I just finished some time this morning in Philippians. Wow. How easily we forget what our lives are about. In Philippians, Paul writes as an imprisoned man.
If I wrote from prison, I think my letter would be quite depressing. “The food here is awful…You would never believe what the people talk about…I get harassed non-stop…I’m depressed…I’m innocent and it’s not fair that I am here!” You can imagine your own letter.
However, Paul writes this amazing letter encouraging the Philippian church in his own suffering as they are also called to suffer for the gospel and the sake of Christ. His perspective in God-entranced instead of man-focused. He even says that he is glad that the prison guards are now able to hear the gospel. His heart and mind are so truth focused. Most people have looked at chapter 2 of Philippians where he talks about the humility and example of Christ, thinking of others before yourself, etc. I guess we can look at it as theory, but he lives it as reality. He is in prison thinking about the Philippian church and spurring them on to faithful lives in Christ for His gospel. When he talks in chapter 3 about counting all things as loss for the sake of Christ and for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus His Lord. He is not talking in generalities but specifics–he did not have his freedom. In chapter 4 when he says rejoice always in the Lord and do not be anxious–he was living that out in God’s power. When he says think on things that are true, excellent, praiseworthy, noble, etc, he has shown that example in the whole letter. When he says in chapter 3 that he has learned the secret of being content in all circumstances, he is living it right there in front of us. Do you think that is a life of loving God with all his heart, mind and strength? Uh, Yes! The same Spirit in Paul is in those who have repented of their sin and put their faith in Christ’s work on the cross.
Just as Paul was imprisoned to minister the gospel there, we are each in whatever season we are in to minister the gospel and give God glory where we are. We know that He is about sanctifying us (that’s His will–1 Thes 4:3), but He is also doing a work beyond us–for the body who know Him and who are to know Him. Our lives are not our own.
As I have been walking through infertility and writing about it here, my prayer is that others have seen the gospel–the power of God–an example. Not that I am bearing perfectly, but this is bigger than having a baby. Those circumstantial things are not the ends in our lives. Each thing serves as the means by which Christ is exalted. Our lives are not our own.
There are many different seasons of joy and hardship in our lives. Yours may be an impossible marriage with one who does not know Christ. There is purpose beyond yourself and your happiness in it. Yours may be wayward children, disabled children, and unfulfilling job. My friend, it is bigger than just you.
Greg, my husband, always says “how are people to know how to deal with suffering…such as sickness, death, divorce, etc, if Christians do not live that example out?” We are not immune from suffering, but He is faithful and has purpose. Is it easy? HA! NO! But how are people to know the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus if the reality of life on this earth is not lived out by those who are being transformed by Christ in hope?
The awesome thing about Philippians is Paul is in a place of suffering living out the very truth he is preaching. It is not theory–it’s fact. How gracious of God to show us examples in Paul…in Christ…in David…in Ruth…etc, etc. All but Christ were humans, but all had–“Christ in them, the Hope of Glory.” We in Christ are empowered with the Spirit to remind us of truth, to strengthen us with the power that raised Christ from the dead, to give us hope in Him instead of anxiety, to teach us to rejoice in the midst of suffering.
May we live in the reality of Christ in whatever circumstance we are in–knowing “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
*Note…in no way I am encouraging you to think that your circumstance does not count…God bears with you as a loving Father through it. However, it is not about the circumstance just going away–it is about much more. Bring your mind to reflect on His truth.