Summary: Part 3 of study of Philippians
THE PASTOR’S POINTS
Bible Teaching Ministry of
CEDAR LODGE BAPTIST CHURCH
Dr. Russell Brownworth, Pastor
It was difficult for Harry Truman to fill President Roosevelt’s shoes. America craved change, and that November election night in 1948 everyone went to bed with the understanding that Thomas Dewey would be the next president. Even the newspaper headlines were confidently announcing Mr. Dewey as the winner. Thomas Who? Somebody forgot to tell the voters, and "Smiling Harry-the-buck-stops-here Truman" spent the next four years at the end of Pennsylvania Ave.
Some notable failures aren’t apparent. Peppermint Patty isn’t the best student. Standing in front of the class, she’s about to give her book report, "This is my report on ’A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens...St. Paul and Minneapolis are..." Back in her seat, another student comforts, "One of the great tries of all time, sir."
Other notable "apparent failures" are legion in number; Lincoln, Edison, etc. Ty Cobb failed as a base stealer more times than anyone in baseball history, yet he also succeeded in setting the record for most bases stolen. Babe Ruth struck-out twice as many times as he hit home runs.
The most notable, and most abject apparent failure in history was Jesus of Nazareth. He was not really popular or particularly well-liked apart from his very close followers. In fact, after one of his sermons everybody left except the twelve. Jesus was a political failure - every level of government rejected, then conspired to kill him. He had no wealth, holdings, world headquarters - not even a Christian amusement park or TV show. When it came right down to it, one of his close friends betrayed him to the authorities.
But, aside from all these factors about the "failure" of Jesus, the most compelling piece of evidence is the cross. When they took Jesus down from the cross he was dead. This, about a man who talked of eternal life, and kingdoms. What a failure.
But we know that the language and measuring stick of the world is not that of the gospel. On Sunday there was no talk of failure; and on the day of Pentecost, when the power of God fell on all the friends of Jesus.
What we celebrate today in the Lord’s Supper is seen by the world as fools remembering a fool. If they only knew...!
Throughout christian history, the great servants of the Christ have been seen by the world as failures. Paul was one. After a career of riots, imprisonments, threats, beatings and shipwrecks, Paul was confined to the nastiest Roman prison imaginable. People were saying bad things about him. He was not able to defend his character, or his leadership. Life was a failure (or did Paul have another view of what was happening?
The Bold Advance
By definition the word failure means to fall short in an attempt to accomplish a goal or set of goals. Paul saw what was happening as a great success, because his goal of spreading the gospel in the most efficient way possible was being accomplished. Rome was the center of the world, and the Roman emperor was the seat of worldwide power.
Paul was in a position to share Christ with the whole Praetorian Guard, the emperor’s select personal army. What better platform from which to preach Jesus? On top of that, his imprisonment was the inspiration that some believers needed to come "out of the christian closet" and begin witnessing boldly. Sometimes the things which lead us to believe that God has somehow failed, and christianity doesn’t work in 1993 are only "apparent failures" - seeming failures, because we’re using the world’s measuring stick.
Clarence Darrow was the greatest criminal lawyer of his time. He won the famous Scopes "monkey" trial, which decided for the use of evolution to teach our children we come from a bunch of apes. With fame, a brilliant career, a modest fortune, and good health, Darrow confided to a minister friend that his had been an exciting life, but that (although a confirmed atheist), his favorite Bible verse (Luke 5.5) seemed to sum-up all his doings: "We’ve toiled all the night and have taken nothing."
While the world looks on and says "Power, prestige, position, money, sex, things;" God looks down from heaven and whispers, "My ways are higher than your ways."
The Bottom-Line Assessment
While some of the church folks got bold and preached Christ out of love (both for Christ and Paul), some preached in a cynical attempt to add to Paul’s problems. They took the same approach as Job’s friends - if you’ve got troubles, God must be mad at you. Others were looking to capitalize on the publicity about Paul, and make a few bucks. (These people have their modern-day counterparts huckstering religion on the TV. You can always tell them by how much they talk about money, and how little they point to Christ.)