One of my favorite New Testament books in the Bible is the book of Philippians. Paul is writing the believers at Philippa and there really is some good things taught in this letter. I admire the Apostle Paul because of so many reasons but in this letter we get a glimpse of his attitude. He always seems so positive and I love that about him. Whether he is beaten or in prison or under house arrest or even ship wrecked Paul is always joyful and thankful to God for his salvation. I want to be like Paul and not be a grumbling Christian, don’t you? So let’s look at something awesome from this letter. Paul begins with a prayer.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God, Philippians 1:3-11, (New International Version or NIV).
Have you ever noticed how Paul’s prayer habit is to give thanks to God for the people in his life? I believe that a grateful heart begins with an attitude of joy in people and in the circumstances that brought those people into your life. Paul also prays with confidence in God that what was begun in a person, in a church, in a life, will be brought to full completion before Christ returns. I love that! What a promise for us to hold on to during difficult circumstances that we face or that we walk out with others as they face. Paul bases his joy and confidence on fact and not wishful thinking. Notice how he states why his feelings for this group of Christians are righteous? He has been carrying them in his heart, in his prayers, and he is listening for their spiritual growth in progress reports brought to him by others. So he prays with confidence that God will help them to continue the love and concern for others as well as continued study of God’s word to be capable of seeing the spiritual needs of people and to help those who God sends to them for help. This reminds me that I should be praying for my children and my church family to grow in knowledge of God and in wisdom and discernment. What a great prayer to emulate, don’t you think? Let’s see what else we can learn from this epistle.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear, Philippians 1:12-14, (NIV).
Paul has been arrested and placed under house arrest in Rome. I would be discouraged if I were a prisoner but Paul finds the good in his life altering circumstances. This always amazes me! See what he says, what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. He sees the bigger picture and that is the advancement of the gospel. Paul didn’t waste any of his talent for preaching just because he was in prison or under house arrest. What he did was cultivated an interest in the spiritual life of the guards that were given the duty of guarding him. I can imagine how he must have been a great listener as these guards poured out their problems to him and how his advice was found to be good and solid. Then as he gained the guards trust he could share his faith in Christ Jesus with them and teach them. I’m sure his attitude of joy and thankfulness must have been displayed and tested and found to be genuine as genuine as his faith in Christ Jesus. Wow! What a blessing he must have been to those who came into contact with him daily. Paul never missed these opportunities to share his faith and many received eternal life because of this one prisoner named Paul! I can’t wait to hear the guards tell of their conversion when I get to heaven!
Paul had such a positive attitude and I find this so refreshing. I want to be like Paul. I want to be filled with constant joy, constant gratitude, constant prayer and a joy for others to be around. I want to be the kind of person that talks to the grocery store clerk or postal worker and leave them in a better mood for the next person that they wait upon. I want to be the Mom that listens to her children and grandchildren, really listen, and give praise and give advice when they ask for it. I want to be the kind of friend that is a breath of fresh air to be around rather than the person everyone avoids. Don’t you want to be that kind of person as well?
I recently read the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, a story of a Christian family who hid Jews in World War II Holland. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to a concentration camp along together and other family members were sent to other camps or prisons. Betsie was the physically weaker of the two but she was also the spiritually stronger of the two. She taught her sister and all of us through this horrible experience that no matter where we find ourselves, no matter the circumstances we face we make choices in how to live. She chose to live out a joyful faith and even thanked God for fleas that infested the building she and her sister slept in and lived in. It was the fleas that kept the German guards out of her building which gave her the opportunity to read the Bible to others and to teach them how to live a righteous and joyful life in such a dark depravity filled place. Corrie struggled but Betsie saw the bigger picture and soon Corrie saw it as well.
What is the bigger picture I keep talking about? It is rising above our life circumstances and seeing that God has a purpose for our suffering, for our situation. In every situation we find ourselves we may be surprised but God isn’t. God knows what our future holds for us because He designed our future to bring us closer to Him, to learn more about Him, and to love Him. We can choose to live a joyful life or a discouraged life. We can choose to be content or unsatisfied. We can choose to trust that God knows what He is doing in our life and in the lives of those we pray for or we can choose to not trust God.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have, Philippians 1:27-30, (NIV).
The bigger picture is when we realize that God’s purpose for our life is greater than our circumstances. Betsie saw this and thanked God every day of her life even for something as horrible as fleas. Paul saw this as well and many of the soldiers who were guarding him became Christians because of Paul’s willingness to see the bigger picture and to trust God. The people who read Paul’s letter in Philippa saw the bigger picture as well. Their circumstances didn’t change but their attitude of the heart did change. I love that about God. He gives us strength to do the work He calls us to do. So let’s go and be joyful as we walk out our faith!