TO CHEW ON: “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
Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this. Scholars believe that he penned Philippians about ten years after the birth of the church in Philippi (the story of which contains a chapter about another imprisonment - Acts 16:12-40).
Paul wasn’t living only in an unhappy physical situation. Some negative stuff had been happening in ministry too. Rivals “… preach Christ even from envy and strife… selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains” (Philippians 1:15-16). He was upbeat about this too - Philippians 1:18.
How could Paul be so positive? Was he just being a Pollyanna, or was there substance behind his optimistic attitude?
I am reminded of a Back to the Bible talk by Dr. John Neufeld that I heard a few mornings ago. In it, Dr. Neufeld spoke about Abram as a man of faith in God versus Lot, a man of unbelief. When their herdsmen quarreled, Abram didn’t insist on his rights as the elder, family leader and the one with the manpower might to enforce his will (Genesis 14:14). Instead, based on his faith in God’s promises (Genesis 12:2,3), he let Lot choose land for his flocks.
Ephesians 1:3 contains an Abram-sized promise of blessing for us:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
When circumstances or people oppose, challenge, seemingly entrap us, we too have a choice. We can see our circumstances through Lot eyes—the eyes of unbelief, insist on our own rights, and lash out in revenge if we don’t get our way. This leads us to have an agenda and if we don’t get what we want maybe to bitterness and barrenness.
We can see our circumstances through Abram eyes—eyes of faith. We can believe that God’s hand is at work in everything that happens to us. We can trust in His promises of “every spiritual blessing” like Abram trusted God's promise of blessing when he took the inferior land that was left after Lot made his choice. That choice will lead to a life of blessing not cursing; peacemaking not quarreling; humility not pride; generosity not hoarding.
Dr. Neufeld ended his talk with a prayer. I quote it as our prayer today:
PRAYER: Dear Father God, Show us the value of the things that are eternal, the poverty of the things which are passing away. Give us eyes to see the unseen. Fill our hearts with faith to see that Your promises are the only certain things that are ours. Amen.
Access Back to the Bible Canada messages is HERE. (The message I reference and quote from was broadcast on November 15, 2016.)
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.