Summary: In this message we find the keys to Paul’s triumphant attitude despite all the hardships including abandonment of friends. I offer six suggestions of how to move past our disappointments.
Charles W. Holt
THE WINNING ATTITUDE
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that
the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; (Phil. 1:12)
I had a dream the other night. I dreamed a large and prosperous church called me to be their new pastor. I remember this news created mixed feelings in me. On one hand I was excited. But my excitement was somehow tempered by an impression of uncertainty that bordered upon a feeling of dread. In my dream I remember being suddenly transported into a large and elegant home. I saw myself walking slowly through a very large, well lit, room. I looked at the beautiful furniture and lamps. I saw beautiful paintings on the walls. Everything blended into an exquisite pattern of perfection it seemed. I remember looking down at the carpet on the floor. The dream was in color. I recall the intricate patterns and colors of the carpet—somewhat of a paisley pattern. The very texture—the feel--of the carpet under my feet let me know it was very expensive. I don’t remember seeing another person with me but I had an awareness that this place belonged to one of the most prominent families of the church I was asked to serve. The man was walking with me. He was given me a tour of his home. He spoke, describing the things I was seeing. Although I don’t remember his words I had the sense that he was happy to have me there. The conversation was light, breezy, open and inviting. I felt welcomed, wanted. As we moved slowly through this elegantly decorated room, hearing the voice of my newfound friend I was seized with a feeling of great sadness. This feeling of sadness was so overwhelming that it blotted out all the sunny, bright, uplifting, even joyous, feelings that flooded the room. Walking along, enjoying the atmosphere of this beautiful home and the pleasure of meeting a new friend one thought emerged. I thought: how sad, that the day will come when this very man who now is so eager to welcome me as a friend, and his new pastor, will with the same intensity of his spirit turn and focus all his energies against me to drive me away. That he will do everything possible to poison the very atmosphere that is now so hope-filled. Poisoning it with venomous lies. I remember the sadness of that thought settled over me like a shroud. I felt it so deeply. It was so real. And the dream ended.
Sometime later as I reflected upon the dream I thought: this is really not all that unusual. Despite what the Biblical Proverb says, sometimes friends do not, "sticketh closer than a brother." They shed their skin of friendship like the serpent and take cover in the weeds of forgotten promises. Suddenly, unexplainably, a mountain is made out of a molehill and you are left with a feeling of sad emptiness. We have all probably experienced some degree of this. I suspect it is more common than we know because people don’t talk about it much except maybe to their closest friends. When it happens you may be shocked, dismayed, confused, certainly hurt. If I were to ask, "Has something like this happened to you?" it would probably immediately trigger a memory. You may not remember the details but you’ll never forget how it made you feel.
I think it is interesting to remember that it happened to Jesus. A prophecy found in the Psalms foretold the day when He would experience it. "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 41:9 KJV). In the Upper Room at the Last Supper Jesus quoted that passage from the Psalms. He said to his disciples, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" (Jn. 13:18 KJV). He spoke of Judas.
Jesus experienced it. You and I have, as many others have also experienced it. The Apostle Paul too and he tells us about it on at least two occasions. First, in passing, let me remind you of what he said in his second letter to Timothy. Paul is imprisoned and no doubt lonely and longing to see his young protégé. He writes, "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:9,10 KJV). The Amplified Bible translates it: "For Demas has deserted me for love of this present world." Forsaken, deserted—these are strong words that arouse strong emotions. It is, however, what he says in his letter to the Church at Phillipi that we want to bring into focus. Because in this passage Paul talks about "brethren" who want people to believe they are his friends but who are in fact out to make life as miserable for him as they possibly can make it. The actually want to add to his pain and affliction while he is in prison.