But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… Philippians 1:12
As it pertains to joy and our personal walks with Jesus Christ, the fact that Paul was in jail when he wrote so many of his letters is important. By Paul’s model we can recognize that any obstacle is but another opportunity to magnify our Savior. Paul’s attitude and conduct further demonstrates that we can experience the joy, which we have previously received, regardless of our circumstances. Just as the sand in our bathing suits is the natural by-product of having gone to the beach, joy is the supernatural consequence of choosing to walk by faith — it will always be there.
Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. Isaiah 61:7
Why So Down?
Is the situation you are going through really worse than that of Paul’s? This man, who at the time was likely shackled to six different Roman guards during the course of any given day, found his joy in the fact that he had six different people he could regularly witness to. Paul’s outlook in prison had such an effect on other believers, both imprisoned and free, they were emboldened to move beyond their comfort zone and share the gospel with others.
It has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1:13-14
Imagine if Paul chose to languish in his condition rather than write letters of encouragement and exhortation to the churches? One thing is for certain: we would not have them as part of the Bible today! The truth is that God allows these things to happen to us because He knows there are opportunities within these challenges to honor and glorify Him. He also doesn’t want us to remain in the condition He found us and provides the conveyance by which we might excel.
Consider These Words
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:27-29
Did You See it
The stuff you might be going through or likely will go through in the future, is more or less a confirmation from the Lord that you are on the correct path. In this regard it is a privilege granted by Him that we might suffer for a divine purpose; it’s a process of refinement that we get to endure. As it turns out, our afflictions are the mechanisms through which blessings can flow three ways.
How else could James possibly proclaim:
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
God is telling the submitted Christian that tribulation is not the draining siphon that the world sees, but rather a satiating funnel through which He can supply all our needs. Imagine that!
Hear the word tribulation or trial or affliction and it’s our tendency to bolster a defense. We gravitate towards the three C’s: contentment, complacency, and convenience, and often manufacture protective Christian comfort zones for ourselves. Alasdair A. K. White defines these places as,
A behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
Don’t the words ‘neutral and limited’ just leap from the text?
The Christian would likely never say it out loud, but their disposition often screams, “I have worked hard to reach this point in my spiritual journey, I have given up a whole lot of sin to get here, and I have reached the point of ‘I’ll-do-this-but-no-more.’
When another brother or sister in the faith comes along, as Paul does, and suggests they could progress, they summarily reject the proposal for the sole purpose of maintaining their nonaligned and narrow position within a fabricated safety zone. I have witnessed the ruin of many a Christian friendship because of this selfish behavior.
“Get away from me you legalist,” is frequently the response, when in reality, legalism is far from being the substantive issue. This ought not to be.
Where’s the allegiance to Christ Jesus?
Where’s the obedience?
Where’s the submission?
Where’s the scripture that proclaims Christians are to exist in a contrived comfort zone?
Did we so quickly forget that our comfort is found in the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31), the Holy Scriptures (Romans 15:4), in Holy prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:3), in Holy fellowship (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and our Holy Father (2 Corinthians 1:3), and not a zone?
Let us reject spiritual stagnancy and embrace those things that propel us forward to our common goal. Let there be so much joy in our pockets, that when we change our clothes at the end of the day, the floor might be covered with it.
I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:13-17
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