Lately I have struggled with some dark days. Maybe you are in a hard place right now. Philippians chapter one has been salve to an aching soul for me today and as I read through it-
I began to dissect it piece by piece for the reality of which it is. Paul’s letter from prison has much to offer a suffering confused and frightened soul. I offer you the insight God showed me as an encouragement to anyone who finds themselves imprisoned today and is looking for the door.
Black lettering is scripture with aqua highlighted passages that I write what God encouraged me with. (It’s a little choppy in places-sorry)
Paul’s letter to Philippi
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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”
What many would consider bad or unfortunate (here Paul’s imprisonment) actually advances the good – it advances the gospel THE TRUTH-
And it encourages other believers to proclaim without fear
We see that what was meant for evil, pain and punishment only spurs on the good, the truth and increases faith.
But the cool thing here to is that is banishes fear
WITHOUT FEAR- the boldness has to come
“The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
Paul not only has physical torment he gets social torment as well form outside the prison. And he blows it off and focuses on Jesus. Jesus is preached and this is awesome but he doesn’t sling into neutral like “Oh, Oh- so good okay. God you got this, I need a nap now”
- No he moves forward with it and chooses to REJOICE.
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage”
He makes a decision “Yes” I will continue (keep on) rejoicing.
Paul knows that prayer makes a difference and that God is providing His Spirit no matter the circumstances he is in.
God is there and He isn’t holding back!!
How often my circumstances are so minimal compared to Paul’s and yet I can’t find an ounce of joy. You may be going through something horrible. Something I’m not and maybe even something close to Paul’s situation-
Pastor Saeed is and his wife is also suffering so much.
Your brothers and sisters, around the world or around the corner are suffering for and with Christ.
The enemy is exactly that -your enemy; he is not for you he is against you- so don’t be shocked by your plight.
Don’t guilt yourself or condemn yourself or feel sorry for yourself. And try, try hard to not figure out why- because the answer to why may be simply because your ARE GODS-
But do not be shocked.
For YOU ARE GODS!
You can take hope in this truth that your God is exactly that:
And He takes all things
ALL things and uses them for the good of those that love Him according to His purpose.
You know that purpose: the one where HE loves you the most- the one where He gave all He had so HE could be with you.
Paul goes on to say “expect and hope”-
He is not dreading, pleading, fretting or –
here we go -“worrying”.
That would be my personal pet right there
Worrying. I mean 90 % of what I worry about does not happen so it must be working right? (Someone throat punch me here)
No, he expects- he is ready
and he hopes-he is longing and counting on
– even if he does not see.
And here is the part that gives me hope--
no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage
He is not going to have regret,
Or feel stupid or be ashamed about anything he trusts God for -
On the contrary
He states that He will have sufficient courage.
Not a drop mixed with panic and fear but
Sufficient – enough
Enough fear? Not even in the equation.
Where is he going to get that? Where am I going to get that?
I try to work a little pattern like this:
- Not going to be shocked- Going to remember whose I AM.
(and I am not throwing a pity party as if I am the only one with such horrible trouble)
- Going to choose to rejoice-
Even when I see no reason-even when I don’t feel like it-
In fact some days through my dark times I just have to say “screw it” I’m going to be happy just to be spiteful in the face of depression.
The law of contrary behavior sometimes works for me here- act the opposite of what you feel and eventually your feelings catch on
- ASK ASK ASK
Ask God to give you His Spirit
Ask for prayer from your brothers and sisters
The maintenance plan:
Don’t stop rejoicing, don’t stop trusting,
Be like shampoo: rejoice-trust- repeat
“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
Sometimes this is the only prayer available when we are suffering:
To have fruitful labor.
NO WASTED PAIN-
Let it bring forth what you desire God and accomplish what You will – do not let it be for nothing- do not let me get in the way.
Let me learn, let my days be filled with fruitful labor for you
Let not a single tear, fear, pain or sorrow or sin go unattended by your sweet grace. Let your Spirit transform all my moments into monuments for you.
“I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,”
He knows that this suffering is NOT in vain. He is willing to be poured out for others, just as Christ was. He realizes and trusts that God is using his present circumstances for His kingdom, for His children
For progress and joy in God Himself.
He then states:
“Your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
The glory to God and the relationship with Jesus prospers on account of this time in his life.
The world is watching, your children are watching. Will I trust God to grant me His sufficient courage to continue fruitful labor for His purpose?
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
I want to say this is what happened with my life.
I’ve failed many times but I want to be prepared, to be determined from here on out to conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.
To make that choice and to trust God's provision of courage for me.
“ 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,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 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. 29 For it has beengranted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that and now hear that I still have.’
Paul reminds the courage-less once again to not be frightened – in any way.
That it is so powerful to NOT fear that it is a sign of destruction to your enemy and a proclamation of your salvation!!
That is a powerful reason to give courage your best.
Finally Paul sums up by saying that it has been granted, given, to you not only to believe Christ for all things but to suffer for him as well.
Now this sounds like we want an "opt out" button here- but it’s not about signing up for this suffering or that blessing.
It’s about suffering and blessing being in all lives-
Believers and unbelievers alike.
But the believer has a privileged choice.
To take suffering as a granted privilege to bear fruit for His God.
To be a vessel of hope and courage for others.
It’s a way to encourage and to love others because you are letting His sufficiency into you.
The last part I highlighted remind us that Paul is writing this while still in chains, not a year after when the memories are weaker or life has gotten back on track- but in his now- his right this second now-
While he was attending the 62 A.D. Suxfest.
It gives me hope and intent to persevere when I read and seriously study this encouraging letter.
Some days just need more than others and this helps.
I do not know what specifically you are going through but I do know the One who has granted you this season has also granted you sufficient courage for fruitful labor.
Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!”