two years of daily living the life before the people without shame)
- it took courage in spite of the opposition - boldness
If we determine to live shamelessly before God and others
If we determine to always be bold for Christ
Our lives will always honor and magnify Him
Determination #3 – My life will always honor Christ.
Conclusion: Let me ask you a question this morning:
What in your life really honors God? When people look at your life to they see Christ magnified or minimized?
What shameful act/habits are keeping you from truly intimate fellowship with God?
What’s robbing you of your boldness?
It’s all a matter of focus.
With my camera it’s simply a matter of a few turns of the lenses.
In our lives it’s simply a matter of a few turns as well: repentance, turning around, refocusing.
We can live with eager expectation and determination to really make our lives count for God – to live for what really matters.
Paul’s life was what my kids would have called “all that”! It was all that and more because God blesses a life that is totally focused on Him. Take these three determinations to heart and your life will stay focused!
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