Are you stuck? Perhaps you feel trapped in a broken relationship or a dead-end job. Maybe you’re dealing with chronic pain, overwhelming debt, or an unhealthy habit you just can’t kick. From time to time, we all feel like our lives are dictated by our circumstances. Yet, in Paul’s surprising message to the Philippians, he lays out a new vision for our lives where we’re not slaves to our circumstances. Instead he invites us to discover the freedom of living in God’s boundless provision.
We begin a new series looking at Paul’s surprising message to the Philippians. He describes a new vision for our lives where we’re not slaves to our circumstances. Instead he invites us to discover the freedom of living in God’s boundless provision..
Craig: Welcome to Mission Hills. So honored to have you with us this weekend. It’s kind of a big weekend at Mission Hills. It’s the first weekend after Labor Day, which is when a lot of our ministries really kicks into high gear, so we’re all taking a deep breath for that. It’s Compassion Weekend. How many of you are Compassion sponsors? Awesome. We love Compassion and love being able to partner with them here and around the world. I’ve got a big announcement about Compassion that I’ll be given a little bit later in the service. We’ll be hearing a little bit more about that ministry. And, of course, last but absolutely not least, we are launching our new fall series today on the Book of Philippians called “Boundless” and what we’re doing in this series is we’re on a search for God’s secret to living bigger than our circumstances because we all face circumstances that feel like they put a lid on us, right? That hold us down and keep us back.
Maybe you know, maybe you’ve had a friend group that you’ve been investing in and all of a sudden, right when you need them most, they just kind of flake out on you. Or maybe you’re drowning in student debt. Maybe actually, maybe God’s calling you to do something maybe, something stirring in your heart. Maybe you’re thinking about going back to school and becoming a counselor or maybe going to seminary and going into vocational ministry, or maybe God’s calling you to some part of the world to be on mission with him and you just feel like, I can’t do that because I gotta work this stupid job that I’ve got to pay loans, which I…for a degree that I really wish I hadn’t gotten in the first place. And you just feel kind of trapped. Maybe that’s you.
Maybe you’re in this place where you feel like your marriage is just not what you signed up for. Maybe it’s just all boring routine or maybe it’s not boring. Maybe it’s bad and honestly just all the emotional energy that that saps out of you keeps you from doing anything else. Or maybe you’re in a place where you’re taking care of little kids or aging parents and that’s all you feel like you have the space for. We all have these circumstances that feel like that they limit us, that keep us where we are. And then really they kind of destroy our ability to be content and joyful. And interestingly, if anybody knew about circumstances that aren’t conducive to contentment, it would be the Apostle Paul. Apostle Paul had a dream. His dream was to go to the city of Rome and he believed that Rome was going to be a strategic base of operations for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the wider world. And he longs to go to Rome, he prayed to go to Rome, he believed that God was calling him to Rome. And in a lot of his letters in the New Testament, we see him talking about his desire and his work to get to Rome. And when we get to the Book of Philippians, he’s finally in Rome, but not the way he intended. He’s actually in Rome as a prisoner. He’s in Rome under house arrest. He’s in jail.
So instead of being a preacher, he’s in Rome as a prisoner, which is not what he signed up for. And it’d be very easy for him to feel like this is not what God is calling me to. This is not the circumstance I expected. This is not a place where I can be content. And yet in the Book of Philippians chapter 4, Paul actually says this amazing thing. He says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” in spite of his circumstances, he says, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” I don’t know about you, but that feels like a secret that I need to know. Anybody else? Anybody else? Yeah. So if you wanna know that secret you just need to hold on for eight weeks, we’ll get there in a couple of months.
No, actually, really, what the entire Book of Philippians does is that it unpacks the principles that allow him to have contentment in any and every situation. It’s not so much that there’s one secret, but there was a series of truths that allow him to that, but there really kind of is maybe one truth and I’ll just go ahead and give you a sneak peak right now. Here it is. The sneak peak here. Here’s the secret. The secret to having contentment in every situation is to stop looking for contentment in any situation. You hear me, church? That’s the secret. If you wanna be content in every situation you find yourself in, you have to stop looking for contentment in any situation. Because if your contentment depends on your circumstances, then your contentment can be destroyed by your circumstances.
On the other hand, if our contentment isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then it can’t be destroyed by our circumstances, but that’s not how we usually live, is it? It’s not how we use it. We usually look for contentment in the soil of our circumstances, and the problem is it just doesn’t work. It’s like trying to grow an apple tree in the cracks of the sidewalk in the city. Or you might get a little something that springs up for a little while, but it’s always gonna be small. It’s always gonna be sickly and it’s always going to be subject to being stomped on and torn out. That’s what we have to do is we have to do a contentment transplant. We have to transplant our search for contentment out of the soil of our circumstances and into something else, something very, very, very different. And that’s really what the Book of Philippians is all about.
So why don’t you just go ahead and grab your Bible, start making your way to the Book of Philippians chapter 1 where Paul begins this way. He says, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi.” In other words, he’s writing, to all the followers of Jesus in the city of Philippi. “Together with the overseers and the deacons,” that will be the church leaders there. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here’s what you need to know. The Book of Philippians is really a letter. Now, for the millennials and for the Gen Z-ers out there, a letter was a little bit like an email, but it was even longer and slower, okay? That’s what a letter was. It was written from one person to another or to a group of people. And that’s what the Book of Philippians is. It’s the letter that Paul and Timothy, Timothy is kind of Paul’s protege. They wrote to the followers of Jesus in the city of Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony in what we would call modern day Greece. Now, just so we’re on the same page, understand that this is The Paul. This is The Apostle Paul. This is The Apostle Paul that started out his career as a bounty hunter for Christians. He was hunting down Christians and killing them. And then he met Jesus on a road and he went from being a killer of Christians to one of the greatest Christian preachers of all time. One of the greatest Christian around became a follower of Jesus himself.
This is The Paul that God commissioned to spearhead the movement, the mission to take the Gospel out to the non-Jewish world, to the Gentile world. This is The Apostle Paul who planted churches all over the ancient Roman Empire. This is The Apostle Paul that God gave supernatural power so that he could confirm the truth of the Gospel he’s preaching with miracles. This is The Apostle Paul that God inspired to write about half of the books of the New Testament in the Bible. He’s kind of a big deal. But do you notice how he introduces himself here? He says, Paul and Timothy, say it with me, servants. He introduces himself as a servant. Why would he do that? And you might go, well, that’s humility. Christians are supposed to be humble, right? He’s humble. Yeah, but that’s not how he normally introduces himself.
In fact, if you look at most of his letters in the New Testament, in most of them, he does introduce himself as The Apostle. That’s not arrogant, it’s just a simple fact. An apostle is one who had been sent out on a mission, so he’s identifying himself. Nothing arrogant about it, but the fact that he does that in most of the letters means that it’s interesting that he doesn’t do it here. And what I wanna suggest to you is that the way he introduces himself here isn’t humility, it’s a contentment strategy. This is a contentment… This is one of the things that allows him to say, yeah, I know what it’s like to be content in any and every situation. And what he’s doing is he’s reminding himself as well as his audience of who he is, and that’s so important because listen, how we think about ourselves determines how we think about our circumstances. Really important principle.
How we think about ourselves determines how we think about our circumstances. Think about it. If you think you’re a really big deal and you’re in a circumstance where nobody’s treating you like a big deal, how do you feel? Not content, right? Contentment is impossible in that situation. If you think you’re somebody who deserves a lot of attention and you’re in a situation where nobody’s paying any attention to you, poof, there goes your contentment, right? If you think you’re somebody who has a lot to contribute and you’re in a situation where nobody’s asking your opinion, nobody’s asking you to contribute, all that stuff that you have to contribute, what happens to your contentment? It’s gone, right? How we think about ourselves determines how we think about our circumstances. Paul’s saying how I think about my circumstances is ultimately dictated by how I think about myself and the way I think about myself is I’m a servant, first and foremost I’m a servant.
See, if he’d said he was an apostle, if he says a preacher, then he is going to look at his circumstances where he’s on house arrest, 24/7, not allowed to preach, he’s gonna go, this is miserable. This is terrible. And contentment’s gonna go away, but he’s not doing that. He’s saying, no, no, I’m a servant first. And here’s the interesting thing about servants. Listen, when we see ourselves as servants, we can be content even when we aren’t being treated like royalty. I mean that secret alone is worth the price of admission today. I mean, I know you got in here free, but let me tell you that secret alone will change your marriage. It’ll change your parenting or your childing. I don’t know, that’s not a word, but if you’re a child it will change the way you think about your relationship with you. I mean, it’ll change so many things.
When we think of ourselves as servants, we can be content even when we’re not being treated like royalty. That’s what Paul’s doing. He’s saying, I’m a servant, and if I’m a preacher, then I have to be preaching to be content, but if I am a servant, listen, there’s all kinds of ways that I can serve and there are ways that I can serve Jesus. I can be on mission with him, regardless of the particular situation, regardless of my circumstances, even though they’re not what I was anticipating, I can still serve in a meaningful way. And you know what? That changes the way I think about this situation.
How we think about ourselves determines how we think about our circumstances. So he goes on and he says this, he says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all of my prayers for you, I always pray with joy.” And I love that. Because what Paul is saying is he is experiencing joy in spite of his circumstances. That when he’s praying, he’s actually praying with joy. There’s a sense of happiness. There’s a sense of joy, of satisfaction, a piece of the contentment. He says, I’m praying with you. I’m experiencing joy in spite of my circumstances. Why is that? Why is able to do that? Well, he goes on and he says this. He says, “Because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.” Because of your partnership in the Gospel, what does that mean? What is partnership in the Gospel? Well, basically means two things. It means that they have received the Gospel and that they’re rebroadcasting it, okay? Both of those pieces are there. To be a partner in the Gospel is to receive the Gospel personally, but also to be rebroadcasting into the world. So they’ve received the Gospel. And if you’re new to church, if you’re new to this Christianity thing, welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. Maybe you’ve heard that word Gospel. Let me give you a brief snapshot of what we mean by it. Sometimes we use it, but we don’t really explain it.
Here’s the Gospel. It means the Good News, and this is the Good News. God loves us, but we haven’t loved him back. Instead of living in obedience to God, we basically said to God, Hey, I appreciate the life and everything, but I’ll take it from here on. We’ve turned our backs on God. We’ve lived apart from God. We’ve committed sin after sin, after sin. We’ve created a barrier between us and God. So God loves us, we didn’t love him back, but God didn’t stop loving us. And in fact, God continues to love us so much that he sent his own Son, Jesus, who lived a perfect life. He went to the cross intentionally. He chose to go to the cross so that his death could pay for our sin. He died on the cross to pay for our sin. Three days later he was raised from the dead. The Father raised him from the dead to prove that he had accomplished it. He had beaten sin and its dog, death.
And this is the incredible news. This is what we call grace, is that to receive that, to be the beneficiary of that, to be forgiven and have all of our sin wiped out to begin a relationship with God, all it requires is a relationship with Jesus. And we say yes to Jesus, say, I’m gonna put my faith in you, I’m gonna trust in what you did for me, it’s not going to be my efforts, it’s not gonna be anything else. I’m just putting my faith in you. I’m saying yes to a relationship with you and we’re saved. We’re forgiven of our sins, we’re brought into a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. That’s the Good News
Well, the church is flawed, but they’ve received that. They’ve said yes to that relationship with Jesus. They’ve received it, but that’s not it. That’s not all of it. They’ve also started to rebroadcast. They’re making sure other people know the Good News of Jesus. They’re rebroadcasting. And I know that somebody’s saying what a strange word, but I did it because I realized in my house this past week that I have parts of my house that don’t have good Wi-Fi signal. And that bothers me a lot because I never know where I’m gonna be when I suddenly need to watch a YouTube video, right. My latest thing is I’m fascinated by those people who they do wood and this hard colored resin and then they turn it on lades and they make these cool bowls and vases. I know it’s weird, but it’s what I’m into right now and I never know when the mood to watch those are gonna take me and sometimes when I’m in parts of my house like I’ll start to watch one and it’s all blocky and pixelated and I hate that. So I was like, I need to get Wi-Fi spread throughout my house. And so I bought a rebroadcaster, just this little box and it went into the wall in a place where it was receiving the Wi-Fi signal. So it receives it and then it rebroadcasts it to the rest, and now I can watch videos in every part of my house and they’re crystal clear and it’s awesome. That’s actually a pretty good picture of what Paul’s talking about when he talks about their partnership and the Gospel. They’ve received the Gospel themselves, but they’re also rebroadcasting, they’re extending God’s influence in their own community and really beyond their community in the world.
One of the things that’s happened, we’ll see later in the Book of Philippians, is they’ve actually sent Paul a financial gift intended to be used to further his work of spreading the Gospel in Rome and then beyond that to the rest of the world. And so they’re rebroadcasting the Gospel. And so he says, “I’m praying with joy because you’re partners in the Gospel.” And I love that about the Church of Philippi because it means the Church of Philippi is a great model for really what every church is supposed to be. One of the things that we say here at Mission Hills is that we exist, we’re here to help people become like Jesus, that’s receiving the Gospel. That’s an inner transformation that happens when we say yes and God begins to work on us from the inside out that we’re called to help people become like Jesus, but also to help them join him on mission.
It’s two sides of the same coin. We’re here to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission because there are two sides of the same coin. You can’t follow Jesus without following him on mission. You can’t receive the Gospel and then not rebroadcast. It just doesn’t work that way. We’re called followers of Jesus. We’re not called hangers out with Jesus. We’re not called standers around with Jesus. He didn’t say, come follow me, I booked some rooms at the Marriot. He said, come follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men. Come follow me, I’m gonna send you out on mission with me to extend God’s influence into the world because there are two parts of the same thing and that’s what the Church at Philippi is doing. They’re partners in the Gospel and that gives Paul joy in spite of his circumstances.
He knows the Gospel’s going out, even if he’s not able to be spreading the Gospel himself in the way that he longs to, he knows that it’s still happening and that gives him joy. He says, “I got another reason why I’m joyful,” and that’s verse 6. He says, “because I’m confident.” He says, “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.” He says that’s why I’m praying with joy because I know that this isn’t a flash in the pan. I know that this isn’t just a fad for you. I know that this is the new normal for you. I know that you’re gonna continue to broadcast the Gospel. You’re gonna continue to be on mission with Jesus, whether it’s through me or not, you’re gonna continue to do it because how can he be confident of that, how can he know that it’s not just a momentary thing? Because he knows that what God starts, he finishes. What God starts, he finishes and he says, “I know that the work that’s happening in you and through you didn’t come because of your effort. It came because God began this work and what God starts he finishes.”
The Bible says that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t die for us because we did the best that we could and then we went, God, I can’t make it the rest of the way. I don’t know what else to do. He’s like, okay, I’ll finish it for you. That’s not what happened. He came for us while we were walking away, while we were running away, while we were living in rebellion, he came for us. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still sinners, the Holy Spirit began to stir in our hearts and to give us a longing for our Creator. While we were still sinners, Jesus said, I’ve already done the work. All you have to do is say yes to a relationship.
God began that working. All we did was say yes. And what God starts he finishes. God doesn’t give up. He doesn’t Peter out. His work doesn’t just kind of go away. And so yes, if you’re wondering and if you know these kinds of terms, then what I believe that this verse and others in the Bible teach is what we call eternal security. That salvation is not something we have to worry about losing because it’s not based on our work. It’s based on his. And yes, we’re gonna backslide and we’re gonna struggle and we’re gonna have these periods, even maybe periods where we struggle with our faith itself. But what God starts, he finishes. And so Paul knows that this is the new normal for them. This isn’t a momentary thing. And so he says, I’m praying with joy because you’re partners in the Gospel and I know that what God has begun in you and through you is gonna continue. And so he says, I pray with joy.
Now, some people might go, well that seems inappropriate, Paul. You’re not paying attention to your circumstances now because your circumstances aren’t conducive to joy. And I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced anybody pushing back on you like that. Maybe you’ve had this experience where, yeah, your circumstances aren’t great. There’s issues that are not going well and yet you don’t seem to be as sad as other people think you should be. Anybody? But there’s still something in you that says, yeah, but you know what? God is good and he’s at work in me, and even in this circumstance, I can still serve him. And maybe you’ve had that experience of going, Huh, I can be a little bit joyful, maybe even a little bit content in spite of my circle and other people like you’ve got to stop that. What are you stupid? Did you not…Maybe there’s something wrong with it and you don’t understand how bad things are. It’s inappropriate for you to be joyful right now.
And I wonder if maybe Paul is wondering about that because look what he says in the next verse. He says, verse 7, “It is right for me to feel this way.” Basically, sit down, shut up. It’s okay for me to feel joyful, it is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart, whether I’m in chains or defending and confirming the Gospel, whether I’m a prisoner or a preacher, all of you share in God’s grace with me. We’re in this together. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus, and did you notice all of the “all of yous” there? There is a lot of them, right? See, Paul’s not looking at his circumstances, he’s looking at his relationships, right? He’s not looking at his situation, he’s looking at his partners in ministry and that’s where the joy is coming from. And I think this is so, so, so important that we understand. Listen, the quality of our relationships determines the power of our circumstances. So important we understand this.
The quality of our relationships determines the power of our circumstances. We all know this because we’ve all been in these places where we’ve got bad circumstances, but we’ve got high-quality relationships that take the sting out of the circumstances. They make the situation better because we have good relationships. Maybe you’ve had the other experience that you’ve got good circumstances but bad relationships, which takes the joy, takes the good power out of the circumstances. And God forbid that you be in bad circumstances with bad relationships because that’s hell. It just makes it worse and worse and worse and worse. The quality of our relationships determines the power of our circumstances. I saw this recently in my own family.
My oldest daughter, Rochelle is in kind of a difficult place. She had to break off a relationship recently that just… It was a very special relationship, it was a serious one. We thought it was going a particular direction and then through a lot of tears and prayer and dealing with some difficult circumstances that have happened, she came to conclusions that I need to bring this to an end, but it’s a really hard thing. And so she’s sad and we’re all kind of grieving through that with her. And we came home the other day and there was a Christmas tree in my living room and it had lights on it. And the lights wound around the tree and then down the stairs to her room and there were Christmas presents around it and there was a sign that said, “No matter how bad things get, a little Christmas cheer always makes it better.” And that was my youngest daughter, Lynae and she’d actually bought presents. She’d gone to the grocery store and she bought like things that Rochelle likes to eat. So like Sour Patch Kids and a whole lot of macaroni and cheese. And we had this Christmas moment. And you know what? It was good and it didn’t fix everything, but it absolutely made things better. There was a moment of joy, there was a moment of happiness, there was a moment of peace, even in the midst of some really difficult circumstances.
And I’m really proud of the way that my youngest daughter loved Rochelle, but I have a little bit of a criticism. She didn’t do the sign right. She didn’t. She said a little bit of Christmas cheer makes everything better, but that’s not what was happening. The sign should have said, “No matter how bad things get, good relationships makes things better.” I think people that love you well make things better. That’s what she should have said because that was the truth of what was happening there.
The quality of our relationships determines the power of our circumstances. And Paul has these incredible high-quality relationships with the Church of Philippi and they’re transforming his experience of his circumstances. And you might go, okay, how do you get those? How do you get those quality relationships because I don’t know that I have any of those kinds of relationships? Here’s what I’ve come to understand. This is so important to understand. The highest quality relationships come from being on mission together. The highest quality relationships come from being on mission together. There’s a reason why people who go off and they fight side by side with others in battles end up forming bonds and relationships that are incredibly deep and powerful in a way that most of us can’t even fully understand. It’s because they’ve been on mission together.
Our culture seems to think that the best relationships come from looking at each other face to face and going deep. No, no. The best relationships don’t come from face to face. The best relationships come from living side by side on mission together. I’ll tell you what, I would put my marriage up against any marriage on the planet in terms of satisfaction, peace and significance and strength, and that’s not because I have a perfect marriage. I’m really hard to live with, okay? So is my wife. We’re not perfect people. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but our marriage is a profound source of strength and encouragement. It is a source of contentment in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances. Why? Because we’ve been on mission together for coming up on 26 years. Our marriage has always been about being on mission, extending God’s influence in the world together. Our kids are part of that because we’ve chosen to raise our kids to be on mission.
I got a confession for you. This might seem like a strange thing to hear, but I’m gonna be honest with you. I have no interest in raising my kids to be responsible adults. I have no interest in that. I’m raising my kids to be world changers, to be on mission with Jesus in whatever way, whatever unique way God equips them and calls them to be. That’s what we’re looking to do. We’re raising them to be on mission and we’re doing it as a family. We all have our own ways of doing it. We’re doing it together and that changes the quality of the relations that we have and that changes the power of the circumstances that we face. The highest quality relationships come from being on mission. Again, if feel like you don’t have the kind of relationships that can do that for you, then maybe what you need to start thinking about doing is figure how to start living more on mission alongside others and you will find that those relationships come naturally.
Paul says, I have joy and it’s right for me because of my joy. And then he says this, he says, “And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” So he’s already told us how he’s praying, he’s praying with joy. And he’s told us why he’s praying, he’s praying with joy because of their partnership in the Gospel because they’re living on mission and he’s praying because he’s confident that it’s the new normal for them, that what God’s begun in them will be carried on to the day that Jesus returns and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And now he tells us what he’s praying. And what is he praying? He’s praying for their love, that their love for God, their love for him. He’s praying that their love would about more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.
And what you need to understand is he’s not talking about information, he’s talking about wisdom. He’s not talking about knowing things. He’s talking about the ability to make good decisions. Even the word that he uses for knowledge is not the normal Greek word for knowledge. The normal Greek word for knowledge is “gnosis.” This word is “epignosis.” It literally is “upon knowledge” and what that means is he’s praying for them to have knowledge that they can build wise choices on. It’s not about information, it’s about wisdom, about making the right decisions.
Notice this is what he says next. He says, “So that you may be able to discern what is best.” Best to do. Best to do for what? And the answer is to extend God’s influence in the world, to advance the Gospel. And I wonder if what he might be thinking at this point is, hey, I really appreciate the gift that you’ve sent to further the Gospel through the ministry that God’s called me to, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best thing for you to keep doing. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be in prison. I don’t know how long my circumstances are gonna be such as they are right now. I’m not sure that’s the best thing. I appreciate it, it’s awesome, but maybe it’d be better for you to make those kinds of gifts somewhere else. I don’t know. So I’m praying for God to give you wisdom to discern what is best to advance the Gospel.
Maybe he means something like that or maybe he means just the best, most effective ways to advance the Gospel in your community and around the world. But he’s praying for wisdom to do what is best and he says he’s praying for wisdom that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, that you may be pure and blameless. He’s praying for wisdom so that they can be pure and blameless and when Jesus comes back, he’s gonna be able to find them pure and blameless. And you might go, wait a minute. Why does being pure and blameless involve wisdom? Isn’t wisdom really just about knowledge? I mean, isn’t being pure and blameless about knowing the right things to do and the wrong things to not do? Isn’t that really just about information? No, not at all. So many of our decisions that either lead to sin or a way into purity and blamelessness, they’re based and rooted in wisdom, not just information.
How many of you have ever done anything wrong? Online, go ahead, just admit it right there in the comments. How many of you knew it was wrong when you did it? Um hum. Yeah. Information’s not always what’s needed. And often this is an interesting thing, often, the line that separates us from sin and from righteousness isn’t information about what is sin and what is righteous. It’s wisdom about putting ourselves in situations where we can do what is right and avoid what is wrong. Because the reality is a lack of wisdom often puts us in situations where we do the wrong things we didn’t even wanna do that we knew were wrong, but it was so hard to resist in that moment. I mean, as a very simple example, if you struggle with alcohol, then taking one drink might be sin for you. And you might know that and yet you continually put yourselves in situations where it’s hard to resist that and so you find yourself committing that sin, not because you didn’t think it was wrong, but because you didn’t practice wisdom in the steps leading up to that moment.
And so wisdom might say that you have to go, you know what? I’m gonna find a new way home. I’m gonna take a route home that doesn’t take me past that one bar where I spent so much of my time. And so wisdom says if I’m gonna avoid that, if I wanna be pure and blameless, I have to make decisions beforehand that keep me out. And so Paul says that, he says, hey, the dividing line between sin and righteousness isn’t always information. It’s about wisdom. So he says, “I want you to be wise.” And so he prays for wisdom. But it’s interesting even as he prays for the wisdom that they could live pure and blameless lives, he ends up bringing it back to mission again. He says, ultimately, I want you to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled or being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and the praise of God.
He says, I want you to be filled. And he doesn’t say, I want you to be filled with righteousness. He says, I want you to be filled with what? Fruit of righteousness, that’s the result of he’s not looking for righteousness as the end. He’s looking for righteousness as the means to the end, which is the fruit of right. Well, what is the fruit of righteousness? Well, he says it at the end of the sentence, is that which brings glory and praise to God. That’s the fruit of righteousness, that we can live lives that bring glory and praise to God, that we can live lives that allow us to extend the influence of God into every area of the world that God has given us influence. That’s mission. He’s back to mission again. He says, “I want you to be pure and blameless so that you can be on mission extending God’s influence in advancing the Gospel.”
Listen, I know this is gonna sound like a very strange thing for a preacher to say, but just stick with me for a second. Let me tell you a truth. God didn’t make you to be righteous. You were not made to be righteous. God made you to be on mission, which requires righteousness. There’s an important difference there. God didn’t make us to be righteous. If He just wanted us to be righteous, he could’ve done it without giving us free will, right? He could have made us just nice and shiny and pretty, and then put us in a display case and gone, “Look at them. So righteous.” No, no, no. He didn’t make us to be righteous. He made us to be on mission with him.
I mean, that’s what we see all the way back on the first page of the Book of Genesis, all throughout the scripture, we were made as the image of God. We were made to represent God, to extend God’s influence throughout creation. Our lack of righteousness makes that mission impossible, but our continual growth in righteousness allows us to engage more and more in that mission which brings God glory and praise. We were not made to be righteous. We were made to be on mission, which requires righteousness. Very, very important difference.
And so he says, I’m praying that you would have the wisdom to know what is best, how best to be on mission with Jesus, and that you would have the wisdom to be pure and blameless so that you can be filled with the fruit that comes from that righteousness, which is to the praise and to the glory of God, that’s mission. And you might be thinking, hang on a second. I thought this message series was about me, right? Isn’t that what you said? You said you’re gonna teach us the secret to being content in each and every. That’s about me. Now you’re making it all about God. You preachers do this all the time. You’re kind of sneaking in a, you know, this is gonna help you, it’s gonna make your life better, but then it’s all about Jesus. It’s all about God, right?
Listen to me. They’re the same thing. They’re the same, our good and God’s glory, they’re the same thing. And here’s the truth that you gotta get a handle on. We experience our greatest good on mission for God’s glory. Do you hear me, church? If you want to be content in any and every situation, it’s only gonna be because you have learned to live on mission in any and every situation. We experience our greatest good, our greatest peace, our greatest contentment on mission for God’s glory. That’s what Paul’s getting at here. It’s not just about Jesus because it has this boomerang. In fact, when we were living on mission with Jesus, it ends up being for our good and that’s one of the secrets that Paul knows, that allows him to say, I can be content in any and every situation because the situation is not where I’m searching for contentment. Our greatest good is experienced on mission for God’s glory.
We’re gonna continue to unpack that for the next several weeks. Before we go any further, I wanna ask an important question to everybody and the question is this, I want you to ask yourself this, do I have a relationship with God that produces righteousness or am I hoping that my righteousness will produce a relationship with God? It’s a very subtle, it’s not subtle, it’s a sneaky difference and we often get it wrong, but I want you to notice what Paul says. He says, “I want you to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” Righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ and what he’s speaking there is the Gospel message we talked about a little earlier. It’s this idea that the righteousness that we can have doesn’t come from trying harder. It doesn’t come from our work. It comes from our relationship with Jesus. That when we say yes to Jesus, he forgives our sin, he puts the Holy Spirit in us and he begins to build in us a righteousness that we could never have accomplished on our own. That is a relationship that leads to righteousness, which leads to fruit, which leads to contentment. But it begins with a relationship and so many people, even people who spend a lot of time in church, seem to have this idea that just by being in church, just by trying to do the right thing, just by trying to be a good person, that’s the secret. It’s not because it’s never gonna happen, it’s never gonna work.
And so my question to you is, do you have a relationship with Jesus that is leading to this righteousness, which is leading to fruit, which is leading to contentment? Or are you trying to be righteous, hoping that God will love you, hoping that God will accept you, hoping that God will have a relationship with you? Because if that’s the way you’re doing it, it’s not gonna work. And I wanna give you the opportunity to change that right now. If you’re listening to this and you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did for you, I wanna give you the opportunity to say yes to that relationship right now. Let’s get everybody to close their eyes and bow their heads. Wherever you are, including online, you just, if that’s you and you know you don’t have that relationship, you can have it right now. You just say this to God in your own heart.
Say, “God, I have done wrong. I have not been righteous and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for paying off my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. Right here, right now, I’m accepting your sacrifice for me. I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen. We’ve already had several people make that decision this week and I’m sure a number of you did right now. Can we just welcome all those into the family of God, who’ve made that decision? That’s awesome. If that’s you, what I want you to do is I want you to text the word “Jesus” to 888111. You’re gonna get back a length that’s gonna tell you five things that are true about you now that you’ve begun that relationship. We’re gonna get you some resources into your hand and begin walking out that relationship in life now and leading to mission and lead into contentment.
But maybe you already have that relationship and you’re going, okay, so what about me, where do I go from here? How do I begin walking this road that Paul talks about leads to contentment in every situation? Here is what I wanna ask you to ask yourself, what steps can I take this week to move forward in a life of mission? Because that’s the key. It’s the life of mission. That’s where our best relationships come from. That’s where contentment ultimately comes from. So what steps can I take this week to begin moving forward in a life of mission? Let me give you three things you might consider doing this week. Number one is you might consider texting the word “Boundless” to 888111. Yes, we use texting a lot here. It works. If you text the word “Boundless” to 888111 you’re gonna get back a link that’s gonna allow you to opt-in to a list that’s gonna get you once a week for the next month and a half, two months and a half or so as we’re doing this series. Once a week, you’re gonna get an email that is going to basically say, or a text or different ways you can do it. Here’s some challenges, very practical challenges to live on mission in response to the truth we’ve heard from God’s word this week, some very practical challenges that you might consider doing. And so that’s a great way to take a step forward in living on mission.
You might also consider signing up to live on mission and we have a “Live on Mission” thing coming up in a few weeks where we’re gonna send all kinds of people out to be on mission together and teams throughout the South Denver area. We’re gonna advance the Gospel and the influence of God in a lot of different places that people need some help practically. And so I’ve got all kinds of teams going out to do all kinds of work. And if you haven’t signed up yet, you can do that in the lobby at the Littleton Center or of course, you can do it online as well. So sign up for “Live on Mission”.
And third option is, it’s Compassion Weekend. And maybe one of the things that you could do to live on mission is to begin sponsoring a child, one of the most powerful and yet practical ways to live on mission and to move forward in a life of mission that you could possibly do. And to tell us a little bit more about that, I’m gonna ask Danny to join me out here.
Danny: As you guys came in, you probably saw the big tent out there, the Compassion Experience. I’d really encourage you to go out there. You can put on some headphones and you walk through and it shows you what it’s like to be a kid in a third world country as we talked about earlier. And maybe you saw the packets as well as you come in, a kid you could sponsor. Maybe you are a sponsor with Compassion and have done that for years. Maybe you’ve just heard about Compassion, who’s based in Colorado Springs. Been around for more than 50 years. There was almost 2 million kids that had been sponsored to the ministry of Compassion International. And for $38 a month when he sponsored a kid, he gives them food, clothing, medical attention, all of those things which are desperate needs for these kids, but Compassion exists first and foremost to tell these kids about Jesus.
That’s what they do. They’re an evangelistic organization. They tell kids about Jesus, a fantastic, fantastic organization. And I know it’s always scary. Who do you trust with your hard-earned money and child sponsorship kind of thing? Well, Compassion is the leading, leading child sponsorship organization for Holistic Child Development in the world. For the last 17 years in a row, they had been given the highest rating from Charity Navigator, which is a watchdog that watches all nonprofits for transparency and effectiveness. Simply put, Compassion does what they say they’re gonna do. They take care of these kids and they point them to Jesus.
That’s all the nuts and bolts of Compassion. You can sponsor a kid but let me take you just a little bit deeper and share the story of Diana. This past May, Craig and I, his wife Coletta and my daughter Maggie, who’s 13, had the incredible privilege to go down to Peru to see what Compassion was doing down in that region. And it was just a real treat for me as a dad. I’ve tried to take different kids or all three of our kids on missions trips about when they turned that age just so they could have a different perspective on the world. So we’re down in Peru and after a couple of days, we get on the bus, we head to this project and it was hot and sweaty and dusty. It wasn’t the jungles, it was the kind of desert area. And we pull up to this project and we get out and here are kids just kinda lining the walkway and they have banners and they’re singing to us. And it was so humbling but so incredible as we walked up to see all these kids. And we go in and they have songs and little performances they had for us. But Maggie and I were really excited because our family had decided to sponsor a child while we were there because we wanted the opportunity to meet this little girl.
So we sponsored Diana and right around lunchtime, the Compassion workers brought her over to us. It was her brother and her mom and little Diana. And you never know when you meet these kids if they’re gonna be shy or how they’re gonna respond. So you kind of just, hey, how are you? Diana was a firecracker on the 4th of July. She had energy, effervescence. She was dramatic. She was excitable. She was so much fun. And just from the moment we met her, you can see in this next picture, she was not afraid of the camera at all. She looks like she’d been doing this for a long time and we gave her stickers and of course, why not put one right in the middle of your forehead? That’s what you do with stickers.
So we were able to hang out with Diana and we got to go to some of the homes and on the project and see where these people live. And to see my daughter Maggie on these dirt floors with chickens running around and mice on the…running around the floor playing with these kids was really moving to me. But at lunchtime, Diana who it has wrapped around her little finger by this point, she asked if she could sing a song for us. And we’re like, “Yes, we would love to hear your song, Diana.” So she started into this song and I heard my phone going and something happened 20 seconds into the song. Watch us with this.
We didn’t know it was happening. So took a breath, put my phone down. We asked the interpreter what’s going on in her little heart in her head. And the interpreter told us that her father had recently left the home, just disappeared, leaving the mom with two kids and not much work. And so this little girl was so excited she was meeting these sponsors. It was her special day, she was blowing bubbles, she had stickers. There was so much excitement in her. And so she wanted to sing this song about God’s love and the Father’s love is what she was singing about. And I think it hit her in the middle of that song that her father had left. And she didn’t know what to do with all the turmoil in her mind.
And it hit me that moment is why we sponsor kids. That moment right there, we can’t replace her father, we can’t have any way to replace what her father does, but we can introduce her to a heavenly Father that knows her and who loves her and has a future for her. We can provide for medical and clothing and schooling. We can do that and we can point them to a God who will never leave them, never forsake them. And when you sponsor a kid, you’re not just providing those essentials. You are telling them that you are important, we see you, we love you. You’re not changing just the life of that kid, you’re changing the trajectory of a family.
So my hope for you is that after this service, you go out there, there’s packets just like this on tables all over there. If there’s a line, wait, it’s worth it. This is a Yefferson spelled with a Y, Yefferson, born August 30th, 2016. Maybe it’s Yeorge Yefferson, he could be moving on up if you sponsor this kid, That’s just horrible. And that’s a reference that nobody under 40 will understand whatsoever. So if you wanna move Yefferson on up, he’ll be sitting right here. But you can fill out a packet and begin sponsoring a kid today and begin changing the life of that kid. We love Compassion and Craig has a pretty cool announcement he’ll share with you.
Craig: One of the things we love about Compassion and the reason we have such a longterm partnership with them is Compassion is two things. Number one, they’re committed to releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. It is a deeply gospel-centered movement. But also they’re committed to working through the local church. And one of the things that we saw when we were there in May is that what happens is Compassion has all these places where they go, we could make a difference here. We could bring the child sponsorship program into here. We could radically transform the lives of all the kids in this community. But there’s no church there and Compassion only works through the local church. And so what Compassion did about 10 years ago was they started a church planting project where they work with local churches and local church planning organizations to acquire land to train up the pastor. And then they partnered with American churches to get that building built. And so from the day that the church opens, they’re able to sponsor up to 200 kids through the child…the Compassion Sponsorship Program as well as have worship services and be reaching that community with the Gospel.
And it was an incredible, incredible thing. They’ve been doing it for over 10 years. They have over 230 church plants that they’ve done and they have 100% success rate with those church plants, which is unheard of in the church planting world. And it’s because when they opened the church doors, they’re already indispensable to the community. And people are going, I don’t know what I think about Jesus, but his people are incredible. Maybe we should pay attention to this Gospel thing. And God’s using it in incredibly powerful ways. And so, you know, one of the things Compassion told us was, yeah, we have some of these areas in Peru that we can totally reach kids but we can’t right now because we don’t have a church and we went, what would it take to get a church there? And they told us and we went, ”Oh, we’re doing that.”
And so we’re actually gonna be launching a church plant through Compassion International in the next few months here early in 2020. So when you go out there, one of the things you’re gonna notice is that all of these packets have the word “Peru” there. That’s because all of these kids are coming from these communities where we are looking at the possibility of doing a church plant. And so here’s what’s gonna happen. Not only are we going to be able to launch a church plant and get a whole bunch of more kids into that program there, but it’s gonna be in an area where we’re going to have a partner church. So we’re gonna be able to do short term trips to work with that church and you’ll be able to visit your sponsor kid. How cool is that? Is that cool?
And I realize some of you are thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah, but, now I’m supposed to get out of my checkbook, right? No, we’re actually not taking an offering for this. Because of your generosity already up to this point, we have the finances to build that church for them. And so we don’t need to do anymore. You’ve already made that possible by your generosity. But if you want the chance to go down and to work with that partner church and maybe meet your sponsor kid, which was an incredible experience, go out there and sponsor a kid. Great and powerful and practical way to take a step forward in a life on mission this weekend.
Many of us are in circumstances that aren’t exactly ideal, but what if instead of focusing simply on getting out of them, we changed our attitudes into one leveraging those experiences? Let’s look at opening ourselves up to God using our life to expand his impact in our immediate communities; consider changing your perspective to realign your mission.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hill. So glad to have you here this weekend. Before we get into our content for today, I want to do a little bit of a celebration from something that happened last weekend. Last weekend was Compassion Weekend. We have a long-term partnership with Compassion International who are releasing kids from poverty in Jesus’ name through a child sponsorship program. We gave you the opportunity to be on mission with Jesus by sponsoring a child. And now last weekend you guys stepped it up. We ended up sponsoring 444 kids last weekend. That’s so awesome.
Compassion works through…Compassion Centers are always attached to a local church, and a typical Compassion Center can handle 200 kids, which basically means we sponsored more than two full Compassion Centers, which is just an unbelievable thing. And honestly, even if you’re not in a position to be on mission with Jesus by sponsoring a child, I want to thank you for being on mission with Jesus and your finances in general, because we said last weekend we’re actually going to be taking our partnership with Compassion up a notch. We’re going to be working with Compassion to sponsor a whole new church plant with the Compassion Center in Peru, and we were able to do that without taking a special offering because you have been so generous with your finances. We had the money available to do that without doing any additional fundraising. And so whether you’re sponsoring a child or just being on mission with your money, thank you for being on mission with Jesus in this way. It’s just an incredible, incredible thing. Yeah, celebrate that. Awesome.
Here’s the really incredible thing is that so many people at Mission Hill, I’m so proud of our church, are taking steps to live on mission, whether that’s through sponsoring a child or through the way that they handle their finances or maybe the decisions you’re making to advance the Gospel at your workplace or in your marriage to extend God’s influence in your community around the world. The incredible thing is that you’re not just doing good for others, you’re also doing good for yourself. Because what we discovered last week is we began our series in the Book of Philippians is this really important truth that we experience our greatest good on mission for God’s glory. And so when we’re living on mission with Jesus, we’re also setting ourselves up to experience the best life that God has for us. And that’s a really foundational truth to understanding the Book of Philippians in general, especially this one big secret that Paul is ultimately going to give us.
In the Book of Philippians, we started talking about it last week, in Philippians 4:12, Paul says, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” And we said that’s probably a secret we all need to know because we face situations and circumstances that don’t seem like they’re conducive to contentment, but he says, “I know the secret to make content in any and every situation.” And honestly, what we learned last week is the beginning of our journey towards that. It’s that we experience our greatest good in mission for God’s glory, but we’re going to learn today another important lesson that leads us towards understanding that secret, and we might talk about this lesson this way. We would say that contentment depends a lot on priorities. Contentment depends a lot on priorities. Think about it. If your priority is climbing the corporate ladder, the moment you don’t get that promotion, there goes your contentment, right? On the other hand, if your priority is honoring God by doing the best job possible, whatever job that happens to be and being on mission with God in that way, then the lack of a particular promotion doesn’t destroy your contentment. That’s not a contentment killer. It’s about priorities. If your priority is to get married and have kids, being single is a contentment killer, struggling with infertility is a contentment killer. On the other hand, if your priority is to extend God’s influence and to honor God by making the most of all the free time that you happen to have at any given stage in your life, well, then you might look at being single, not necessarily as an obstacle to contentment, but as an opportunity to honor God with some free time you wouldn’t have otherwise. Spouses take a lot of time. They do. And we’re not even talking about kids, I am a father of two girls, I can tell you they are time-suckers, right? And energy-suckers and it’s wonderful and there’s no reason why you can’t still want to be married as a single person. There’s no reason why you can’t still long to have kids if you’re struggling with infertility. But if your priority is being married and having kids, then not having those things is going to be a contentment killer.
But if your priority is something else, it may be that you can find redemptive moments even in the midst of those circumstances that aren’t ideal for you. It’s about priorities. If your priority is making straight A’s, when you finally encounter that one class or that one teacher that you just can’t seem to connect with or whatever, then that first B or maybe the first C you’ve ever gotten or the first D, that’s a contentment killer. But if your priority is to honor God by doing the best that you can and to prepare as best as you’re able for whatever career God leads you into, then the difficult class or the difficult teacher doesn’t have to be a contentment killer. It has a lot to do with priorities. Contentment has a lot to do with priorities. The problem is that the world tells us a lot of things that are supposed to be our priorities, right? And so does the Church. Let’s be honest, it’s not just the world, the churches, this is important. The world says that’s important. Sometimes they’re in opposition each other, but sometimes they line up, but it’s just an overwhelming variety of things that we’re being told. This is important. This is a priority. You’ve got to focus on this and this and this. And so, so how do we ultimately choose the priorities that allow us to live in contentment in any and every situation? What’s the lens that we use for determining what priorities really are in fact priorities? Well, that’s what we’re going to look into today.
Let’s go ahead and grab a Bible. Start making your way to the Book of Philippians chapter 1. And we’ll pick up where we left off last week in verse 12 where Paul says this, he says, “Now I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel.” He says, “I want you to know that what has happened to me.” Well, what has happened to him? He’s in prison. He’s in prison in Rome at this point. As we said last week, Paul had a dream to go to Rome. He wanted to go to Rome as a preacher and spread the Gospel and then use Rome as a base of operations to take the Gospel even further out into the world, and he wanted that. And now he’s actually in Rome, but he’s not in Rome as a preacher, he’s in Rome as a prisoner. He had been arrested for his preaching. He’s been put on house arrest. He’s being guarded 24/7. He’s under lock and key. That’s what’s happened to him. And that could easily create discontentment. If his priority was his plan, then that circumstance that was getting in the way of his plan and his priority could have easily destroyed his contentment. But you notice what he says?
He says, “I want you to know brothers and sisters,” followers of Jesus, “that what has happened to me has actually…” By the way, have you ever known anybody who used the word actually too much? It’s kind of annoying, right? You’re like, “Well, I’m going to go to the gym because I want to be healthier.” “Well, actually there’s a lot of germs at the gym and there’s studies that showed that a lot of people working out at the gym actually get more colds and flus and things like that.” So I don’t know if it was all that healthy, actually.” Jeez, come on man. I’m going to eat more apples because they’re healthy, well, actually. You know, the seeds of apples, they have cyanide in them. I did not need to know that, right? And we hear these people, they’re actually… And it’s a little bit annoying. And it’s especially annoying when somebody is finding a good thing in the midst of something that you really want to complain about. Like those people are the worst, aren’t they? You’re like, “Look what happened. Isn’t this awful?” Like commiserate with me. And they’re like, “Well, actually there’s an opportunity there.” You just sit down and shut up. Right?
Paul might be that guy, right? He’s got all kinds of reason to complain. What’s happened to me is a bad thing and then he says, “But actually, actually it’s served to advance the Gospel.” And what he’s modeling for us here is such an important principle. What he’s modeling for us is that when our mission is the priority, it changes our perspective on our circumstances. When our mission is our priority, it changes our perspective on our circumstances. When we’re living on mission with Jesus, we’re looking at our circumstances very differently. And the perspective that we’re looking for reveals opportunities where there might have previously been obstacles. Right?
When our mission is our priority, it changes our perspective and our circumstances. Look what he says. He says, “As a result of my imprisonment, as a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” That’s what’s happened and that’s a good thing. See, the Roman guard that was keeping Paul under lock and key that they were holding you captive, they didn’t necessarily know why he was being held captive. He was there under house arrest awaiting a trial, but they didn’t know what the trial was for. I mean, for all they knew he could have been a murderer. For all they knew he could have been a traitor in some way. And so they didn’t necessarily know. They only knew that their job was to make sure he was still there when the trial came. Right?
But Paul has made mission his priority not his plan, but his mission, that’s his priority. And so he’s looking at his circumstances a little bit differently, and at some point something occurs to him. He goes, “Huh, you know what’s interesting? For them to hold me captive, that means they’re giving me a captive audience. Because the same guards that are making sure I can’t leave, can’t leave either. They are not allowed. Like I’m literally being given a captive audience. I’m going to preach.” And so he started telling a story. He started explaining who Jesus was and about the death and the resurrection of Jesus and about what God was doing around the world. And the fact that it is his preaching that had brought him ultimately to Rome because Rome wanted to know more about this Gospel business and what it meant, he had a captive audience.
By the way, this is why I love to share the Gospel on airplanes. I always make sure I get the aisle seat, because where are they going to go, right? Well, Paul’s taken that to a totally another level. He’s like, “You’re here for eight hours, let’s talk.” And when the shift changed and a new set of guards came in he’s like, “Fresh meat.” I’m going to tell you my story. You’re going to…” And so what he says is, what’s happened is the whole palace guard now knows exactly why I’m here. There’s no confusion. There’s no mistaking it. Right? They understand that it’s here because of his faith in Jesus and he says it’s going beyond that. He says everyone else, probably meaning the entire palace itself, they all now know. The Gospel hasn’t been stopped by Paul’s imprisonment. It’s actually been advanced. That’s an amazing, amazing thing.
And it really challenges me because that’s not how I typically think about my difficult circumstances. When I look at difficult circumstances, you know what my main thought is? How fast can I get out of them? Anybody else? We’ll be honest with each other. Yeah. When I pray and I’m in the midst of difficult circumstances, my default prayer’s, “God, would you bring them to an end? Would you figure out how I can leave this?” And I find what Paul says through this new perspective and a circumstance to be very challenging, and I find myself asking a another question. And maybe it’s a question you could ask yourself, which is this. What could happen if I started asking how to leverage my circumstances instead of how to leave them?
That’s what Paul’s done, right? What could God do, if instead of asking how to leave my circumstances, I started asking how to leverage them? It’s not what we naturally do, but how much power’s there in that. And I’ve shared with my daughter’s permission over the last year or so that my youngest daughter, Lynae, she’s got some chronic pain in her abdomen and we’ve gone down all kinds of routes and we can’t really figure it out and it’s a little bit better, but she still has periods and we’re keeping on it, you know, and I’m praying every day and we were talking to her the other day about another possible like route to maybe get a diagnosis. And she said the most amazing thing to me, she goes, “Here’s the thing, like God’s teaching me some stuff in the midst of this that I think I might need to know later in life. And so yeah, I’d like to be healed, but I’m not anxious to end this because I can see what God’s doing and I want to make sure that I’ve learned it all first.” And I was like, “Shut up.” Oh, like what an incredibly humbling thing to have your 16-year old daughter say. And again, it’s not that she doesn’t want to be set free from that pain, but she wants to make sure that she leverages it and everything that God’s doing in it to its maximum before she leaves it. And that, boy, that’s a powerful statement. And it’s ultimately what Paul models here.
So maybe you think about your difficult circumstance and you ask yourself, what could happen here if I started asking how to leverage my circumstance instead of how to leave it? But that’s hard. It’s hard to trust God to do good through the circumstance instead of just getting out of. But this might be an encouragement. Check out what happened beyond even the palace guard and the rest of the palace understanding. He says this, verse 14, “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and they dare all the more to proclaim the Gospel without fear.” He says, “Because of my imprisonment, the other followers of Jesus in Rome are now proclaiming the Gospel. They’re advancing the Gospel. They’re extending God’s influence more frequently and more fearlessly, because of my chains.” That’s what God has done. That’s an incredible statement. Now you might go, how does that work? Right? Because that’s kind of a weird deal, right? If a really prominent preacher suddenly gets thrown in jail for his faith, I’m not sure that that would make me more bold.
How does that work? Well, a couple of years ago I was speaking at a men’s conference in Michigan. It was hands down the most difficult speaking engagement of my life. Not because the audience was difficult or because it wasn’t organized well or anything. It was the most difficult speaking experience because I had to follow two other speakers who had these ridiculous stories of following Jesus in difficult circumstances. The first guy, the first guy got up there and the immediate thing that you notice when he walked out on stage was he was missing his legs below his knees. He had prosthetic legs below his knees. And he told this ridiculous story about how it happened. Like it was a tractor trailer and some other, like a side of a building or something and it slid in. He was 16 and it cut off his legs below the knees and he talked about the rehabilitation process. It was a grueling story. But here’s the interesting thing. This guy earned, not was gifted but earned a qualifying spot in the Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. He swam two miles without legs. If I had to swim two miles, I would not be here anymore. He biked a hundred miles. He ran a marathon all without legs and he used all of that. And the pain of it and all of it. He uses a platform to speak about his faith in Jesus and that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength.
And I remember thinking, I am so glad I don’t have to follow that guy. And then the second guy got up. He was in the mob. He got caught. He went to jail. He started following Jesus in jail. He started preaching the Gospel to his fellow mobsters in jail, which really irritated his mob bosses out of jail. So they sent news through some interesting characters. “Hey, knock it off.” He did not knock it off. He eventually was released from prison and he continued to tell his story and point people to Jesus and they continued to send him death threats. He traveled with these two massive bodyguards. And I remember thinking, I am so glad that I don’t have to follow that guy. Oh no, I have to follow that guy. And so I had to get up after these stories and be like, okay, let’s turn to Philippians 1. But the interesting thing the happened is listening to their stories really changed my perspective on my circumstances. Because I was facing some things that I thought were kind of difficult. They made it a little more challenging to follow Jesus and then I heard their stories and I was like, “I do not have a lot of big obstacles. They have obstacles.” And it changed the way that I thought about my obstacles and my circumstances, right? And honestly, it made me a little bit bolder. That’s what’s happening in Rome. Followers of Jesus are going, “Well if Paul can continue following Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel and extending God’s influence in the world when he’s in jail for his faith, what is stopping me?” And so he…they became more bold. They became more frequent and more fearless in their proclamation of the Gospel.
Just understand that that’s not really all that surprising to me because here’s what God does. Can I tell you what I’ve seen God do over and over again? Here’s what God does. God multiplies the results of our faithfulness. He multiplies the results of our faithfulness. He takes the little steps of faithfulness that we have and He multiplies the results of them. So Paul decided, I’m going to see what God can do in my circumstances instead of bemoaning my circumstances. And not only did that change the way the palace guard was thinking, but it changed the way the whole palace was thinking. What they knew about the Gospel. And beyond that, it spilled out into all the followers of Jesus speaking the Gospel more frequently and more fearlessly. God multiplied the results of his faithfulness. That’s what he always does.
You know, when my kids were little, one of my favorite things to do was to walk with them. You know, I’d have one of their right hands and the other one have…and Coletta would have one of their left hands and they would take little steps and we’d do this big swing thing. Now, we wanted them to take a step because it would have been weird if we were dragging them along, right? But they would take this little step and then they would go so much farther than they ever could on their own. That’s what God does. He multiplies the results of our faithfulness like a father with small children between his arms. And so here’s a question that I want to challenge you to ask yourself. Think about a difficult circumstance you’re in and then ask yourself this, what is one small step of faithfulness that I can take and I can ask God to multiply?
What’s one thing that…Paul did one thing. He said, “I can’t go anywhere but I’ve got these people here. At least I can let them know why I’m here. I can speak the truth to them.” And God took that step of faithless and he multiplied the results of it and he can and will do the same thing in and through you. So what’s the one small step of faithfulness that you can take and ask God to multiply? The amazing thing about God is he multiplies it in ways we would never anticipate. Check this out, verse 15, he says, “It’s true…” And you guys might’ve heard this, and it’s true, I’m confirming it. “It’s true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. Now, the latter do so out of love knowing that I am put here for the defense of the Gospel, the former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I’m in chains.”
Here’s what’s happening here. He says there’re two different groups that are proclaiming the Gospel more frequently and more fearlessly. Two very different groups. Now, I think they’re both believers, but they have two very different motives for being more bold in their advancing of the Gospel. And to understand it, you need to understand that Jesus was Jewish. Anybody shocked? Okay. Sometimes we forget that. It’s interesting. Jesus was Jewish. The earliest followers of Jesus were also Jewish, which meant that for lot of the early followers of Jesus, they put their faith in Jesus. They understood that that’s what saved them. It’s what eliminated their sin and brought them into relationship with God, but because they were Jewish, they also continue to observe certain key Jewish practices.
Now, when the Gospel spilled out of the Jewish community into the Gentile or the non-Jewish community, that created kind of an interesting dynamic because you had Gentiles who were not Jewish, but they were coming to faith in a Jewish Messiah, a Jewish Savior. And so some of the followers of Jesus said, “That’s great. Your faith saves you, but since you’re following a Jewish Messiah, you now need to observe certain Jewish practices.” Three of them in particular. The first one was eating kosher, so they were to avoid unclean food like shellfish or pork. Second one was Sabbath observance. Observance, that’s the word I want. Sabbath observance. And for the Jews, the Saturday was Sabbath and they were supposed to not work. And there were all kinds of laws that had grown up around how to make sure that you weren’t dishonoring God by working. And so, that was Sabbath observance. And they said, yeah, you need to eat kosher. You need to observe the Sabbath. And third one was circumcision. I’m not going to describe circumcision. If you’re really confused, look it up online. I’m going to strongly encourage you do not do an image search. Okay? But those were the three things. They said, “Yeah, follow Jesus. That’s what saves you. But since you’re following a Jewish Messiah, you should eat kosher, you should observe the Sabbath, and you should be circumcised.” That was one group of followers of Jesus. There was another group of followers of Jesus, and Paul was among them who said, “No, they’re not Jewish. They’re Gentiles. So we don’t need to impose these other practices on them.” And that’s probably the two different groups that Paul’s describing here. And there was a certain amount of conflict between those groups.
In certain other parts of his ministry Paul really goes after those people who are imposing those additional practices. And what’s going on in Rome seems to be, you got both of these groups. Now, the group that were, you know, Jesus only and they saw Paul’s imprisonment as an encouragement to them. It changed their ways, thinking about their circumstance. They were bolder, they were more frequent and more fearless in their proclamation of the Gospel. The other group, the Jesus plus the Jewish practices, they were encouraged to be bold as well, but it was maybe for slightly mixed motives, or maybe even for some messed up motives. Paul says they’re preaching out of envy and selfish ambition. Maybe what was happening is they saw Paul’s in prison as the proof that they were better, that God liked them more. That God was more pleased with them and their theology than he was. Maybe that was sort of the way they saw Paul’s imprisonment. Or maybe they’re just relieved because here’s the thing, when Christianity first began, the Roman empire protected it because they thought it was a part of Judaism. I mean, they were following a Jewish Messiah. Originally they were practicing all these other Jewish practices, and Judaism, the Jewish faith was a religio licita. It was a protected religion. It was a legal religion under Roman law. And so for the early followers of Jesus who were following a Jewish Messiah, following Jewish practices, Rome kind of went, yeah, whatever. But now, you’ve got all these Gentiles who are following Jesus. They’re not Jewish, and they’re not following the Jewish practices. And Rome was beginning to take a much closer look at the followers of Jesus. And so, maybe the Jesus plus the Jewish practices group were going, “It’s good that he’s in jail and shut down. Because he could cause us some problems. So we’ll do the other way around. We’ll show everybody know this is what real Christianity looks like, and then Rome will leave us alone.”
So maybe that was it. We don’t know exactly what it was, but Paul says they really clearly had some messed up motives. But check this out. How much do those motives matter? How much do those differences and practice matter? Here’s what he says, verse 18. “But what does it matter? But what does it matter? The important thing, important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or truth, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.” Yeah, their motives are messed up. I care a lot more about the fact that the Gospel is advancing. They’re preaching the Gospel. Yeah. I wish they weren’t adding that other stuff onto it, but they’re preaching Christ crucified, risen from the dead three days later and faith in him forgives us. The Gospel is advancing and that matters more to me than their motives. The Gospel is advancing and that matters more to me than which group is growing faster. That matters more to me than the differences in our theology and in our practices. The Gospel is advancing. That matters more to me than my circumstances. Do you understand what’s happening? Paul says, the Gospel is advancing and that’s the priority. That’s what matters most. That’s the mission. And what Paul’s demonstrating for us is simply this, that the mission determines how much other things matter. The mission determines how much the other things matter. He’s not saying that none of that matters at all because Paul goes after it at certain points. They debate, they have conflict over it, they try to wrestle through. They try to search Scriptures and come to a right understanding. He’s not saying it doesn’t matter at all. He’s saying it doesn’t matter as much as the mission. And if they’re going to preach the Gospel, I’m going to rejoice. Because the mission determines how much the other stuff matters.
Let me tell you what, if we could get a handle on that as the people of God, it would change everything because the Church in the 21st century doesn’t have a handle on that. We don’t. The Church in the 21st century is struggling. The Church in the 21st century is in trouble in many ways and we often want to go, well, it’s because our culture, it’s because of what the government’s doing. It’s of this and that. And my honest belief is that where the Church is struggling in the world today, it’s not because of what’s been done to us, it’s because of what we’ve done to ourselves. We have not kept the mission front and center. And without that, we no longer know how much the other things matter. And so we elevate other things above and beyond the mission and it’s destroying us from the inside out. It’s like a decay that’s eating us from the inside out.
I was back east several years ago and I drove through a town. And I saw a church and I kind of paid attention to the name of the church just because that was kind of interesting. And the name of the church was the First Baptist Church. I didn’t think a lot about it. I mean, I thought it was weird. But I was like, I get it. I mean, if you’re the First Baptist Church to come to town and you have no creativity whatsoever, you name it the First Baptist Church, whatever. Okay. And then I drove a little bit further and I saw the Second Baptist Church. Now, I really hope that there’s a Second Baptist Church because the First Baptist Church got full. And they were like, “We don’t have room for all the people that are coming to Jesus, so we’re going to be on mission with Jesus. We got to build a second.” But I really hope that’s what happened. But I’m a little too cynical to believe that’s what happened, because I’ve seen way too many churches start because some people at the First Baptist Church got mad at some other people at the First Baptist Church, a conflict grew and it grew to the point of division and it might’ve been over something as simple as the color of the carpet. I’ve seen churches split over the color of the carpet and what colors should go in or what color you’re going to… I’ve seen it happen. Why does that happen? Because they don’t have mission first.
I drove a little bit further in the town and I came across the Third Baptist Church. And at that point I was like, that’s not good. And right about then I saw the Fourth Baptist Church, Portsmouth, Virginia. I would love to think that the First Baptist Church got full, so they had to build the Second Baptist Church and that one got full, so they had to build the third and that one got full they had to build the fourth, but I don’t think that’s what happened.
The reality is the Church in America far too often has lost its mission. It’s not made the mission the main thing, and without that lens, without that grid, we no longer know how much the other things matter. Okay? Can I just say one of things I love about Mission Hills is I don’t think that’s us. And that has nothing to do with me. I’ve only been here three years. This is something I saw immediately when I got here. Mission Hills has a tremendous amount of diversity, not necessarily ethnically. That is something I would love to see grow. I would do my heart good. But there’s a lot of other diversity that is not quite so obvious. I’m going to drop a bomb on some of you. Mission Hills is a Baptist Church. You may not know that. Like that was not on the website. Yeah, because we belong to Converge Worldwide, which our movement. But Converge Worldwide was the denomination formerly known as the Baptist General Conference, which was formerly known as the Swedish Baptist Conference. You have a long history of a Baptist affiliation. And yet there are people who call this home that are on mission with us here who grew up Presbyterian. There are people who grew up Methodist. There are people who grew up Catholic. There are people that grew up with no faith at all and no church involvement at all and they all call Mission Hills home. How does that happen? You know, we have people at Mission Hills who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. We have people at Mission Hills who believe in the post tribulation rapture. And we have a whole lot of people who have no idea what I’m talking about. And that’s okay. We have people who believe in Calvinism. We have people who believe in Arminianism and a whole lot of people who have no idea what I’m talking about, and it’s okay.
We have people who are Republican followers of Jesus. We have people who are Democrat followers of Jesus. And we people who are Independent followers of Jesus and they all call Mission Hills their Church home. We have people who love the fact that we use drums and electric guitars in worship and we have people who hate the fact that we use drums and electric guitars in our worship but they still call this home. We have people who love the fact that we use lights in our worship and we have people who hate the fact that we use lights in our worship, but they all call Mission Hills home. We have people who feel like it honors God to dress up to come to church and that’s awesome. And we have people who feel like it honors God to dress casual and come to church because it doesn’t separate church from the rest of the week. And that’s awesome. I get notes. I get the occasional note that challenges the fact that I wear jeans, and I get the occasional note that thanks me for wearing jeans because I brought a non-believer friend and they felt comfortable with you partly because of the way you dressed. And both of those are great. How do we have so much diversity in one church and I think the answers because Mission Hills has a legacy of keeping the mission first. And what does Paul teach us here? What does he model for us? The mission determines how much other things matter.
Please hear me. I’m not saying the other stuff’s irrelevant. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. Theology matters. How we relate to the culture matters. And we can have conversations about it. We can have debates about it, we can have arguments about it. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. But I’m saying is the mission matters more and we have to look at all these other things through the lens of mission first. And understand, I’m not talking about sin. Please hear me. Okay? What the Bible says is wrong is wrong. What the Bible says is right is right. We’re not going to waffle on that. Okay? I’m not talking about sin stuff. But the mission determines how much the other things matter. And the moment we start letting these other things matter more than the mission, that’s the end of the Church being the Church, and we’re not going to let that happen. We’ve gone 77 years without letting happening. We’re not going to move forward and allow it to happen. We’re going to stay on mission. And that’s going to change the way we think about all the other things. That’s what I love about Mission Hills, and that’s what we need to model for other believers.
But here’s the thing, for the Church to do that we each have to do that. For the Church to live that way, we each have to live that way because the Church isn’t the building would come through. It’s not the organization. The Church is the people of God. It’s you. It’s me. It’s each one of us. The Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. And so the Church can only keep the mission front and center when each of us is keeping the mission front and center. And let’s just recognize that that’s not an easy thing to do. So, how do we do that? Let me give you two prayers today. If you want the mission to be first and if you want the mission to determine how much the other things matter, then let me give you two prayers to pray. The first one is just this.
“Father, what am I allowing to matter more than the mission?” If you want to be part of the Church that God has called the Church to be, that’s a prayer you need to pray, on a pretty regular basis. I do. God, what am I allowing to sneak into the forefront that’s not quite as important as the mission itself? Doesn’t mean it’s not important at all, but it’s not as important as the mission. God, show me the things in my life that I’m making more important than the mission of extending your influence in the world. If you want to be part of the Church that God’s called the Church to be, that’s a prayer you need to pray. And then the second prayer would be this. “Father, would you give me a clearer picture of our mission and my part in it? Give me a clearer picture what it looks like to extend your influence in the world, to advance the Gospel in every sphere and then show me what my part is. Show me how I am called to extend your influence in every sphere of influence that you’ve given to me.”
Two very powerful prayers. And because ultimately the priorities we act on become the priorities that we live out, the priorities that we actually do something with, become the priorities that really matter. I’m going to give you this last question to wrestle with today. What’s one small step, we’ve already asked it, let’s ask it again. What’s one small step of faithfulness I can take and ask God to multiply? It’s one small step. Maybe the small stuff we mentioned last week. You text the word boundless to 888111, you’re going to get part of a mailing list where you get a challenge every week of this series with some very specific ideas about how to be on mission related to the content from that weekend’s message. If you haven’t done that yet, really encourage you, that might be your small step to get that weekly challenge. Text boundless to 888111. Maybe the small step is you go out of the Worship Center or you join us online where you…and look up Live on Mission. There’s a booth at the Littleton lobby, but you can also do this online. Good to Live on Mission and sign up for one of our service projects. That’s going to be coming up here on a weekend where we spread out to be on mission in South Denver and bless a whole lot of people. Maybe that’s your small step. Or maybe it’s something entirely different. Maybe it’s something that’s unique to your circumstances, but ask God, “What’s the small step you want me to take? And then God would you multiply that?”
Let’s pray. God, as followers of Jesus, we come before you and we want to ask for your forgiveness. Because all of us in some way or another at different times in our lives may be even right now we have elevated something above our mission, above the purpose for which we were made, redeemed and destined. We ask for your forgiveness for making other things more important than the mission. Lord, would you restore a missional focus to us? Would you make our mission our priority? And through that lens, give us a much clearer understanding of how much these other things really matter. We ask for your forgiveness and for your strength to do better.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you begin praying for the people around you, people watching online who don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus? And if that’s you, I just want to speak to you very briefly for a moment because I recognize that sometimes people, they find themselves drawn to Jesus, they’re attracted to the Christian faith. And what’s kept them from saying yes to a relationship with Jesus is honestly the Church. And maybe that’s you. And maybe you’ve had some experiences with churches that have made something other than the Gospel, more important than the Gospel. And maybe that was a very difficult thing for you. And I want to apologize on behalf of Christians everywhere for the ways that we have allowed the mission to not be front and center and made these other things more important than they really are.
I wanna ask for your forgiveness, but I’ll ask you to set that aside. And I want you to hear the most important thing. The Gospel. God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus died on the cross voluntarily to pay the price of your sin of every wrong you’ve ever done. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he had accomplished it. And he’s offering you forgiveness, adoption into the family of God and a relationship with your Creator that begins now and goes on forever. That’s the most important thing. That’s the Gospel and that is our mission to proclaim. And if you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did, you can right here, right now. And I’d like to give you that opportunity. Wherever you are, all you need to do is have this conversation with God. Just say to God, “God, I have done wrong and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness in a relationship with my Creator. I’m ready to say yes to that. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you, my faith in you, Jesus come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen.
We’ve had a number of people make that decision this weekend. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? So awesome. If you made that decision for the first time today I wanna ask you to do something very simple, just text the word Jesus to 888111. You’re going to get back a link, it’s going to tell you five things that are true about you, that you’ve begun that relationship. Get you some resource in your hands to begin living on mission with him.
WHEN THE ASSIGNMENT WE GET ISN’T THE ASSIGNMENT WE WANT
What does it look like when we find ourselves in an assignment we never wanted, but are able to experience the blessings we never imagined we’d receive from it? When life is hard, you need the courage to move through it. Through prayer and Jesus’ provision there will be deliverance coming. God can be trusted to deliver.
Craig: Hey, Mission Hills, it is such a thrill for me to be able to introduce to you our guest speaker for the weekend. Larry Osborne is the pastor of North Coast Church in San Diego, California. He’s also the author of a whole lot of books on church leadership that have been on my shelf for years and in the last couple of years, it’s been a huge honor and a privilege to get to know him more personally. He is a mentor and a coach speaking words of wisdom into my life on a regular basis, so grateful for him and so excited for the powerful truth from God’s word that he’s gonna be bringing to you today. So why don’t you go ahead and give a warm Mission Hills welcome to Pastor Larry Osborne.
Larry: It was a letter he never wanted to write from a place he never wanted to be. The only reason he had planted a church in this place called Philippi that he was now writing a letter we call Philippians too, was because of previous missionary journey had gone sideways. You see, he’d started out with this dream of going to a place called Asia Minor where he was gonna preach and encourage the Christians that were already there and help plant new churches. He had told everybody about it. They’d prayed, they’d fasted, they waited on the Lord for what his plan was. They’d even printed up those little prayer things and, you know, those little magnets for people to put on refrigerators to remember what was going on.
But, excuse me, as he’s on his journey, suddenly everything starts to go wrong and every door he tries to open, gets closed. Looking back, he realized to the Spirit of Jesus is not allowing him to go into Asia Minor. I’m sure he wondered, well, why didn’t you tell me that earlier when we were getting this whole thing ready? Well, they sat back, probably prayed some more and looked around, tried to figure out what to do, and they went, “Ah, Bethania. You know, there’s some good stuff over there. Maybe that’s where we ought to go.” That looks like the next most logical thing. And so they tried to go there, but they kept running into roadblock after roadblock.
Well, as they’re trying to figure out what to do, they had pizza one night, and he had a pizza dream. And some dude over in Macedonia says, ”Hey, come down here. Come down here and help us.” So not knowing what else to do because nothing else was working, they went down to Macedonia, found a few people, began to proclaim Jesus. A little tiny church is formed and I bet in his mind he started go, “Ah, now I know what God is up to. Amazing.” But then he suddenly thrown into jail and beaten and has to run for his life and leave town. Heads over next to a place in that region called Thessalonica. Well, once again, he tries to start a little church. It just begins to get off the ground and a riot ensues. And he’s forced to once again run for his life. And that’s how that church got planted.
Now he’s writing it from Rome, but and he always wanted to go to Rome. That was his dream, but he wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, and now he’s there as a prisoner. And the make matters all the worse, the reason he’s under this house arrest from a human perspective is a series of bad decisions that he made and bad luck that happened. You see, he had always dreamed, as I said, of going to Rome. So what he thought he would do is, you know what, I’m gonna go to Rome, but first I wanna go over to Jerusalem and when we’re in Jerusalem, I’m gonna meet some of the brothers and sisters there. Get a little encouragement, maybe even raised a little bit of money for it. And then I’ll go to Rome. I’ll preach the Gospel. I’ll encourage the churches that have already been started. After all, it’s the center of the known world. Man, this is gonna be a great opportunity.
But as he’s headed towards Jerusalem, the Spirit of the Lord speaks to a group of people around him and they say, ”Don’t go to Jerusalem. Bad stuff is gonna happen.” He says, ”Ah, ha, what do you know?” So he continues to head onto Jerusalem and their a prophet meets him and the Spirit of the Lord had told that prophet, “You’re gonna be bound in you and things aren’t gonna go right.” All of the people around him began to plead with him. Please don’t go to Jerusalem. And if you’re a long-time Christian, you’ve ever read any Paul’s letters or the Book of Acts, you realized this is one stubborn dude. And so he said, ”No, I’m going, I don’t care what happens.” And, you know, that’s easy to say, but it’s not so easy when I don’t get what happens actually happens.
So he goes there and he’s got a series of enemies, because I’ll remind you that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the early Church was made up of Jewish people. And one of the great conflicts early on in the early Church was whether or not Gentiles could become Jesus followers. And if they did become a Jesus follower, there was this idea by the Jewish believers that they needed to first of all become a observant Jew, which when it came to men and circumcision kind of thin the herd a little bit. So what happens is he decides, you know what, I’m gonna show these people that even though I have been spreading the message of Jesus to Gentiles and I am teaching Gentiles, they don’t have to become a Jew. I myself am an observant Jew. So I am going to a take vow.
So he takes a vow, in seven days are done, purification is over. He goes in the temple to make his sacrifice and rumors spread. They had social media like that. The Twitterverse goes crazy and everybody is saying he has brought Gentiles into the temple to defame the temple and a riot ensues. The Roman soldiers come and stop it. They’re about to flog and to be Paul as the instigator of all this. And then he pulls out and waves his Roman citizenship card. And long story short, what it means is he ends up in a place called Caesarea under house arrest and he’s stuck there for two long years.
Finally, it’s time for his trial about disturbing the peace and all that to be had and he’s gonna be brought back to Jerusalem with that. And there are a group of people who take a vow, about 40 of them, they take a vow that may they die if they do not ambush the entourage and kill Paul on the way. He hears about that, so he appeals to Caesar, which he’s a Roman citizen, means he’s now gonna be taken all the way to Rome where his appeal and his trial is gonna take place. To rub salt into the wounds, when he appeals to Caesar, he’s told, “Sure, we’re gonna send you to Rome now, but had you not done that, you would have been freed.”
So now, probably two years later, it’s been a five-year ordeal nothing has gone right. He’s under house arrest and he’s writing this letter, to a church he never even wanted to plant, trying to do the best in a bad circumstance. And yet God has been at work. You’ve already seen it in some of the early messages in this series in Philippians, because that church he never wanted to plant, did you know it ended up his number one fundraising source. They sent money to him over and over and over again when others did nothing. And the Book of Philippians is actually a thank you letter because the guy named Epaphroditus had brought a large gift to support him in his house arrest and now was taking this letter back as Paul writes to thank them and to let them know that despite an assignment he never really wanted and things on the surface appearing really bad, God was in control of who’s in control. And it’s all right. It’s okay. He’s living out the title of this series, this sense of living bigger than our circumstances.
You saw last weekend that even though he was chained to Roman guards, he did not write a pity party letter saying, “Oh, woe is me.” Instead of seeing himself chain to guards, he saw the guards as chained to him, and he had this opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to an elite group of military people in the most powerful part of the world that he would have never gotta talk to anyway. And so he just says, man, “God is at work.” Oh, by the way, there’s another part of God being at work in the midst of this because he doesn’t squirm out of it, doesn’t turn his attitude wrong and does the right thing, God is doing something he doesn’t even, I believe no at this point. Because remember his dream was to go to Rome and preach the Gospel and plant some churches and do a bunch of sermons. And God says, no, you’re not gonna do a crusade that no one remembers. You’re not gonna plant a church that’s nothing but a tourist attraction hundreds and thousands of years later, or it doesn’t even exist. No, you’re gonna write letters, but what you don’t know is those letters are Bible. And this letter to the Philippians becomes part of our Scripture. And instead of encouraging hundreds or maybe thousands at the most, it’s millions and millions and millions for thousands of years. The same with two letters he wrote to Thessalonians and some other letters he wrote from prison.
You see in all of this, he had learned the secret of how to cope and how to be content. Not happy. You know, sitting on the beach with a drink, with an umbrella in it. That’s not what biblical contentment means. It means I know how to cope no matter what happens. And you’ve already seen some of the things that made him that way. And today I wanna explore a few more from Philippians, from his other letters. What was going on in the mind of this guy that he could take an assignment he never wanted and cooperate with God so it became a blessing he never imagined? What is it?
But first of all, let’s take a look at the passage we’re looking at today as we continue moving through Philippians. We’re at Philippians Chapter 1 the back half of verse 18 is where we start, where he simply says, ”Yes, I will continue to rejoice over the fact that he’s able to preach to these soldiers that even though some people are proclaiming Jesus in ways that are an attempt to rub salt into his wounds, God’s still at work.” So he says, yes, and I’m gonna continue to rejoice and here’s why. For I know that, number one, through your prayers and number two, through God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Now, he doesn’t mean deliverance from prison because he doesn’t know. We’re gonna see that in the next verse and later on about verse 27 and chapter 1 of Philippians, he says, he doesn’t know whether he’s not only going to get out of prison or not. He doesn’t even know whether he’s gonna live or die, but he says, you know what? At the end of the day, God said, I’m in control, it’s gonna be all right. I don’t know if this to deliver it’s just from the body or this delivers this from prison. But I do know a thousand years later when I look back at it, it’s like this is good.
And so we read on in verse 20, ”I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient.” Now help me out for a moment. What’s that next word? Sufficient what? Courage, say it louder. What might people talk back to me? Come on. Help me out. Sufficient what? Courage. If you treat your Bible as a life textbook and mark it up and I hope you do so you can like on your own go, oh yeah, I remember that, the word courage is worth underlining and circling because it shows something we wouldn’t catch in this passage if we turned it into clichés because in just a moment he’s gonna say, Hey, you know, to live is Christ to die is gain. He talks about rejoicing and all these things. And we can almost get the idea that he was just setting back without any fear, without any worry, just kind of loving on the trial that he’s going through.
In fact, I’d bet you’ve been at a group of Christian sometime or a Bible study or whatever and somebody says, man, I’m really worried about it. Somebody is all worry, worry, don’t worry. Trust God and everything. Shame on you. Oh, if you really know Jesus, you’ll have no fear, and that’s all baloney. Faith is trusting God enough to do what he says, even when I doubt it will work out. It’s not that I imagined it worked out. And obedient living doesn’t mean I never worry. It means I’m never overcome by that worry to the point I compromise and no longer do the right thing. It doesn’t mean I don’t have fear. It means I don’t let my fear overcome me to the point that I run from what God has called me to do because he says that I eagerly expect and I hope that I will in no way make Jesus ashamed and that I will have what again? Courage.
When do you need courage? Help me out when you’re afraid, right? I don’t have to sit down and sit down in front of a filet mignon steak dinner and say, “Lord, give me the courage to eat this, right?” Oh man, I’m just really afraid. Just like give me the courage to enjoy this vacation. No, you need courage when you’re afraid of what you’re about to experience. And this is so important when we read this text so we don’t take little parts of it. And act is, like I said, he was in little lala land, had some sort of spiritual lobotomy, we ended up beating ourselves up because we have real emotions that we have real feelings. He did too. So did our Lord, by the way.
I mean he went right before he went to the cross, he went into a place called the Garden of Gethsemane. And if you’ve ever seen the little pictures of it, he sits down by little rock, folds his hand. The cute little light is on him. That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says, he went into that garden and he fell face down and grovelled in the ground as he cried out, his sweating as it were great drops of blood. Father, if there’s any way to avoid this. Father said no and he came back two more times and then he says, not my will but yours be done.
You see, the Apostle Paul wasn’t a guy without fear, wasn’t a guy without worry. He wasn’t a guy who just kind of lala land through life, but he was a guy who understood who his God was and was able because of that to do the right thing no matter what his assignment was, and we’re gonna see this flushed out. He goes on in verse 21 it says this, ”For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I go on living in the body, hello, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose?” As if he had any choice. ”I don’t know. I’m torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it’s more necessary for you that I remain on in the body and convinced of this. I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith so that through my being with you again, your boasting in Christ will abound on account of me.” I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I do know this. I can’t lose as long as I’m following Jesus. Either one is good.
I’m guessing that he’ll probably let me live on because I can be of help to you, but as you read the rest of the letter, he is still not completely sure of that. Now, here’s what I want to do in the balance of our time. I have explained a passage to you. I’ve set for you the historical context to it. But now we’re gonna take a little trip to Pete’s Coffee, Starbucks, you know, whatever place you want to go. And we’re gonna sit down and you’re gonna say, you know, I heard a sermon today and I read a passage and it talked about trusting God and it talks about he’s in control and all that, but how does that really work out in real life? How does that work out in light of this stinking job I have in this career that is totally dead in, I never wanted to be here. How does that work out in this marriage that’s not at all what I thought it was going to be when I said for better or worse, I didn’t really think there’d be a worst.
With his financial meltdown or pressure with some things may be going on in my culture or my community, whatever, how in the world do I, in a real practical sense, do more than just read what this Paul guy said and actually find the power of Jesus unleashed in my life so that I can live above the circumstances when the assignment I get is not the assignment I want? So to do that, I’m gonna share four things that we need to remember when the assignment we get is not the assignment we want. And they come from Philippians, they come from the Apostle Paul’s other writings and Scripture and they come from all of Scripture. And they’re all pretty straightforward and simple, but they’re profoundly simple. So here we go.
When the assignment you want, isn’t the assignment you get, remember, number one, don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised because I’m here to tell you that when you follow Jesus, you don’t always win the lottery. That when you follow Jesus, you are sometimes gonna do the right thing and get the wrong results. And that is par for the course. And the enemy has us right where he wants us spiritually when we believe that doing the right thing always brings immediate right results. Because the Bible from the get-go tells us it’s not that way. I think I all the way through, I think of a 1 Peter chapter 4 where he says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is overcome you as though something strange has happened.” And yet that’s exactly what I do when all hell breaks loose.
I’m part of a life group at our church. Our church is built around these small groups where we take the weekend sermon and we dig deeper into them and it is amazing because I hear it everywhere by group does it, I do it. Every Christian I know does it. When things are going good, during prayer time or sharing stuff, we praise God. Hey, let me tell you how God showed up. And when things are going bad, what do we always ask? Where’s God right? Am I alone? Don’t look at me that way. You’re that way.
Where’s God? And he said, “I’m here like I told you, this is exactly what I said. What happened?” I ministered near Camp Pendleton, the Marine base and it’s like some guy signing up and then going through bootcamp and going, what’s up with this? I signed up for like, you know, some college money later. Like, are you kidding me? This was right from the beginning. God’s ways are not our ways. He’s God, I’m not. And just, let’s just take it on a human level. Good parents are more concerned about the health and the character of their children than their happiness. Would you agree? I mean, you’re a pretty bad parent if you decide, well, you know, go to bed when you want, brush your teeth when you want, do whatever it is you want because I want you happy. And the thing is, the kids don’t understand it when you say, “No, I want character and health.” I mean they do not say thank you for putting me to bed earlier than I wanted because I know you have my best interest at heart, Dad, Mom, right? I mean, that’s what you say on Facebook, you liar.
No, we know different, right? Well, do you realize that’s how it is with God as well? He is more concerned about your and my holiness than our happiness because our holiness is far more important than our happiness. So I should not be surprised when there are things in my life and assignments that are for my holiness or even I run through the gauntlet for your holiness. There’s a story in the Old Testament about a guy named Job. He was the most righteous man on earth and he went through some of the most difficulties anybody on earth has ever gone through. And you know what? The whole reason was so that there’d be a book that would teach us spiritual lessons. I don’t know, if I’m Job, but I’m gonna go, “God, could you use somebody else?” But in the whole picture, he’s more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. So don’t be surprised.
The second thing that the Apostle Paul understood and we need to understand is this little phrase trust God isn’t a cliché, it’s a choice. It is the fork in the road that we come to that determines our destiny over and over again. When we find ourself in those places, we do not understand because it is so easy for me to trust God when I agree with God. Amen. And the fact of the matter is most of what Scripture tells me to do and how to live, I go, that’s pretty cool. That’s why people who don’t follow Jesus think Jesus was a great teacher. Good, but what about those times where I know I need to go right and he says, go left. I know happiness short term is right and he says, go left. That’s a fork in the road. And the Apostle Paul understood that when it comes to trusting God, it is a choice to do the right thing no matter what happens. Biblical faith is simply continuing to do what God told us to do even when it doesn’t work.
In Hebrews 11:6 there’s a definition of the kind of faith that pleases God. And I love this passage because in the English language, we often think of the faith that pleases God as like never having a negative thought or you’re in a drought and you’re praying for rain and you believe in it so much, you carry an umbrella with you. Your kid’s Little League team is down by 7 runs, 2 outs in the last inning and you’re telling him, you gotta have faith. They’re realists. We’re gonna lose. Oh, have faith. All that’s cultural. Biblical faith is trusting God enough to do what he says and great faith is doing it even when it doesn’t work out because the Bible defines the kind of faith that pleases God this way.
Hebrews 11:6, ”Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” That’s how important it is. Because anyone who comes to God must believe two things, one, that he exists. Well, duh, I can’t really please God if I go, “You don’t exist.” But the second is that he what? Talk to me, rewards. That’s the core of the Apostle Paul’s faith that allowed him to live above these circumstances. He knew that God rewards even if the reward doesn’t come right now.
And the attack of the enemy is always God is not good. God cannot be trusted. It is not working out. And it is our call at that point to make a decision. It is a choice. Am I gonna trust them enough to do what he says even though this doesn’t seem to be so good right now. Every trial and difficulty has a way out. 1 Corinthians 10 says, ”There is no trial, there’s no tests, there’s no temptation that is overcome any of us but such as this common demand.” We often take our situations is unique. No, others have gone through it and God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able but will with the temptation always provide a way of escape.
And I remember when I first heard that as a Christian going, that’s really cool, but like, where is that door? Okay. I felt like, you know, I’m in one of those escape rooms and I’ve got no clue what’s going on. Like there was a way of escape, great, but I don’t know where it is. But here’s what I didn’t understand. Here’s the way of escape in every single trial and temptation, the path of obedience. It’s the way out of everything, the path of obedience. And if you were in an assignment, you can’t stand right now or not of your own choosing a relational one, a work one, a finance one, a doctor’s diagnosis one. Here’s what I can tell you very simple if you wanna know, okay, how do I respond properly? Your path of escape is obedience and if you wanted to sum up obedience in just one little phrase, it would be this, make Jesus look good.
Colossians 3:17 says, ”In word or deed, whatever we do, do it all in the name of Jesus.” What does it mean in the name of Jesus? Now, I used to think it was a little Christian phrase, especially like at the end of prayer, it’s the send button. You know, you finish your prayer, you go in Jesus name, amen. Two goes up. I remember as a young guy with falling asleep, praying or whatever and waking up, “Oops, I didn’t say in Jesus name. Amen.” It’s not a phrase, God goes, “Oh, I love to hear that.” It’s a description. To do something in the name of somebody means to do it representing them. It’s like an ambassador. It’s like power of attorney.
So here’s what I can tell you very practically, right now, if you’re in an assignment that’s not the assignment you want, wake up every morning. And in that relationship, that work environment, that community thing, whatever, ask this question, what will make Jesus look good today? What’s gonna make Jesus look good? Well, returning evil for evil, will that make him look good? Nope. I mean, you can just go on any list. What will make Jesus look good? That was what Paul said. We read that little phrase, he said that Christ Jesus might be exalted. That’s what drove him. And because of that, God was able to use him and instead of being broken by his circumstances, he was eventually in and so are we, blessed by his circumstances granted not as quick as he wanted, but still blessed by them.
Here’s the third thing to remember that if you’re stuck with the cross, remember the Resurrection. If you’re in the middle of a situation right now that seems like this is a cross too heavy to bear. How in the world did I get here? Remember the Resurrection because we have a God who can fix anything when it’s given to him. We have a God who’s making a tapestry. You know tapestries are beautiful, right? Have you ever seen the backside? They are butt ugly. Like who would pay five bucks for this sucker till you turn it over and guys at work that way and that’s what we’ve got to remember, the Resurrection.
There is a special day. It’s the Friday before Easter and what do we call that? Friday before Easter. What are we calling? What? What adjective? Good. Are you kidding me? That is the most damnable evil event that has ever happened in human history. There has never been a more unjust, more victory of evil event in the entire history of mankind than when innocent, sinless Jesus was beaten, mocked, spit on and died. It was Satan’s greatest victory. But as with all of his victories, he had shot himself in the foot and God takes damnable Friday and now we call it Good Friday. But nobody called Good Friday that day, right? They were all puzzled. They were broken, some turned to go back home, all kinds. And that’s the world we live in. We live in Friday and Saturday, but Sunday’s coming always, always Sunday’s coming.
Jesus knew the Resurrection was coming and yet he still feared the cross to the point of like, and we talked about a few moments ago praying, is there any way to remove this, please remove it. But he had told his disciples multiple times on his last journey up to Jerusalem, “Hey, we’re going into Jerusalem and I’m gonna be turned over to the elders, the chief priests and teachers of law. They’re gonna kill me and three days later, I’m gonna rise.” He knew the Resurrection and I believe that’s why after pleading is there any other way, and the Father says, “No way.” He said, “Not my will be done, but yours.” He wasn’t clueless about what was coming next. That’s why the Book of Hebrews actually uses this phrase because of the joy set before him. He didn’t want the assignment, but he took the assignment because he knows the Father is a rewarder.
In Philippians, later on, is gonna say, “It was therefore because he went to the cross that the Father highly exalted him.” Always, always remember Sunday’s coming. And by the way, this is true even if it’s a mess of your own making. Did you know that? Because the assignments we don’t want and the trials we go through are for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a mess of my own making, sometimes it’s your evil and I’m caught in the backwash of it. Sometimes it’s a direct attack of Satan and sometimes I have no clue why, but it doesn’t even matter even when I brought it upon myself.
I love this story of a guy named David. Those of you who are new at following Jesus, in the Old Testament, there was a guy named David. He’s famous for David and Goliath, but he’s infamous for affair that he had with a woman named Bathsheba. And even more infamous for how he had her husband set up to be killed in a military situation. Now because of that, he had earthly consequences that never left. You know, if I broken my marriage and I turned to Jesus, I don’t suddenly get my marriage back. If I’ve destroyed my health with a living disobediently, I don’t suddenly get my health back. I do get eternity. But here’s the thing, I want you to understand, if you will just even if it’s a mess of your own making, do the right thing, bring honor to Jesus, that he will begin to work. And even in the midst of those earthly consequences, he’s gonna start sprinkling blessings like you can’t believe. And there’s an eternity that puts it all in balance anyway.
Do you realize the son that was born to David and Bathsheba and the affair died at birth, a few days after birth? But the next son born to this elicit union. Do you know what his name was? Solomon, the writer of Scripture, the great and wise King. And when Jesus comes, he’s proud to call David his forefather and he’s sitting on the throne of David. Whatever the assignment, whatever the cross, remember the Resurrection, our God can fix anything. It’s not that bad suddenly becomes good. It’s that bad is never so bad that his good and his power can’t overcome it.
And there’s the last one that we want to remember here. And that is our destiny as far more important than our circumstances. And the Apostle Paul totally knew that. He didn’t wanna die. He asked people to pray for his deliverance. He use legal recourse to get out of situations, but at the end of the day. He knew his eternal destiny was far more important than anything else. It changes everything.
There’s a Psalm, one of my favorite, Psalm 73. Psalm 73, it’s by a guy named Asaph, who was a contemporary of King David when David was on the run from godless King Saul. And he looks around and he says, ”I don’t get this. The wicked are prospering. They mock God, whatever they do turns out perfect and whatever we do turns out horrible. What’s up with this?” And then he says, ”I almost said, what good has it done me to follow the Lord?” Now in Hebrew poetic literature, those aren’t words. That’s a statement of decision. He says, ”I almost did it and he says, but then I went into the Tabernacle and the Lord showed me their destiny and everything changes.” He’s all complained about, oh, this is great, this is great, this is great. Nothing’s working for us, so let’s just come here, come here, come here. Let me show you a few hundred years down the road. And he goes, oops. And the whole Psalm turns and becomes a Psalm of praise because he saw the end, not the present.
The Apostle Paul saw that so clearly. He doesn’t write about it in Philippians. He writes about it in one of his other letters. But remember that the guy who’s writing, I will rejoice anyway, the guy who’s writing, whether I live or die, whether I get out of prison, whatever. The guy who’s writing this has a mindset of clearly seeing the glories of God’s ultimate reward, not to short term rewards. And he writes about it in Corinthians. If you’re taking notes, you wanna write these two passages down, look at them later. In the margin of your Bible, you’ll probably want to put each cross-reference there so that you connect them there in one in the same letter, it’s called 2nd Corinthians. It’s a letter he wrote to a group of Christians in a place called Corinth. And here’s what he says, ”For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on what is not on what is seen, but what is unseen since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” Man, he says, I’m looking ahead. And that helps me to understand these things that seem difficult now were just first world problems. They are light and momentary afflictions. I’ve lived a pretty blessed life. I mean, we’ve gone through some things. I’ve had ministry challenges. My wife nearly died of cancer by the grace of God. She’s fine, but stage four mets. We had a financial meltdown in ’09, but again, those are first world problems. I could sit my kids down and say, let me tell you how good God is. These are just light and momentary, but this guy didn’t have my kind of little problems.
Listen to what he went through. It’s in 2nd Corinthians, same letter, what he called light and momentary afflictions. He starts to label them in chapter 11, verses 23 to 29. Here’s what he says. ”I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely than exposed to death again and again. Five times, I received from the Jews, 40 lashes minus 1. Three times I was beaten with rods. I was pelted with stones. Three times, I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a night and a day in the open seat, just waiting to drown. I have been constantly on the move, a fugitive. I’ve been in danger from the rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, from the Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and have been in danger from false believers. I’ve labored and toiled and often gone without any sleep and I’ve known hunger and thirst and I’ve often gone without food. I’ve been cold and I’d been naked. Besides that, I’m stressed out. I face daily, the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” And he goes on.
Are you kidding me? Oh, that I could come to the day. I could have one-tenth of that list and call it momentary and light afflictions, but oh, may through the power of the Spirit, I have the day where I can have that list and not have the short-sightedness of immaturity that sees the present, but the long view of maturity that sees the whole. That’s how we live bigger than our circumstances. Father, would you take the things that we have looked at and would you speak to our hearts not with this series of things we maybe took some notes on or listened to, but with that one or two things that have your nudge, your work, the power, your Spirit is saying to us this one’s for you, that we might carry out our assignment, whatever it is well to your fame and your glory, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Can you imagine suffering as a gift from God? How we think about suffering determines what it can accomplish in our life. If we are on mission for Christ, our circumstances don’t need to define our contentment even when in the midst of the pain that comes from suffering.
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hills, so glad to have you with us today. If you’re just joining us, I’m gonna you caught up real quick. We are in the midst of our Boundless Series. We’re working our way through the Book of Philippians in order to uncover the secret to living bigger than our circumstances because we all have circumstances that feel like they’re putting a lid on us, right? They feel like they’re limiting us, They’re holding us down, they’re keeping us back, and yet, the Apostle Paul, who wrote the Book of Philippians, said that he’s learned the secret to being content in any and every situation. In other words, that our circumstances actually aren’t the limiting factor that we think that they are.
And he should know something about that because he’s not speaking out of theory, he’s speaking out of practice. He was in some really difficult situations when he wrote that. We know that Paul had this dream of going to Rome, and Rome would become the launching point for preaching the Gospel and the rest of the world, so he’s so excited to come to Rome as a preacher. And he wanted to go to Rome.
He prayed about going to Rome. He worked hard at getting to Rome, and yet, he wasn’t getting to Rome. There’s just obstacle after obstacle. There’s closed door after closed door. It seemed like it wasn’t gonna happen, and then all of a sudden, he’s in Rome, but not the way he wanted to be. He was in Rome, not as a preacher. He’s in Rome as a prisoner. He didn’t go to Rome, he was taken to Rome, and he’s under 24/7 arrest in a Roman prison, being guarded and watched over. And so when he said that he’s learned the secret to being content in every situation, he’s in a difficult situation.
Last week, my friend Larry preached a really powerful message about how do we respond when the assignment we get isn’t the assignment that we wanted. I hope you heard that. If you didn’t, I really encourage you to check that out. You can do it on the Mission Hills website or on the app or wherever you get podcast because that’s a really powerful and very important teaching, how do we respond when the assignment we get isn’t the assignment that we wanted.
What we’re gonna talk about today is how to think about the suffering that comes when the assignment we get isn’t the assignment we wanted. Because the problem is that when we find ourselves in these circumstances that aren’t what we were looking for, there’s pain involved in that. There’s suffering involved. There’s hurt involved in that.
And what we’re gonna talk about today is how do we think about our suffering. Paul knew a lot about that. He was suffering, right? His circumstances weren’t pleasant. As Larry shared last week, Roman prisons made American prisons look like Club Med, right? That was an unpleasant place to be.
His future was uncertain. He didn’t know if he was gonna live or die. He thought he might live. We saw that last week, but he didn’t know that for sure. He felt like his dream was being derailed. And those aren’t just like external things, like internally, he was in some pain. He was in some suffering. He was hurting in the midst of that. Maybe that resonates with you. Maybe you’re in that place where there’s pain in your life. There’s suffering in your life. Maybe it’s physical, it’s emotional, spiritual, it’s relational, but you’re hurting.
And what we’re gonna talk about today is how do we think about that suffering, how do we think about pain, because here’s what you need to understand. How we think about our suffering determines what it will accomplish in our lives, really important thing to understand. How we think about suffering determines what it accomplishes in our lives.
Let me speak two truths over you. The first truth I wish I didn’t have to say, and I probably don’t because you already know it, but we need to make sure we’re on the same page. Here’s the first truth, church. Suffering is certain. It’s inevitable. It’s gonna happen, like I really wish that weren’t true, but is anybody shocked? Okay. I didn’t burst anybody’s bubble. That’s good.
I mean, Jesus himself…Jesus didn’t say, “In this life, you might have some trouble.” Jesus said, “In this life, it’s possible that there’s an outside chance that you might on occasion experience…” somebody said. Jesus said, “In this life, you will have trouble.” Suffering is certain. It’s not the world that we were meant for. It’s the world that we made with our sin. But in a world that’s broken by our sin, suffering is certain. It’s gonna happen.
Second truth you need to understand, though, is this, is that suffering changes us. Suffering changes us. It does something in us. It impacts us. It transforms us. And it can go in two different directions. Suffering can build us up, but it can also break us down. And the question of what makes the difference, what makes suffering either build us up or break us down really is how we think about it. How we think about our suffering determines what it will accomplish in our lives.
What we’re gonna see today is that Paul thought about suffering in a way that’s very counterintuitive. In fact, it’s gonna feel…it’s gonna feel foreign. It’s gonna feel strange. It’s gonna feel hard to get a handle on, and yet I believe that the way he saw suffering is what enabled him to say, “I know how to be content in any and every situation.”
And understanding what Paul has come to understand about suffering has caused me to ask this question. I wanna ask you to ask yourself this question as we begin today. This is the question. “What would happen if I started, if I began to see pain as a privilege? What would happen if I began to see pain as a privilege, as a blessing, as something that I get to experience rather than something that I have to? How would that change my experience and how would that change what actually is accomplished in me through the suffering that I go through?”
Why don’t you go and grab your Bibles, start making your way to Philippians 1:27. Paul begins this way. He says, “Whatever happens.” And he’s, in part, talking about himself because he’s just told them, “I don’t know if I’m gonna live or die. I don’t know if I’m gonna get free or bail to come to see you or not. I don’t know.” But he’s also pitching forward to them.
He says, “It’s not just about me. Now it’s about you. Whatever happens in your lives, whatever happens in your city, in the city of Philippi, whatever happens, this’s what I want,” he says “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the
Gospel of Christ. Whatever happens to me or to you, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
Now, the word conduct is interesting. You might even underline it. The original Greek, it literally means something like act like a citizen. It’s a very specific technical word. He says act like a citizen. And that was a word they were very familiar with because, in the city of Philippi, they were very proud of the fact that they were citizens of Rome. That wasn’t true of most of the other people in the cities around Philippi.
Most of the other people in the other cities, they were Roman property, but they weren’t Roman citizens. 42 BC, about 100 years before Paul wrote this, an interesting thing happened. A Roman general named Octavius had fought an important battle against two of his rivals on the plains outside the city of Philippi.
Well, the city of Philippi helped Octavius, and because of that, he won his battle and eventually went on to become the Roman Emperor. And when he did become the Roman Emperor, what he did was he rewarded the city of Philippi by making them all citizens of Rome. They were the only ones in the area that actually had citizenship, and they were immensely proud of that fact.
They talked about it all the time, and they worked really hard at living up to that privilege. They worked really hard to act like citizens, that word. And Paul uses a word now that they’re familiar with, that they use all the time, but he uses it with a little bit of a twist, right? He says, “No matter what happens, I want you to act like citizens.” But he’s not saying act like citizens of Rome. He’s saying act like citizens of heaven, right? Because that’s what the Gospel does. It makes us citizens of heaven.
The Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us for our sins that he rose from the dead and by faith in him we’re forgiven of our sins and we’re brought into the family of God also means that we become citizens of heaven. We’re strangers in a strange land. We’re an outpost of heaven in the rest of the world, very much like Philippi was an outpost of Rome in this other territory.
And what Paul says is, “Hey, you know, I know that you live in a city that’s immensely proud of their citizenship, and they’re always saying, ‘Hey, act like a citizen.’ Well, I’m telling you to act like a citizen but of a very different kingdom.” And what he wants them to do is he wants them to make their citizenship in heaven matter more than their citizenship in Rome.
And here’s an interesting thing. Here’s what we begin to see one of the privileges of pain, one of the positive things that comes from a suffering, and it’s this, that suffering forces us to make choices. And here’s the thing. Difficult circumstances allow us to cast a vote for who we want to be. Difficult circumstances allow us to cast a vote for who we want to be.
See, here’s the thing. As followers of Jesus, we would all love to think that our citizenship in heaven matters more than our citizenship in any other earthly thing, right? We would love to say that being a citizen of heaven matters more than I’m a citizen of America. We’d love to say that being a citizen in heaven matters more than my citizenship in a family or in a corporation or a career or Colorado, right? I mean, we love being citizens of Colorado, don’t we?
For those of you watching online, for other parts of the world, I’m sorry. I feel that, like sometimes when I’m in Kansas, I find myself thinking, “These poor people.” And then when I cross the border and welcome to beautiful, I’m like, “Huh, amongst my people, my tribe,” right? We can take immense pride in that kind of thing.
And so we all have these earthly kingdoms that we’re citizens of, and we can take a lot of pride and pleasure in that. And Paul’s not saying that that’s a bad thing, but he’s saying, “Hey, your citizenship in heaven needs to matter a lot more than your citizenship in these other things.” And we’d all love to think that that’s how we live.
But the reality is that we only actually are the people whose citizenship in heaven matters most when we choose to act like that. And it’s often in the midst of difficult circumstances that we’re given the choice. And so when we’re making that choice, we’re casting votes for the kind of person that we really wanna be.
I just finished reading an interesting book called “Atomic Habits.” It’s a practical book on how do you build good habits and break bad ones. It was a helpful book. There’s one part early in the book that really caught my attention, and the author said, he said, “Every time we make a choice, we cast a vote for the kind of person we’re gonna be.” Every choice is a casting of a vote for the kind of person we’re gonna be.
And if you think about it, I get in the middle of the night, and I go into the kitchen, and I open up the refrigerator, I’m about to make a vote. Right? Depending on what I choose to eat, like, you know, if I eat celery, which is never gonna happen, let’s just be clear about that, but if I choose to eat celery, I’m casting a vote for being a healthy person.
On the other hand, when I choose to eat fried chicken…and fried chicken at 1:00 a.m. is just magic, alright? When I choose fried chicken, I’m casting a vote for not being a healthy person, right?
When I decide I’m gonna go by the gym on the way home, or I decide, “No, I’m gonna go straight home,” I’m casting a vote for being a person who’s in shape or a person who’s not in shape. When I have a conflict with my wife, I have a choice. I’m casting a vote either for being a person who brings peace into relationships or who adds to the conflict. I’m a trouble stirrer upper, if that’s the word, right? That’s not who I wanna be.
But it’s in the moment when I have to make a choice. When I’m in a difficult situation, that’s when I cast a vote for who I’m really gonna be. And so he says to the church in Philippi, “I know that things are getting hard. Rome is paying attention to you. The other people around you, they’re starting to pay attention to you. They’re getting upset with you,” because here’s what was happening.
People in Philippi, they’re so proud of being Roman citizens. They worked hard at acting like citizens. And one of the ways they did that was they would say frequently in public gatherings, “Caesar is lord,” and the Christians are like, “Not really sure he is. I think Jesus is Lord. I don’t know that I can say that.” And the people in Philippi are going, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Do you know how much trouble this is gonna cause us? Say it.” “I don’t know that I can…”
And so they were forced in this place where they’re in a difficult painful, a suffering circumstance and yet, what it provided them was an opportunity to cast votes for who they’re gonna be. Are you gonna be the people, I mean, whom your citizenship in heaven matters more than anything else? Are you not gonna be those people? That’s the privilege that comes in this difficult circumstance. He says, “I know what I want you to be.”
Now he says, “Let me tell you how you cast the votes for that person that I know you want to be.” He says this. He says, “Then, when you’re conducting yourself in manner worthy, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that three things are true.” These are three ways that they’re casting votes.
He says, “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.” But he gives us there basically three ways that we cast votes for being the kind of people whose citizenship in heaven matters more than anything else. Three ways that he says you cast the votes.
The first one he says, “You cast votes by standing firm in the one Spirit.” The one Spirit here would be the Holy Spirit. When we say yes to Jesus, not only are we forgiven of our sins, adopted in the family of God, but the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, comes into us, takes up residence in us, and begins to transform us from the inside out. And all followers of Jesus have that same Spirit, all of us, no matter how many other differences we might have.
And a couple weeks ago, we talked about diversity in the Church and all kinds of differences in the Church, right? You know, we’ve got…we got black Christians, we got white Christians. We got Republican Christians and Democrat Christians. We got Calvinists Christians and Arminian Christians, and a whole bunch of people have no idea what that means, and that’s okay. We got charismatic Christians and non-charismatic. We got all kinds of Christians, but all kinds of Christians have one kind of Spirit. In fact, only one Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
And we have a choice as a church that is we can pay a lot of attention to all those differences, and well, you are over there because you’re that kind, and I’m over here because I’m that kind, and you’re over there because you’re that kind, and what happens at that point is there’s division and there’s a lack of unity, or we can say, “No, no, we’re gonna stand firm in the one Spirit that is common to all of us.”
And so how do we cast votes for being the kind of person whose citizenship in heaven matters most? We choose to pay more attention to what we have in common with each other than what we don’t. It’s the first way we cast votes. We choose to pay more attention to what we have in common than what we don’t. Yeah. We can talk about those other things. We can debate some of these other things. We’re not saying they don’t matter at all, but we’re saying they don’t matter as much as the fact that we all share in the same Spirit. And we’re gonna stand firm in that. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna cast the vote by paying more attention to what we have in common than what we don’t.
The second thing is he says, “You cast votes by striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel.” In other words, he says you cast vote for being the kind of person whose citizenship in heaven matters most by choosing to live on mission, by choosing to live on mission. We choose to live on mission. That’s how we cast that vote. We choose to live on mission.
Well, how do we live on mission? We advance the Gospel. We extend God’s influence in the world. Every time we bring a light into a dark place in the name of Jesus, we’re extending God’s influence in the world and we’re living on mission. Every time we bring hope where there is despair, we are extending God’s influence in the world. Every time we bring healing where there’s hurt in the name of Jesus, we’re extending God’s influence. Well, every time we bring righteousness into a place where sin is running rampant, we’re bringing God’s influence further out into the world. Every time we look for an opportunity and take the opportunity to speak of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us. Every time we share the hope, every time we share that Gospel, that Good News, we’re extending God’s influence. We’re living in mission.
Every time we even do simple things. It can be as simple as going, “You know, I’ve built a relationship with somebody, and my next step is I’m gonna invite them to come to church with me next weekend.” Just say to them, “Hey, we’re going through a series that I think might be powerful in your life, and, well, why don’t we go together?” Even something as simple as that is choosing to live on mission. And when we choose to live on mission, we are casting a vote for the kind of person we wanna be. We’re casting a vote for being the kind of person whose citizenship in heaven matters most.
The third one he says is this, “Without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” That’s the third way we cast the vote, without being frightened. Actually, the word he uses for frightened is interesting. It was a word that was often used in Greek of when a horse would get spooked.
And I think that’s really interesting because like horses are these massive creatures, right? But they can get spooked by really small things. I know this because I’ve spent a fair amount of time around horses. I’m gonna be honest with you. I don’t actually like horses all that much. I feel like they’re just kind of sketchy as a mode of transportation.
But my wife loves horses, and I love my wife. So I’ve spent a lot more time around horses than I would have otherwise chosen to. A couple years ago, we were in Ouray, we were on a ride over the Dallas Divide, and we were walking along this path that had this huge drop-off on the side. And I was on a horse that I thought was especially sketchy. And I was like, “You know, he could buck me off down that thing and I could die.” And it was about that moment as I was thinking about that that a chipmunk ran across the trail in front of us. And I’m not gonna exaggerate. Okay.
So it wasn’t that big a deal, but the horse spooked. He kind of like jerked back and shook, and I was like, “Yeah. I’m gonna die. This is it. It’s because of a chipmunk.” And there was a part of me that was just really mad at the horses. It’s like, “Do you know how big you are? Like, you are massive. And it’s that tiny. You could step on it. It wouldn’t even make you aware of its presence at that moment. You’d step on it squish it flat, and keep going and be like, “I just got something sticky on my foot.’ That’s all that would happen. That is all that would happen and yet, you’re about to kill me because you’re so scared of this thing. Stop.”‘ And it’s interesting. That’s the word that he uses here.
He says don’t be frightened. He says don’t be skittish. Don’t be spooked. And what he’s really saying is this. He says, “Yeah. I know that the people around you that are bringing pressure on you, they seem like a big deal, but they’re not as a big deal as your God. And, yeah, I know that they’re pointing to the power of Rome. And Rome seems like a really big deal, but I want you to understand. Rome’s not that big compared to your God either.
And so he says, “Don’t get spooked. Basically, he says, “Here’s how you cast the vote for being somebody who is more invested in their citizenship in heaven than anything else.” He says, “We choose not to live in fear of things that are smaller than our God. And do you know how many things are smaller than our God? All of them, all of the things, all of the things. No matter how big it might seem in your life, compared to God, it is insignificantly small. So don’t get spooked by it. So that’s the third way we cast our votes for the kind of people we wanna be, the kind of people whose citizenship in heaven matters most, we choose not to live in fear of things that are smaller than our God.
He says this. He says, “This is a sign. It’s a sign to them, those who would oppose you that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved, and that by God.” He says, “When you live this way, when you cast these votes…” And by the way, here’s the interesting thing. When we’re casting votes for becoming the people, we wanna be, you don’t have to win by a landslide. To become the kind of person you wanna be, you only have to win by a simple majority. You only have to cast more votes for the kind of person you want to be than the kind of person you don’t. And so you can mess up. You can make mistakes along the way. You go, “Oh, I cast the vote wrong there.” That’s okay.
All you have to do is cast more votes for who you wanna be, for the person whose citizenship is in heaven. And he says, “And when you do that, when you’re casting more votes in that direction, it’s gonna be a sign to everybody around you that they’re being destroyed.” Now, don’t take that as a threat. It’s not intended that way.
What he’s saying is that when you live as citizens of heaven first, they’re gonna recognize there’s something that you have that I don’t have. I’m putting my hope and my faith in this tribe, in this kingdom, in this citizenship, but honestly, I don’t have the stability, I don’t have the confidence, I don’t have the peace that come from where your citizenship resides. And it’s gonna reveal the inadequacies of their citizenships in these earthly things. They’re gonna recognize, “These things are falling apart, and I’m gonna be destroyed with them.” And so it’s gonna draw attention back to God, back to Jesus.
And then he says what is probably the most difficult part of this passage and maybe of the entire Book of Philippians. He says, “For it has been granted to you.” And you might underline that word, granted, if you’re able. He says, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you’re going through the same struggle you saw I had, and you now hear that I still have.” He says, “Good news, Church. We’re all in this together. You’ve seen that I’ve suffered with the Gospel. I’ve been in pain for the Gospel. Well, now you’re in pain. Now you’re suffering. Good news, we’re in this together.”
And then there’s this other little bit. What did he say, church? For it has been what? Let’s say it together. For it has been granted. Not it has happened. Not it inevitably comes to pass. No, no, he says, “It has been granted to you.” Do you know what that word means? It means a gift. It’s been gifted to you. In fact, actually in the original Greek…and I apologize, we’re spending a little bit more time talking about Greek words than we normally do, but I think it’s important you understand that the Greek word he uses for granted here is actually rooted in the Greek word for grace. You know what grace is, right? Grace is an undeserved gift.
Mercy is when God doesn’t give us the punishment that we deserve for our sin. That’s mercy. When we don’t get something bad we deserve, that’s mercy. Grace is mercy on steroids. Grace is when we get something good that we don’t deserve. This word that he uses for granted is a grace word. And so let’s be very clear. He says suffering is an undeserved gift from God. Not a lot of Amens on that one. Not a lot of people excited about that one, but that’s what Paul says.
He says, “You’ve been given an undeserved gift of not only believing in Jesus but also suffering.” Suffering is an undeserved gift. How on earth can you say that? I wanna explain to you why I believe Paul says that. I wanna talk about some of the privileges that come from pain if only we can see them.
And understand that the suffering Paul is talking about on one level is suffering for the sake of our faith. It’s suffering for the name of Jesus because of our faith, right? But on the other hand, I honestly believe that the principles that allow him to say that about suffering for our faith also hold true for every other kind of suffering that we face, every other kind of pain we experience in life.
And part of the reason I say that is because Paul wrote these words to the Church in Rome. Romans 8:28. He says, “And we know.” Not we guess, not we hope, not we think might be, but we know that in all things, not in some things, but in all things in your suffering for your faith also in your suffering just because the world is broken and hard things come into our lives, but in all things God works for the…what’s that word, church? For the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose. In all things, God works for good. So, not just suffering for our faith, but in all suffering, God works for good. Okay. So how is it then that suffering can be an undeserved gift. Let me give you six things.
The first one is just this. Suffering opens doors. Suffering opens doors that weren’t open before. We’ve seen this in the Book of Philippians. You know, Paul ended up in jail, and it seemed like a closed door to preaching the Gospel. But then he came to the recognition that for him to be, you know, a prisoner for 24/7, people had to be keeping him prisoner. People had to be watching him. Yeah. He might be a captive, but that meant that his prison guards were a captive audience.
And so he started preaching to them. He had access to the elite Roman guards, and through them, he was able to exert influence and to share the Gospel within the rest of the palace with the highest, most influential people in all of the Roman Empire he had access to because of his imprisonment and because of those guards that were watching him.
That was an opportunity he’d never had before. Suffering opened doors. Maybe you’ve seen the same kind of thing in your life. I’ve shared that my family and my youngest daughter’s been struggling with abdominal pain, chronic pain for the last two years. And that’s been a really frustrating process, and yet in the midst of it, we’ve met a whole lot of people we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
We’ve met doctors, and they’ve been able to see something about how our faith sustains us in this and this faith that my daughter has and the strength that she has because of her faith in the midst of all of this. And we’ve been able to speak that into the lives of a lot of medical professionals we would otherwise have never met.
People have come to us and said, “Hey, you know, I have a daughter,” or a granddaughter or somebody, “who’s struggling through some similar things.” And they’ve been able to speak some encouragement into my life, but I’ve been able to do the same to some of them as well. That’s an opportunity for ministry that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Suffering opens doors, and that’s a privilege.
The second one is that suffering creates platforms. It doesn’t just open opportunities. It gives us some credibility to speak into those situations. When we first had our girls, I discovered there was an entire class of people that I didn’t know existed, and they were what I would call parenting experts. People who were gonna tell you, “Here’s how you raise godly kids. Here’s what you do with all kinds of issues,” right? And I learned some stuff from them. Don’t get me wrong. I did learn from them.
But there was a subgroup inside the larger category of parenting experts that baffled me, and they were the people that were probably most emphatic, like, “We know how to do this. You need to read this book. You need to do this. You need to implement this practice.”
And when I would ask questions like, “Well, how many kids do you have?” Well, we don’t actually have kids yet. What? Sorry, conversation’s over. You go get some kids and then tell me how well your theories work out, right? Because it’s hard to speak into somebody’s life about a situation that you’ve never experienced, right?
By the way, I wanna be really clear here. I am not saying that having kids is suffering. I mean, it is, but that’s just not my point, okay? But it is. Honestly, it is because when you have kids, you suffer. You lay awake at night and you worry about them, and you worry about how badly you’re messing them up, right? You realize early on they’re not like an Etch-A-Sketch. The damage you do during the day, you can’t just shake them overnight, like, “We’re starting fresh tomorrow” and like, “Yeah. I caused some real damage.” And you’re like, “How badly is this gonna mess them up as adults,” right? That’s suffering. It’s painful.
But it also gives you the platform to speak into other people who have kids and are going through similar kinds of issues, right? If you’ve had some kind of chronic pain, you can speak into the lives of people who are struggling with chronic pain in a way that some of us who haven’t experienced can’t, right? Suffering creates platforms.
The third thing is this. Suffering provides perspective. Suffering provides…it changes the way we think about certain things, right, and how big a deal we think those things are. This past Friday, I was working in my garage and I injured myself. I’m gonna show you the injury. It’s right here, I don’t know if the cameras can get, a little red line. It’s a paper cut.
And I know you’re like, “Oh, come on, really? You cut yourself?” It was sandpaper. Oh, come on. That’s way worse. I got one aw. All right. Sandpaper paper cuts really painful. I felt I was pretty proud of myself because like there were some things that like were collecting on the back of my tongue, some words, small words, but they did not come out. I felt really good about that.
But I was like, “I can’t believe how bad this hurts. This is terrible.” And then I dropped a hammer on my foot. And I know people are like, “You should probably stay out of the garage.” I’ve heard that this weekend, okay? But here’s the thing. Dropping the hammer off changed the way I thought about this. And then I got another paper cut, and that second paper cut didn’t bother me much because the experience of the hammer falling on my foot changed my perspective on that pain, right?
Suffering creates perspective, and this is really important, because here’s the thing. If you think that a pain that you are experiencing or that you might experience even, if you think that it’s overwhelming, guess what it’s gonna do? It’s gonna overwhelm you. If you think that it’s overwhelming, it will overwhelm you.
But pain, suffering creates a perspective on stuff that allows us to go, “That’s not overwhelming. That’s not as big a deal as I once thought it was. That doesn’t need to undo me. That doesn’t need to undermine me. That doesn’t need to take me off mission.” That’s not fun, but it’s not that big a deal. That’s a privilege to be able to do that because it allows us to face additional things in life with a lot more grace and faith. That’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to be given that perspective.
The fourth one is that suffering builds strength. Suffering builds strength. It makes us stronger, like I wish that we didn’t grow more through pain than we do from pleasure. But I’ve never met anybody who’s like, “Yeah. Life’s been awesome, and I’m so strong.” It just doesn’t work that way.
My first job in ministry, I worked for a church, and in my office, I had this little courtyard in front of it. And there was a willow tree in the courtyard, and I could see the willow tree from my desk, but I could also see over the roof to a hill that went up behind the church to the local high school, and there was a willow tree up there too. And it’s interesting. When storms would blow into Cincinnati, you could see the impact of the wind on these two trees. And the one up on the hill would like wave wildly back and forth. It would sometimes get pushed almost down to the ground. The one in the courtyard, just the top would wiggle a little bit because it was protected on all four sides.
The week before I left, two things happened, remarkable things. The first one is they started an expansion on the high school, and so they had to dig that willow tree up out of the ground. And it took them all day. They started the process, and I watched them as the bulldozer wider and wider and wider. And it became clear why. That’s because this willow tree that had been bent over the ground, it had built these roots that there were so thick and they went out so far, they had to dig basically a 75-foot circle around this tree to get to all the roots to get them out so that they could begin the construction.
The day before I left that church to move out to Colorado, I watched a little old lady in the courtyard. She was 85 pounds soaking wet. And at a certain point, she stood up. It’s kind of wiped around. She leaned against that little willow tree, and both of them fell down. The roots of the willow tree just all ripped up. They were just these tiny spindly thin little things. They weren’t even deep. They were just barely under the cobblestones.
What was the difference? One of them faced storms, and one of them grew very strong, and one of them didn’t. We’re built the same way. Suffering builds strength, which allows us to face more. Not just to face more but to face it better, to face it more faithfully, to face it with more grace, to face it with a more missional mindset, and actually see incredible things happen because of the way we face that. Suffering builds strength. And that is a privilege.
The fifth one is this. Suffering refines value. Suffering refines value. Suffering forces us to recognize what is really important and what’s not, right? I’ve never heard anybody get a diagnosis of cancer and then say, “This has really brought home to me the importance of my possessions.” I’ve never seen that happen. It doesn’t work that way. Suffering brings us face to face with what’s really important.
In that church that I was describing, I thought things were going great. The first two years, things were going great. The youth group had tripled in size. Kids were saying yes to Jesus. They were taking steps of faith to live to be on mission, reach their unchurched friends. I thought things were going great, and then one day, I was walking into Sunday school, and one of my high school leaders came up, and he kind of looked around, and then he leaned in, and he said, “Hey, I just want you to know, no matter what happens, I’m with you.” Who’s not with me?
And what turns out was there were some parents that were really upset, and they were having meetings. There were multiple meetings that were happening trying to figure out what should we do about Craig. I wasn’t aware of those meetings. I wasn’t invited into them. I wasn’t allowed to speak about them. After I became aware of them, I still wasn’t allowed. They were like, “No, we’ll figure it out. We’ll let you know.”
Several weeks went by, and they were painful weeks. There were weeks where there was some significant suffering going on in my life. Am I about to lose my job? What’s gonna happen? Eventually, I got like a three-paged document with here’s all of the bullet points, three pages of bullet point. Here’s what you’ve done wrong. And I wanna be honest with you. Some of them were absolutely things I had done wrong. I was a young leader, kind of stupid in some ways. I’d made some significant mistakes. I needed to learn. I needed to grow. I needed to change. But there were also a bunch of items on that list that I thought a little bit differently about.
After the pain of the last few weeks before I saw the list some things had been clarified and some of the items on the list basically boiled down to there’s way too many unchurched kids coming to youth group. And I’m not kidding. I’ve shared this one before, but one of the complaints that was reiterated here was, “You got all these kids coming down from the high school. Their families don’t go here, but they’re coming here on the afternoons after school, and they’re wearing out the carpet to your office.” That was an actual complaint.
And their parents don’t care. They’re just a bunch of unchurched kids coming to our church, and that’s a problem. And I went, “No, it’s not.” Yeah. I need to own that and that and that. And I messed that up, and I need to learn. I need to grow here. But that stuff here, this unreached kid, this being on mission to reach the lost, “No, no, I’m not apologizing for that. And, in fact, if that’s what you want, if you want a youth group that’s not on mission with Jesus to reach the lost, then I will save you the trouble of firing me because that is too important to me.”
And you’ve heard me say, I mean, my heartbeat in ministry is to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission, right? Because I don’t believe that mission is something that the Church does. It’s not a program that the Church does. It’s not one of the things that we do. It’s the central purpose for which the Church exists. We’re here to reach the lost. We’re here to help people become like Jesus and join him on a mission.
The Church is not a building we come to. It’s a mission that we choose to be part of. That conviction was developed in those two weeks of suffering and pain and uncertainty. Suffering refines values. It tells us what’s important. I consider that two-week period, which is one of the most painful of my life, I consider it a privilege.
And the last one is this. Suffering is a vote of confidence from God. Do you know that, church? When you suffer, you’re actually being given a vote of confidence from your God. Here’s the reason I say that. 1 Corinthians 10, “No temptation, the temptation to sin but also the temptation to give up in the midst of pain and suffering, to abandon faith and to look to other things rather than God, to put stock in a citizenship other than our citizenship in heaven, no temptation has ever overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted or tested beyond what you can bear. But when you’re tempted or tested, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Do you understand what that’s saying? It’s saying that any pain you experience, any suffering that comes into your life, two things are true.
Number one, it means you don’t experience it, you don’t face it alone. God faces it with you. But secondly, it means that it’s been allowed into your life because God knows you can handle it. If you couldn’t handle it, he wouldn’t have allowed it to come. Anything that we experience in life is a vote of confidence from God because he looks at it and goes, “Yeah. That’s gonna be hard, but I know she’s up to it. Yeah. That’s not gonna be fun, but I know he can take it.” Maybe that person over there or the person next to you, I mean, don’t look at them, but maybe whatever you’re facing right now, you’re facing because you can take it. But the person sitting right to your left or your right couldn’t, but God knows you can.
Suffering is a vote of confidence from God that with his help, you can handle this. He limits suffering to what is within our limits, which means that the bigger the suffering that you experience in life, the bigger the vote of confidence from God. He knows that with his help, you can handle it. You’re up to it. That’s a privilege, to be given that vote of confidence, if we could only see it that way. And so Paul says, yeah, suffering is an undeserved gift from God.
Let me give you two things to do this week. The first is just this. I want you to fill this blank in. I am most in danger of allowing my citizenship in blank to be more important than my citizenship in heaven. What’s the place where you struggle with that? Because I think we all have a thing that we belong to, a nation, a state, a corporation, a family, a community, a group of friends, something, that we have some group that our citizenship in that group is in danger being more important than our citizenship in heaven. And we need to be aware of it because it’s only when we’re aware of it that we can recognize the opportunities that we have to cast a vote for the kind of person we wanna be. So, my citizenship in blank. Fill that in.
The second is this. In my current pain, I see this privilege. We just talked about six privileges that come from pain. I’d encourage you to think about the pain that you’re facing right now and answer that question. In my current pain, I can see this privilege. I can see one of those six or maybe more than one of those six, because it’s in recognizing the privilege that comes in that because of what God does in the midst of all of that that allows us to face it with a completely different perspective because how we think about suffering determines what it will accomplish in our lives. So think of that pain and identify that privilege.
Suffering, as hard as this is to wrap our brains around, suffering is an undeserved gift from our good God. Would you pray with me? God. This is a hard truth. We’re not capable on our own of making that shift in our thinking. We hear that suffering is a gift, and we think, “Well, I’d like to return this one. I’d like to not accept this one.” Is exchanging a possibility? And yet we know in our hearts that you are good and that you know better than we do and that your servant Paul is right. But we can’t make that shift and thinking in our own, and so we thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers. And, Holy Spirit, we invite you to do the transforming work that’s necessary so that we might make this shift in our thinking about suffering and pain.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for the people listening to this that aren’t believers, that aren’t followers of Jesus, that don’t have a relationship with this good God that we know and that we have experience with, even in the midst of difficult things? Would you begin praying for those that don’t have that relationship? Because if that’s you, I wanna speak to you for just a moment. I need you to understand this, that God is not ambivalent about your suffering. He’s not ambivalent about your pain. This is how much he loves you.
He sent his own Son to experience pain on your behalf. Jesus Christ came. He lived a perfect life. He voluntarily went to the cross. He experienced pain like you and I can’t even begin to imagine. He was betrayed. He was scorned, He was beaten, and ultimately, He was nailed to a cross, and he died. He experienced pain like we can’t even wrap our heads around, but he did that for you. He did it because of how much he loves you. That is our God, and that is the God who invites you into a relationship with him. That is the God who when you give him the entrance into your life when you put your faith in him, he comes in, not only to your life, but he comes into the midst of your suffering and your pain, and he begins to transform it, and he begins to bring good out of it, but you need that relationship.
But if you don’t have that relationship, I wanna tell you how you can get it. Right here, right now you can begin that relationship. This is what you do. You just have this conversation with God. Wherever you are right now, say to him, “God, I have messed up. I’ve done wrong, and I’ve made a mess of things. I’m really sorry. Jesus, thank you for paying for all the wrong I’ve done. Thank you for paying my debt. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you are offering me new life and forgiveness. I’m ready to say yes. Jesus, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen.
Quite a number of people make that decision this weekend. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? It’s so great. If you made that decision for the first time today, I wanna encourage you to just text the word Jesus to 888111. You’re gonna get back a link. It’s gonna tell you some things that are true about you now that you’ve said yes to that relationship. It gives you some resource to help you begin walking in this new faith. It is a hard thing to make that shift in thinking that suffering is a gift from God, that pain is a privilege, and yet we worship a God who is big enough that we’ve all seen glimpses of it. And when we trust him, we will see it in its fullness.
ONE IN SPIRIT
In today’s world, having humility isn’t necessarily seen as a personality trait of power, but being impressive and being blessed are not the same thing. Join Reza Zadeh as he discusses humility as having a subdued strength in recognition of a higher authority.
Justin: We have a good friend of mine. He’s been here a couple times. He was here a couple months ago actually and told his story as some of you will remember him, but he and I went to college together at Colorado State, where he was actively involved in Athletes In Action then, and now he’s the Front Range Director of Athletes In Action, where he ministers to student athletes as well as pro athletes, and so we’re super excited to have him again. He teaches the word with passion and excitement. And please help me welcome my friend Reza Zadeh.
Reza: Thanks, Justin. Thanks a lot, Justin. And, Justin, that is one killer beard you got, bro. And for me, I’m Middle Eastern, and so if I grow a beard like that, I’m never gonna be able to fly ever again. So, that’s why I’m clean-shaven. But yes, as Justin said, I am a CSU Ram. We live in Fort Collins, and we are Rams. And that will either strengthen your faith or that’ll make you lose your faith, one of the two. And we’re big CSU fans in our household. And my wife knows this, my kids know this, that when I die, I really want…this is like one thing I want.
I want her, I want my wife to choose some CSU football players to be the pallbearers. I want them to lower me down to the ground because I wanna be let down by CSU just one more time, just one more time, just, CSU football, let me down. And yeah, that’s our world, but just kidding. But hey, Mission Hills, it is… I love coming here. And those of you that are here with us this summer when I got to come teach, you all are part of my story. And you all didn’t even know you had an Iranian family member, but there were some missionaries. I love the fact you all focused on missions because I’m a product of it.
There were some missionaries by the name of Steve and Debbie Temer, who were a part of this church. They were sent out by this church, this church. You all supported them back in ’97, and they were on campus at CSU and ministering. And they connected with this little Iranian football player there and shared the Gospel with me. And I stand before you now 22 years later because of missionaries that you all supported and what God has done. So thank you all so much for who you are.
But here’s what I love. I love the series that we’re in these next couple of weeks, this letter called Philippians, that Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian people. And I love how Pastor Craig launched this a couple of weeks ago in week one. And if you remember, he kind of gave a thought that’s kind of gonna permeate all throughout every teaching because it’s a great thought about what the Letter to the Philippians are all about. And he said this, he said, “The secret to contentment in every situation is to stop looking for contentment in any situation.” And here’s why I think it’s so important because I think for a lot of us and a lot of people, we might find our Christian life either fruitless or lifeless.
I think obviously not because it is but because I think we missed some true elements. There’s some things in the roots of the Christian life that I’m not sure we fully understand. And what we’re gonna dive into today looking at Philippians chapter 2, we’re gonna expose some of these things and one theme in particular.
But as we find ourselves in Philippian, I wanna remind us that there is a story. There’s a greater God story that we find ourselves in and that every book of the Bible, every prophet, every king, every person, every disciple that found themselves in a part of God’s story. And here’s how God’s story starts out.
In Genesis chapter 1, in Genesis chapter 2, we’re introduced to this idea of creation that Genesis chapter 1 is very…a beautiful, poetic description of creation. And then in Genesis chapter 2, we get some layers. We get a little bit more detail on what the creation account is. And so that’s the first act. The first act of this story is creation. Act number two is the fall, Genesis chapter 3. You have an interaction with Adam and Eve and the serpent figure, and you have this picture of humanity choosing its own way. We chose our own way and disobeyed God, and so the second act of the story is the fall.
And then from Genesis chapter 4 all the way to John chapter 21 to the end of the Gospels, we have a story of God’s redemption, that God is in the business of redeeming his creation back to himself and his people back to himself. So everything from Genesis 4 leading us to John 21, the end of the Gospels, the end of the story of Jesus and his ministry, but beyond that, his dying on a cross and resurrecting on our behalf, giving us new life. That is God’s redemption.
And unfortunately, for many of us, we view the story of God through just those three acts. We forget that there’s a fourth act to God’s story, and it starts with Acts chapter 1 and it goes to Revelation 22, the very end of the Scriptures that we have. And that’s God’s restoration of his creation.
And so we have creation, we have the fall, we have redemption, but then we have God’s restoration of this world, God’s restoration of humanity. And here’s the thing about God. Some people look at it and say, “I struggle with the idea that God is in charge or that God is loving because just simply take a look at our news feeds, scroll through social media, spend some time watching the news or understanding what’s happening in the political climate, not just in our world…not just in our country but all over the world. How can God be in charge when all of this is happening?”
But we have to remember the way that God chose to display his glory amongst this earth is what God did, is he created humanity. He created people. And what he said is, “I’m gonna use my people. I’m gonna manifest my glory through my people.” And simply because we’ve messed up, it’s not like God says, “Well, I guess I made a mistake. I better change my mode of operation.” That God’s plan is still to utilize his creation and his people to bring about his restoration process in this world. But see, for us to be the type of people that are a part of God…manifesting God’s glory in this world, and a part of him upon his restoration process of this world, you and I have to look a little differently and act a little differently. We’ve gotta be a certain way.
And so to better understand Philippians and not just to better understand Philippians but even to better understand the ministry of Jesus, even his teachings, it’s important for us to understand first-century culture. And in first century culture, there was an empire by the name of the Roman Empire, a ruthless empire, an empire that led and ruled with an iron fist. And this empire, the Roman Empire was outlined…the ways of the Roman Empire were outlined in a certain way, and there was a document that was created that was simply called the Via Romana or the Roman Way, the Road of the Romans, the Ways of the Romans.
And the Via Romana was a document that the Romans in the first century would follow, and every colony in the first century would follow the ways of Rome. And it laid out hierarchy and government. It would lay out the way of life, political hierarchy, gender roles, business dealings. Every way of life was detailed by the Ways of Rome, this Via Romana.
If we look a little deeper, we will see that our culture here today, that you and I today, we are also influenced by the ways of Rome in the way that we do things, and that many of our customs, our education system, our Western economy system is based on this Via Romana document. And so we find ourselves not just in a culture today where we’re facing things that are a little contrary to the Kingdom of God, but as Paul was writing his letters in the first century, there were some specific things that he was referencing that were an affront to the ways that people interacted with each other, even Jesus himself when he started out with this sermon called the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he very specifically was outlining ways in which people of the Kingdom of God needed to live that was contrary to the Via Romana. That he starts off the Sermon on the Mount with what we call the Beatitudes, the blessed are. And he says things like this, “Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are actually those who mourn. Blessed are the meek,” or some translations say, “Blessed are the humble.”
You see, he very specifically was saying if you wanna live for the Kingdom of God, it’s almost like you’ve got new spiritual clothes that you’ve gotta put on. There’s a new mode of…there’s a new way of living, and it’s not the ways of the world, and it’s not the customs of the world. And even now the things that Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount, the blessed are, are contrary to the ways of our world. Even in our world, we don’t say, “Blessed are the humble.” Because it’s the humble who don’t get the promotions. It’s the humble who don’t get to go ahead in life. It’s the humble that get looked over. It’s the humble that get cut from the team.
Then when Muhammad Ali stood up, and he said, “I am the greatest,” and all of America and all of the world cheered, what he was literally doing, is he was just expressing the beatitude of that age, and I would even say our age here today, that blessed are the powerful. Blessed are those who take advantage of opportunities. Blessed are those who actually take advantage of other people for their own gain. Blessed are the rich. Blessed are the ones who have the cars and the houses and live in that neighborhood or blessed are the ones whose kids go to specific schools.
But see, the teachings of Jesus were a new way of living and a new way of viewing ourselves. The Via Romana would have nothing to do with humility that I would even…I would even say…that I would say that when Jesus said, “Blessed are the humble,” he was actually starting this incredible revolution, the humility. And many of you, I’m sure there’s many people who are in the business world, businessmen, businesswomen, mothers, fathers, you’ve understood this idea of servant leadership. I would go as far as to say servant leadership would not be in our bookstores.
There would not be leadership seminars on how to be a servant leader without the ways of Jesus because Jesus was the very first one as a leader that got down on his knees, and he washed his disciples’ feet. Do you understand what could have happened and what probably did happen in that region when word started spreading that this rabbi got down on his knees and washed the feet of his disciples? That I would guess other rabbis started to get not just a little bit embarrassed for Jesus but a little nervous saying, “Who does this guy think he is? Leaders don’t do that sort of stuff. Leaders don’t serve. Leaders are served.”
You see, that’s the ways of the world, but Jesus came and flipped everything in that region upside down that I would even say that humility is a uniquely Christian value that without Jesus speaking about…teaching about and displaying humility, not just washing the disciples’ feet, but going to the cross on our behalf, that without that, I think our whole, entire system of leadership and how businesses are run would be different. And see, as Paul is writing the letter to the Philippians when he is in prison, he understands the ways of Rome. He’s lived in Rome. He’s been a Roman citizen. He was a Jewish leader as a Roman citizen. So he understands the ways of Rome, and he’s sitting in prison.
And you’ve heard the last couple of weeks how he found contentment in prison and how he actually said, “It’s better for me to be here than to be with you all.” That he was able to find joy in his circumstances because he realized joy is not about circumstances or feelings or emotions, but joy is a person, and that person is Jesus. And so as Paul is writing, he’s specifically…he’s addressing the Philippian people as they’re walking through this day and age.
And a lot of historians believe and theologians believe that this passage that we’re studying, that we’re looking at, Philippians 2:1-11, is the central theme of all of this Book of Philippians, that the reason that Paul could stay confident and comforted while he’s in prison is because of what he wrote here, because what he describes here in Philippians 2:1-11 represents who Paul is, but even more than that, it represents whose Paul is.
Meet me in Philippians 2:1. So Paul continues this letter that we’ve been studying, “Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if you’re part of the ways of Jesus, if you view this as good news, if you understand that Jesus is good news to you, if you have any comfort from his love, any common sharing in the spirit if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others.”
And so as he’s taking a look at this, he represents this idea of being one in spirit, being one in mind, be unified together, that the way that we live is an opportunity to…is a response to who Jesus is and who God is and what he’s done on our behalf. And I wanna focus our attention on this idea when he says, “Being one in spirit and being of one mind.”
It reminds me years ago when my wife and I were newly married, and I remember we went to a CSU football game. And for me, I hadn’t actually sat through many games because I was either playing, and I had a season where I was coaching, and so I hadn’t sat through many games. And I remember it was starting to become fall, maybe mid-fall, maybe even late fall, and we’re sitting at the old Hughes Stadium. And we’re sitting there, and it was kind of cold, and I was hungry, and we were both kind of sitting there. And it was a CSU game, so we were probably losing. And we were sitting there, and then it was halftime. And I remember at halftime, I was like, “All right, babe, there’s this room that former athletes can go to. It’s warm. It’s got food and hot chocolate. Let’s go. Let’s get out of here.”
And she looks at me, and she goes, “I’m not going anywhere. The reason I came is not to watch the game. I came for the band.” Like she was in band in high school, loves the band. And I was like…I was in a moral dilemma there, and I was thinking about, “What do I do? Do I go be warm and eat or…?” And luckily, we went through some good pre-marriage counseling before we got married, so I stayed. And I was sitting next to her, and I’m watching the band. Our band members are incredible. I mean, they’re marching and they’re singing… Not singing. They’re playing instruments. And I remember watching the trombone players. And I mean, they’re like going at it with the trombones, you know, these men and women, and they’re doing amazing. And then they all started walking.
They all started like getting in a straight line, and they kind of all fanned, like all walking together. And she was explaining to me… I was like, “Well, how do they…like how do they do that? Like, I don’t understand. Like, I don’t even know how to get 11 football players to do the same thing. How do they get six band members to do the same thing?” And she explains to me that the person at the very end, the person that’s at the very left in this particular formation has to walk a certain way, and everybody has to walk in step with the person on their left. And when everybody is walking in step with one another, what was intended, the one who orchestrates everything actually is able to be seen and displayed.
When he says, when Paul says, “Walk in step with the Spirit,” this is what he’s talking about, that when the Spirit walks, you walk, and when everyone walks in step with the Spirit the way that God wants to manifest his glory in this world will happen through his people walking in step with the Spirit. And so it’s a beautiful way that Paul is starting out this letter.
But for us to understand even a little bit more, we’ve gotta understand not just the Via Romana or the ways of Rome, we’ve got to understand what was happening politically in Rome in the first century. Philippi was a Roman colony. It was a very young church. The church was actually started…Paul started this church with a very wealthy woman by the name of Lydia.
The church, the Philippian Church, started in her home, and when Paul planted the church and left, she was the first leader of that church. And so this church grew and grew and grew. And they were doing great, but yet there was this influence of the world, and more importantly, there was an influence of the government that was infiltrating this church.
You see, at the time, there was a Roman leader by the name of Octavian. Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar, arguably the greatest caesar that ever ruled over Rome. And as Octavian was leading, he continued to hear people talk about his father. They talked about Julius Caesar, and they thought, “How do we commemorate Julius Caesar? He was the greatest caesar. Things have happened in Rome that the world has never seen.”
And so what the people decided to do is they actually labeled Julius Caesar a god, and in some ways, Octavian wrestled with this idea. But at the same time, he kind of saw it to his advantage. A lot of historians believe that he actually fanned the flames of this rumor or this movement to claim Julius Caesar as god because if Julius Caesar was seen as god, what would that make Octavian? The son of god.
And so he would stroke these flames. And so he was a ruthless leader who used people, and he worked behind the scenes to orchestrate his policies and his will amongst people. And yet, he saw himself as the son of this god. And in 27 BC, Octavian united the Roman Empire, and he quenched these uprisings that kept popping up with some of the things that he had set into place.
And he says out of humility or out of kindness, he wanted to empty himself of all titles, that, “I don’t need any titles. I’m a passionate and I’m a loving leader.” And you can look at Octavian’s life and figure out whether he was sincere in that or not. But the senate said, “You can’t do that. Like, you are a great leader. Look what you’ve done. You’re so great. We’re gonna give you a new title that you are not gonna be known as Octavian. We’re gonna give you a new name. Your name is now Augustus.”
The name Augustus means to increase. It actually means the great one. So not only now is he the son of god, they’re elevating him to the great one. And in emptying himself of all titles, he actually elevated himself, not just equal to his father, but in some ways, even greater than his father, that he now became Emperor Augustus. And this is the culture which Paul is speaking to the Philippian people. Listen to how Paul addresses…
And let me see if you can catch what Paul is saying in verse 5. Philippians 2:5, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God his Father something to be used to his own advantage.” Who do you think he’s talking about? “Rather, he made himself nothing. Rather, he emptied himself by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. He truly emptied himself, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross,” that Paul is publicly condemning the emperor for elevating himself and using people.
You see, Augustus minted his own picture upon coins, and on that coin, it said, “Great one.” His worth, he found, is what people said about him. And yet Paul comes, and he says, “He didn’t really empty himself.” He not only tried to equate himself to his father, he elevated himself above his father. Now, look at Jesus.
Jesus, the one who came from heaven, who is made in the likeness, who is a part of the triune Godhead, he didn’t even try to equate himself to his Heavenly Father. And it’s Jesus who truly emptied himself, even to the point of death, even to the cross, that the cross was such a gruesome way of capital punishment that you wouldn’t even speak of prisoners who were executed by the way of the cross.
And here’s this other beautiful way about how Paul writes. If you’re reading Philippians chapter 2 in your Bible, or maybe you have an app open, you’ll find that verses 6 through 11, it’s structured a little differently than the rest of the Philippian letter. It’s because it’s a poem, and some people think it was a poem, something. Maybe it was liturgy that the early church recited, or it was a hymn that they sang. Whatever it is, it…
Those of you that are poetry fans, you will see that this idea in this poem takes a very poetic structure, that the first line, verse 6, matches the last line, verse 11, and the second line matches the second to last, and the third, the third to last. And then there’s the central line. There’s this line right in the middle. Do you know what the central of that poem typically is? It means that’s what the poem is all about. It’s the core essence of the poem.
And if Philippians 2:1-11 is a core essence of all the letter of Philippians, and this verse, this passage is the core essence of everything Paul wanted to communicate, do you know what that core essence is? Verse 8, “By being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” You see, the Christian life is modeled after the sacrifice. The ways of our world are not modeled after the sacrifice.
Listen to how else Paul describes this Jesus that we know and we serve. Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities. All things have been created through him and for him, not made by human hands, but made by Jesus.” That it’s…Jesus is the one who was before all things and all things, Genesis 1, were created through Jesus and for Jesus.
You see, the Romans had some sayings about their Emperor Augustus, and the Romans would say of the Emperor, and they would say that the Emperor’s exalted in the highest place, that the name Augustus is the name above all names, that every knee in the entire world will one day bow to the presence of Augustus our Emperor, and his father, Julius Caesar, is lord of all. This is what the Romans said.
Listen to what Paul says in verse 9, “Therefore God exalted him, Jesus, to the highest place and gave him, Jesus, the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
You see, Paul is writing to a formerly Jewish audience who are living in a Roman colony. You see, the Jewish side of the readers that would read this letter would understand that the name of God was so holy, in the Old Testament, they couldn’t even speak it. And Yahweh came about, Y-H-W-H, and it was almost this word they couldn’t speak.
And so the Hebrew writers, they actually attached this word “Adonai,” which is translated to “you and I, Lord” in the Old Testament. And Paul comes to those Jewish people and he says, “Jesus is Adonai.” Jesus is Lord, completely blowing their mind away. And at the same time, he was telling the Romans it’s Jesus who is Lord, not Julius Caesar. I mean, in some ways Paul was embarrassing him. He’s throwing shade at this Roman emperor saying, “You didn’t empty yourself. Jesus emptied himself, that you’re not the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God, that you’re not Lord. Jesus is Lord.”
You see, Augustus tried to elevate himself. Augustus gets one month out of the year named after him. All of creation is based upon the birth of Jesus, BC, before Christ, and AD, in the year of our Lord, that those who elevate themselves might get a little recognition, but it’s everything is based and hinges on this Jesus.
There’s a couple of points I wanna lay out for us as we start to close and we start to think rightly about ourselves in the midst of what Paul was writing, contrasting the ways of the world and the ways of Rome compared to the ways of the Kingdom. The first point is this, that, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you,” Andrew Murray. If you’re taking notes, I want you to write a couple of words down. Just grab a piece of paper and write these words. I want you to write down the word “pride.” What’s the central letter in the word “pride”? I.
I want you to write down the word “sin.” What’s the central letter in the word “sin”? I. How about the word “racist”? The central letter in the word “racist” is I. How about “sexist”? The central letter of that word is I. That if we can’t get beyond I, if we can’t get beyond ourselves, until we can get beyond ourselves, we’ll never be able to understand who this Jesus is and what he’s done on our behalf, that when we’re able to get beyond ourselves, then we can live a life of true worship.
And this is where Paul is going in this letter is, as we’ll study the next few weeks, that as you truly worship, when you truly empty yourself, then you can see Jesus clearly. Second point is this. Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self. In reality, that God is everything. And I get it. I live in the world of sports. I understand what people think. When they hear the word “humility,” we think of weakness. When we think of humility, we think of being passed over.
Do you know when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek,” or, “Blessed are the humble,” like I said some translations say, the same word that is used for that, meek or humble, is the same word used for a tame animal? Like, I don’t care how tame a lion is at the Denver Zoo. I’m not getting into that cage. I’m not getting into that enclosure with that lion. Why? It might be tame, but it can still rip me to shreds. You see, humility doesn’t mean weak.
Humility simply means subdued strength. Animals that are tamed, they don’t lose their strength. They just know where their authority…who their authority is. You see, people that live humble, it’s not that we’re not stronger and we wanna get walked all over. It’s we’re making a statement to the world that I know where my authority comes from, and I know when to release and when to subdue my strength.
The last point is this. The greatest test of our faith will be our humility before God and others. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are because you know exactly whose you are. See, this is why Paul could write the things that he wrote from prison. I gotta say Paul had to be the absolute most frustrating prisoner for all of Rome. I mean, like, “Hey, Paul. Hey, you gotta stop this. You gotta stop preaching this Jesus. If you keep preaching this Jesus, we’re gonna throw you in prison.”
“All right. Great. There’s some people I gotta talk to. They need to know about Jesus. Send me to prison.” “Hey, Paul, if you don’t quit this, we’re gonna go put you in front of the emperor.” “Really? Awesome. I got some things I wanna say to the emperor. Put me in front of the emperor.” “Hey, Paul, if you don’t quit, like we’re gonna kill you.” Paul said, “All right. Great. Then I get to go be with Jesus.” I mean, like he was the absolute most frustrating prisoner for all of Rome because he knew exactly who he was and he knew exactly whose he was. He knew he didn’t have to prove himself.
See, in our world, this is a hard thing for us because we think we’re blessed when we get the promotion. We think we’re blessed when we get the house. We think we’re blessed when we get a certain number of likes on Instagram. We think we’re blessed when we move forward in life. And the reality is none of that stuff, job, money, house, fame, it won’t make you blessed, but it’ll make you impressive. And the biggest lie that we’ve fallen into, we think impressive and blessed go together. Being impressive does not mean blessed, and being blessed does not mean being impressive. See, I believe this is exactly what Paul was saying.
And the entire story of the Gospel the entire story of God interacting with humanity that we read from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation 22 can be summed up in 3 words. Do you know what those three words are? Jesus is Lord. The entire story of the Bible is Jesus is Lord. The entire story of God is Jesus is Lord. I am not lord. You’re not lord. Your pastors are not lord. Money is not lord. Anger is not lord.. Doctrine is not lord. The president is not lord.. Government is not, democracy. Despair, death, none of that is lord.. Jesus is Lord. And the biggest danger that we fall ourselves into is we align ourselves with the ways of the world rather than aligning ourselves with Jesus.
Whatever you give your worth to is what you’re making a statement saying that is lord to me in my life. And we’re challenged here understanding that if we give our lives to anything else but Jesus, we can’t be the kind of people that God utilizes to manifest his glory into this world. I love the way N.T. Wright, the New Testament scholar, says it. He says, “Saying God is in charge is not like saying God’s gonna bring in the tanks. It means God by the power of his Holy Spirit is gonna empower his people to look differently, to have a different set of spiritual clothes on as they grow in love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control.” These are the kinds of people, his beatitude people, his Philippians 2 type people to show what it looks like when Christ truly reigns as King.
Friends, would you pray with me as we respond to God? Father, thank you for your word. I thank you for who you are, and Lord, for the way that you have claimed us and the way that you have marked us by your Holy Spirit. And, God, I pray that as there are people here today that maybe have not surrendered themselves to you but yet have so many questions and so many understanding of why the world works the way that it works, that God, I pray that you would help us understand that you are Lord, that you are King Jesus, that you are elevated above every other name, that every world power one day will bow, every government official one day will bow, that you are the one that truly sets us free, and we find our worth in you So, Lord, I pray that as you are stirring in the hearts of many people here and online, that God, you would allow us to recognize exactly who you are and that we would live to the praise of your glory by the power of your Spirit in the name of Jesus. Amen.
What if humility is the key to greater influence? God wants us to act out our salvation; showing that we are in awe of God. He is transforming us from the inside out so that we want to accomplish God’s good purpose. When we put God’s agenda before our own, we begin to shine for him. Follow along this week and learn more about finding contentment in humility, including concrete steps you can take.
Craig: Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us today. We’re in the midst of our Boundless Series where we’re going to the Book of Philippians in order to discover the secret to living bigger than our circumstances because I think we probably all have some circumstances that aren’t exactly what we were looking for. Let’s just take a quick little survey. How many of us would say that every single circumstance that you’re in right now, every situation is pretty much exactly what you were hoping for? Everything is perfect and you’re just, like, “I hope nothing ever changes.” Anybody? Anybody? No. Okay. So here’s the thing. We all face these circumstances. They’re not really what we’re looking for. Like, as we were kind of writing out the agenda of our lives that wasn’t on the agenda, right? And yet the Apostle Paul says in the Book of Philippians that our circumstances aren’t really the lid on our peace, our prosperity, our contentment, all those things. Our circumstances aren’t the lid on us that we often tend to think they are.
In fact, he says that he’s learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, which basically boils down to not looking for contentment in any situation, but that’s easier said than done. And so throughout the Book of Philippians, we encounter these principles that allow us to begin to kind of do a kind of a contentment transplant to take it out of the realm of our circumstances and into other things that can’t be stolen from us. Last week, Reza walked us through a great teaching on the importance of humility when it comes to contentment and how important humility is in the Christian life. Today we’re gonna talk about the power of humility, which I know might seem like an odd word to attach to the word humility because we don’t tend to think about humility and power going together, right?
You know, humble people, we tend to think in our culture, humble people are invisible people because they don’t toot their own horn, right? They don’t kind of insist on being out in the limelight. And so humble people are invisible people and invisible people of course, are powerless people. So power and humility don’t seem to go together and yet we don’t even need to go to God’s Word to correct that misunderstanding. It’s false and even the world is demonstrated that. I’ve been rereading a book this past week called ”Good to Great.” It’s a business book came out several years ago. Basically, the premise of the book was that it was a team of researchers and they took the Fortune 500 companies and they analyze them and they were looking for a couple of standouts. They were looking for companies that had average returns. They were kind of tracking with the market and everything was going fine and then they jumped from good to great. They had at least three times the average earnings of the market average. So they went to three times better basically than all the other companies. And then they said, “We’re only interested in companies that stayed at that great level for at least 15 years.” So it couldn’t be a flash in the pan, it couldn’t be some small thing. It was a big change. And they stayed there.
And we wanna know what those companies did that are different than all the other companies. And they found several things. But the most interesting to me was they found that all of those good to great companies, they all had a certain kind of leader. And in the book they call them a level five leader. And as they describe what a level five leader was, there was one word that came up over and over and over again. You wanna guess what that word was? It was humble. They found that these leaders of these standout companies, they were all humble. They didn’t insist on attention. They didn’t look for accolades. They took all the influence they had and they used it to make the company better. And so even the world has sort of recognized that humility and power are not, they’re not in conflict with each other. People can be humble and have tremendous influence. Well, I mean, let me just throw out a couple of names. Just tell me if you’ve heard these names with your hand. Gandhi? Anybody? Buddha? Abraham Lincoln? Rosa Parks? Bill and Melinda Gates? These are all very powerful people, people who had huge influence in the world and yet they’re all people who are known for their humility.
Bill and Melinda Gates blow up the internet. Bill blew up the internet just this year because somebody tweeted a picture of him just standing in line with a bunch of people at Dick’s Burgers in Seattle waiting for a burger just like everybody else, which is crazy when you think about it. Because he could have bought Dick’s Burgers and it would have affected his bottom line the same amount of buying an actual burger would have our bottom lines, right? And yet there he was just hanging with everybody else, no special treatment, not looking for anything else. And a bunch of people who knew him responded to the tweet and said, ”Yeah, that’s just who he is. He’s just a humble guy.” And yet he’s clearly a very powerful guy.
And so even the world knows that there is a power in humility, that humility and power are not enemies of one another. And yet we still seem to have this idea that humility makes us invisible and invisible means that we’re powerless, but that’s not the case at all. And it’s caused me to ask an interesting question. When I start to ponder why it is that God talks so much about humility, here’s what I’ve been asking myself this week. What if the reason God wants us to be humble is because it actually makes us more powerful, actually, makes us more able to make a difference? So in fact, here’s the question. What if humility is the key to greater influence? What if we’ve got it backwards? What if humility doesn’t reduce our influence? What if it increase it? What if humility is the key to greater influence?
Why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible. Make your way to Philippians 2:12. We’re gonna talk today about the power of humility, the power that humility gives us to actually make a difference in the world. In Philippians 2:12 says this, it says, ”Therefore, my dear friends…” He’s been talking about humility up to this point as we saw last week. He says, ”With all that humility stuff in mind, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, not only when I was there, but now much more in my absence.” He’s in jail in Rome, far from them. He says, ”I want you to do this. I want you to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Now, that phrase, work out your salvation, has caused way more confusion than is necessary. Because what Paul’s saying there actually is very, very simple. All Paul is saying is this. He’s saying, “Live out your salvation.” He’s saying, “Live out your salvation.” He’s saying, “You are saved now live in light of your salvation.” He’s not saying, “Work your way to salvation.” That’s not his point at all. He’s not saying, “You gotta work off your salvation,” like we bought salvation on an installment plan. Like, I was like, “Well, you haven’t been good enough to be saved, but I’ll go ahead and save you, but I expect you to get good enough and pay me back.” That’s not what he’s saying. It’s not working off our salvation. He’s saying live it out. I mean, think about it this way. I’m married. Okay? I’m married because I convinced Coletta to say, “Yes.” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Yes.” I caught it on videotapes. You can’t get out of it. We’re married. It’s a done deal, right?
Now, because I’m married, there are certain things I do and there are some things that I don’t do. For instance, I wear a wedding ring, okay? This is not what makes me married, but it’s one of the ways that I live out the fact that I am married, right? I don’t do things, like, I don’t entertain attraction to other women. I don’t do the second looks. I don’t go looking for an opportunity to, in my own heart and mind, to entertain attraction to anybody else. That’s something I don’t do because I’m married, but it’s not what makes me married. It’s the way that I live out my marriage, right? If you think about it, doing those things doesn’t necessarily make you married. Like, if you’re single and you’re thinking about, you know, “I’d love to have someone. I’d love to have a spouse,” so you’re go, “Well, Craig said it’s about a ring and it’s about,” you know, “not everything.” So that if you go home, you’ll get a ring and pop it on there and then you’re, like, “Okay, I’m not gonna entertain attraction to anybody else. All right, that’s what I’m gonna do. Where’s my spouse?” Kind of expecting them to magically appear. You’re gonna be severely disappointed. It doesn’t work that way, okay? Even in the age of internet dating, it’s not that simple. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s not what makes me married. It’s the way I worked out my marriage, the way I live out my marriage.
That’s what Paul’s getting at here, okay? He says, live out your salvation. And he says, live out your salvation with fear and trembling, which is kind of an interesting phrase because on the surface it really sounds like he’s saying, live out your salvation with terror, that God will come and get you if you don’t. Maybe with terror that you’ll lose it if you don’t, or with terror what God could do to punish me if I don’t. And it sounds like that, but that’s really not what Paul’s getting at at all. In fact, as Paul uses that phrase with fear and trembling in the Bible, he typically means by it, kind of like it’s like Bible slang for in awe. “In awe,” he says. Who are we supposed to be in awe of? Well, look what he says next. He says, for it is God who works in you.” “It is God who works in you to will and to act in to fulfill his good purpose.” What he basically says is that we’re to live out our salvation with awe that it is God working in us. In other words, our awe of God is to motivate us, to move us, to energize us, to live out the truth of our salvation.
He says, “You should be in awe that it is God who is working in you and through you,” because it’s a pretty astounding truth if you stop and think about it. You understand the God that we’re talking about, right? How about the God who flung a 100 billion galaxies with a 100 billion stars in each one of them across an expanse of heaven so vast we can’t even begin to wrap our heads around the outside edge of it. That God is who we’re talking about, the God who holds every electron and every quark that makes up the electrons and all the subatomic particles together to make the atoms to make the… All that holds together in him according to the Scripture that his conscious thought is what maintains even the smallest building blocks of this incredibly vast universe. That God, he says. That God is working in you. That God is the one who brought salvation into your life. That God is the one who is working in you to cause you to will and to act. It’s an incredible truth, right? He’s transforming us from the inside out so that we begin to want what he wants and then he empowers us to act so that we can accomplish his purposes in the world which is crazy. He says, we’re supposed to will and to act, to accomplish, to fulfill his purposes in the world. This is the God who flung the stars across the skies. And yet when he looks at earth, he goes, “There’s something I want done there. I’m gonna use you.”
He says he’s gonna use me. He’s gonna use each one of us to accomplish what he is actually doing in the world. This is that God and he wants to use me. That’s crazy. That’s insane. I don’t even understand. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would you choose to do that? And the answer is ultimately because he loves us and he enjoys allowing us to partner with him in his work in the world. It’s an incredible truth. And that’s what Paul says. He says, “Live out your salvation, you have it.” “Live out your salvation with awe that it is God working in and through you.” That’s what motivates. It’s not terror, but in awe that, that God wants to work in me and that God wants to work through me, that God allows me, as we sit here at Mission Hills to be on mission with him in the world. Wow. That’s amazing. And here’s the Good News.
The Good News is that that God is the one doing the work. He’s the one transforming us from the inside out. We don’t have to do it by our effort. We just have to allow that work to be done. It’s that God who is providing the strategy. It’s that God who’s showing us through his Word what it looks like to be on mission with him. It’s that God who’s figured it out. It’s that God who empowers us to be able to accomplish what we could never accomplish. God’s doing all that. All we have to do is cooperate with it. That’s the Good News But there is some bad news. Are you surprised? No. Whenever a preacher says there’s good news, there’s always a bad news coming, right? The Good News is God’s doing all this.
Here’s the bad news. To cooperate with everything God’s doing in us, we have to give up one of our favorite things ever. What he says, verse 14, ”Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” “Oh, come on. Really? That’s what I have to do to cooperate with what God wants to do in and through me? I have to give up grumbling and arguing.” That’s hard, isn’t it? Because that’s one of our favorite things ever. Can we just be honest with each other? I’ll be honest with you. That’s one of my favorite things ever. I love when things are not working out the way I planned, I love being able to play the martyr and go, “Okay. Well, I’ll do it, but I just want you to know I’m not really happy about it.” That’s not just me, right? Can we be honest? How many of us, if we’re really honest with each other, find some comfort, find a little tiny bit of pleasure in grumbling and arguing? Can we just be honest with each other, Church?
God says, we gotta give that up. He’s gonna do the work in us and through us. He’s gonna let us be part of an amazing… And if that is that God is willing to do that in us and through us, but we have to give up grumbling and arguing along the way. Grumbling is not all that complicated, right? We get it. Grumbling is when you just sort of let somebody know that you’re not happy with the way that things are playing out. It’s not a say a loud thing. In fact, a lot of translations translate it as murmuring. It’s kind of a low down, you know, “I’m not gonna tell her, I’m not gonna broadcast it. I just, there’s a few key people I want to know that I am not really happy with the way this is playing out. I’ll work it, but I just want you to know…”
That was grumbling and arguing. Arguing is a little bit of it’s a little more complicated word. Depending on where it’s used in Scripture and the context, it sometimes gets different kinds of translations. It’s always a negative word, but sometimes you see the word arguing and you’re like, well, we’re supposed to kind of, sometimes we’re supposed to debate things, right? To make sure we get to the right decision. I mean, as a leader in an organization, I’m a big believer in debate so that we can get to the best decision. In fact, I have some meetings that I tell people, “If we don’t have anything to debate today, we’re not gonna meet.” So I’m all about debating, but that’s not what Paul’s talking about here. This is a different kind of arguing. That word that is being used here in Matthew 15:19 it’s the word Jesus used to say, ”For out of the heart come evil thoughts.” Same word.
Evil in the sense they’re divisive, that they lack unity, that they get in between God’s people and they separate them so that we’re not standing shoulder to shoulder and advancing his mission anymore. He says, evil thoughts are… In Luke 9: 46 of my favorite statements in all Scripture says ”That an argument,” same word. ”An argument started among the disciples as to which one of them would be the greatest.” I love that. Can you imagine what that argument was like? I’m sure it was a very humble argument, right? I’m sure they were going “John, I’ve been thinking and I’m pretty sure it’s you” And John’s going, “No, no, no, no, Peter, I’m sure it’s gonna be you.” That’s not the argument, right? No, it’s a self-centered, like, “I’ve got an agenda, I’m advancing my agenda and here’s what it looks like. It’s gonna be me because you’re an idiot.” “How am I an idiot?” “Oh my gosh, that parable when you thought the answer was four? It wasn’t even a math question, right? Like you don’t get Jesus. I get Jesus. You don’t get….” That’s the argument, right? It’s put myself forward. It’s advanced myself. It’s get my agenda on the table and everybody else following along behind it. That’s the kind of thing that Paul’s talking about here.
Interestingly enough, both of these words grumbling and arguing that they’re probably meant to remind us of a particular story in the Old Testament where we see this thing happening a lot. It’s a story that you might know, maybe you don’t. It’s the story of the Israelites. At a certain point in their history, the Nation of Israel found themselves enslaved in Egypt. And when they were in Egypt interestingly enough that they were there because of God’s provision for them. They’d been living in the Middle East and then a famine broke out and God orchestrated things and he took them to Egypt to save them. But after a while they began to grumble because the leadership had changed and they weren’t respected anymore. And eventually, they were operating out of a position of slavery, which is a bad thing, but they kind of forgot what God had done for them. They forgot how it is they ended up in that place and they began to grumble against God. They began to argue with the situation. Like, maybe they’re questioning his goodness and “Why would he ever do…” They kind of forgotten what he’d done. They’re focusing on what he hadn’t done yet, right?
And then God in his grace and mercy, he sent Moses and Moses came. And through Moses, he did these miracles. And Pharaoh of Egypt said, “Just take them and go.” And so they went and they ran and they were so… Wer’e free. This is amazing.” And then they got to the edge of the Red Sea and they looked back and Pharaoh’s armies were coming and they began to grumble and complain and argue. And then they said, this is one of my all-time favorite statements in Scripture. They were standing on the edge of the Red Sea and they said to Moses, “Hey, I’m just curious, were there not enough graves back in Egypt? You brought us out here to die cause it’d be better, like, land space for us to be buried in. Is that the deal? Like, we’re gonna die. What’s your problem? What’s God’s up to?” And they’re grumbling and they’re arguing with the wisdom of God in this. And then Moses stretches out his staff over the sea and it parts. And they’re like, “That’s new. Interesting.” And they run across the sea and then they get to the other side and they go, “God, that’s amazing. Oh, Pharaoh’s Army’s coming. God, what’s your problem?” They’re grumbling and they’re arguing with God’s wisdom. And then the sea crashes in and destroys Pharaoh’s army. And they’re, like, “Wow. That was really cool. And, huh? Anybody notice we’re in a desert? Yeah, this…God led us to a desert. God, there’s no water here. What’s your problem, God?” And they’re grumbling and they’re arguing. And so Moses strikes a rock and water comes pouring out of the rock. And they’re, like, “That’s great, but there is no food.” And so food falls out of the sky, right? In response to their grumbling and their complaints food falls out of the sky. Every day manna falls from heaven. And after a few days they’re, like, “Yeah, but it’s the same food every day. There’s not a lot of variety in this.” And they’re grumbling and they’re arguing. And so God sends meat and on and on. We see the cycle repeated over and over and over again. God moves. God does incredible things, but they don’t pay attention to what God has done. They pay more attention to what God hasn’t done yet. And it causes them to grumble and to complain and to argue. These words come up over and over again, and so as Paul uses these, I think he intends us to remember the story from history. And he says, “You’ve gotta stop it. If you wanna cooperate with what God wants to do in you and through you, you’ve gotta stop grumbling and arguing.”
His agenda is better than yours. His agenda is more good than yours. It will be more good for you than yours, but you’re grumbling and you’re arguing because it’s not your agenda. It’s not what you were looking for. It’s not what you were hoping for. It’s not the assignment you wanted. He says. Do everything without grumbling and complaining.” How do we do that? Very simply. We focus on what God has done instead of what he hasn’t done yet. That’s how we do it. We pay attention to what God has done more than we pay attention to what he hasn’t done yet. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to do something, but it should be born out of a heart that is filled with the trust, that this is a God who has acted on our behalf time after time after time. He can be trusted. He is not absent. He is not absent-minded and he’s good.
Says, “Live out your salvation with awe, that it is God at work in you,” changing you from the inside out so that you can accomplish his purposes in the world. All you have to do is cooperate. And all you have to do to cooperate do everything, in whatever situation you find yourself in, whether it’s circumstance, you find yourself, do whatever God calls you to do without grumbling or arguing. Focus on what God has done, not on what he hasn’t done yet. He says, ”Do this” verse 15 ”So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and a crooked generation.” Because that’s what’s at stake. That’s the finish line. That’s what’s gonna happen. That if you can actually, if you can put God’s agenda first, stop worrying about your agenda, stop grumbling and arguing and complaining when things don’t work out the way you want it to. What’s gonna happen is you’re gonna be transformed until you are blameless and pure. You stand out from a crooked and a warped generation. And I think that’s so, so interesting because we don’t really pay attention to this progression. We don’t pay attention to what Paul’s saying here. We fixiated on it. He says, we’ll be blameless and pure, and in our minds naturally to be blameless and pure means to be uncontaminated, right? It means that we don’t have sexual immorality in our lives, that we don’t have, you know, gossiping tongues, that we’re not filled with envy and jealousy. You know ,that we’re not contaminated by the sinful stuff. That’s what we think when we hear the words blameless and pure, blameless and pure.
But do you notice what he says here? He says, “You’re blameless and pure when you’re not grumbling and complaining.” Grumbling and complaining is what gets used to being blameless and pure. You’re like, “Well, how does not grumbling and complaining, how does that keep me uncontaminated?” And the answer is it doesn’t. He’s not talking here about uncontamination. He’s talking about cooperation. He’s talking about our ability to cooperate with God and what he’s doing in the world. And he says, when you’re grumbling and arguing, you can’t cooperate with what God’s doing. You’re not following his agenda, and therefore you’re not blameless and pure. And that’s such an intimidating thought. I don’t know if it is for you, but it is for me because I realize in my own life, it’s really easy for me to get fixated on whether or not I have personal purity, right? And I go, well, yeah, I don’t have sexual immorality in my life. I’m not entertaining attraction to other women. So I’m not doing that whole lust thing Jesus is talking about. I’m not gossiping. I’m not doing all these things. And it gets the checkboxes, right? I’m doing the right things and I’m avoiding the wrong things. There we go. That’s what I’m doing. I’m pure. That’s it, right? I just need to be personally pure, right?
And yet what Paul says here is no, that’s important. Yeah. I mean, God speaks a lot about being pure, but that’s not what he’s talking about here. What he’s talking about here is our ability to put God’s agenda above our own. That’s what it means to be blameless and pure in this context. Blameless and pure people put God’s agenda first, and that’s why they’re not grumbling and complaining because they’re like, “Yeah, this isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t what I was hoping for. This isn’t what I was expecting, but it doesn’t matter. This is where God has me and I’m okay with that. I just need to figure out what God wants me to do in this. I’m okay.” They’re putting God’s agenda first, and that he says is what it means in this context to be blameless and pure.
Whew. That’s hard truth, isn’t it? Because it means that you can have all kinds of personal purity and God’s not all that excited about us. Not if we’re not pursuing his agenda above our own. Yeah. I find in the Church a lot of times I find in my own life how easy it is to go, yeah, I’m checking off the boxes of personal purity. I’m not contaminated, but I’m not cooperating with God. Honestly. I’m pursuing my own agenda. These are my plans, and it’s not sinful. It’s not wrong. It’s just not God’s. And what Paul tells us here is that God’s concerned about our personal agenda as much as our personal purity. That’s the second side to the equation of following Jesus that we often miss, right? We say here at Mission Hills all the time, we’re here to help people become like Jesus. A lot of that’s personal purity, but also to join Jesus on mission. That’s following God’s agenda in the world, extending his influence into the world. Well, we’re told that if we’re not getting both sides of that equation right, we’re not nearly as blameless and stand out as we would like to be. God’s concerned about our personal agenda as much as he is about our personal purity.
He says there’s a lot riding on this. He says, “And then,” meaning when you put God’s agenda first, when you begin to look at your circumstances and go, “Yah, this isn’t what I had planned, but it’s what God had planned and that’s okay. God, what do you want me to do here? What opportunity is there to serve you? What is the opportunity to become like you and to be on mission with you?” Then he says, “You will shine among them,” them being the warped and the crooked generation. “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” The word of life is the Gospel And when he talks about holding firmly to the Gospel, he’s not meaning like hold tight to it like a shield that guards us against the things that come against us. No. No. It’s hold it tight as a banner that we carry out with us into the world. We carry the word of life, we carry the Gospel out into the world. We carry the light of the Gospel into darkness. This is God’s purpose.
Remember he said, “Live out your salvation with awe that it is God working in you and through you to fulfill his good purpose,” which is what the Gospel advance into the world. That’s what he’s calling us to be part of. That’s his agenda. And sometimes that agenda is at odds with ours, isn’t it? Oh no, no, maybe not saying that we were living in sin necessarily. You know, it’s not, again, that we’re contaminated by sin, but we’re still pursuing our own plans. We’re still pursuing our own agenda. “It’s my career,” and “I’m looking for this relationship,” and “I’m looking for a family that looks like this.” And there’s maybe nothing wrong with any of that, but sometimes that agenda kind of gets out front of his. And what’s supposed to be out front is God’s agenda that we advance into the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But he says, when we have the humility to put God’s agenda above our own, we begin to shine. We begin to shine among them. We draw attention, we draw notice. By the way, when he talks about shining like stars in the sky, he’s almost certainly quoting from Daniel 12:3 that says this. It says, ”Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Paul most certainly has that in mind. He says, what does stars do? They lead people, right? Even in the ancient world, you found a star and you put your bow of your ship on that and night after night it led you to where you were trying to go. That’s what stars do. He says, those who lead many to righteousness, many to our relationship with God through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we do that, he says, we shine like stars in the heavens.
You know, we began asking this question about humility. Is it possible that humility is actually the key to greater influence? And here we see why. This is the power of humility is that humility isn’t about not ever being noticed. Humility is about not needing to be noticed. Humility is about being able to take any attention that’s drawn to us and point it to somebody that is really worthy of it, to Jesus of Nazareth, to the Son of God who lived the perfect life and died for our sins and rose again three days later. Humility doesn’t say, “I’m never noticed.” It says, “I never need to be noticed and if I am, notice I’m gonna take any attention that’s drawn to me and I’m going to put it back on Jesus.” And the interesting thing is that makes us shine.
Humility gives us the power to shine and to lead people out of darkness. That’s the power of humility. Is what Paul is looking for in his life. He says, ”And then, when you live this way, I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” He says, ”I’ll be able to be proud of the fact when I stand before Jesus, that my teaching among you, my leadership among you, it wasn’t wasted. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on a sacrifice and the service coming from your faith, even if I suffer.” And he’s in jail, he’s suffering. He wanted to go to Rome as a preacher. He’s there as a prisoner. It’s not the plan. It’s not the agenda, but he went, “I’s not about my agenda. God’s agenda goes first, and even though I’m suffering”, he says, “I am glad and I rejoice with all of you, and so you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Please don’t miss that. He says, “Hey, if you shine and the attention is drawn to you, gets put back to Jesus in that way, you’re advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wait if you do that, it doesn’t really matter that this wasn’t the plan for me. It doesn’t really matter that this wasn’t the agenda that I was working off of. It doesn’t matter that these weren’t the circumstances I was hoping for. I’m good. No, no, no. I’m better than good. I rejoice.”
See you can only do that if God’s agenda is first, right? If his agenda is what drives Paul more than anything else. This was one of those secrets to contentment that we’re beginning to find along the way. It says this, it says that contentment comes from having the humility to put God’s agenda first. Because when God’s agenda is first, any circumstances that feel like obstacles become opportunities either for God to transform us or for us to be light in the darkness, leading other people out of it. And when that’s happening and when God’s agenda is first we go, “It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are. I’m good.” Sometimes that catches us by surprise. Maybe you’ve had that experience. It’s not always the case for me, but every now and then I find myself in a difficult situation and I catch myself accidentally doing it right. I’m in a difficult circumstance like this. “I didn’t want this, but then I go, but you know what? I can see God’s doing this and it gives me an opportunity to do this. Yeah. I’m okay with this.” I’m like, “Oh, I did it right. It’s snuck up behind me. I’m okay with it. I’m good with… Yeah, I’m content.”
But listen to me, church, that only happens when we have the humility to put God’s agenda first. And that’s what Paul’s saying here. How do we do that? How do we put God’s agenda first? We can talk a lot about that, but let me just give you three practical things from this particular passage. The first one is just this. We can put God’s agenda first. We can cultivate the humility that allows us to do that by cultivating awe, cultivating awe. He says, “Live out your salvation with awe that it is that God who is working in you and through you.” We need to cultivate that awe because when we are in awe of God, we are not in awe of our own agendas. So we have to cultivate an awe. What the problem is that is amazing as God is, as awesome as God is, we can begin to take that for granted and we lose the awe, right?
I mean it’s same when I moved here in 1996, I was in awe of those mountains, right? I’d look to the West and I’d see those mountains and like I was a bad driver for about four months because I was always distracted because I was looking, I was just in awe of them. And then you of move to the stage where it’s not so much awe, it’s more like, “Aw, yeah, it looks pretty,” right? And then it got to the point where you hardly even notice them and somebody comes and visits and like. that’s crazy. Like, you can see that on your drive to work?” And you’re, like, “Oh yeah. Huh. Forgot those were there.” See the same thing happens in our relationship with God.
The flinger of the stars loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you. He rose from the dead and he offers us salvation. Not by working our way to it or working it off afterwards, but just by faith. Just by trusting in him, having a relationship with him. That God did that for you, but we can lose it. We can lose that sense of awe. And with it, the humility to put our agenda below his. So we have to cultivate awe. How do we do that? Well, a couple of practical things.
Number one, do what the Israelites didn’t do. Focus on what God has done instead of what he hasn’t done yet. And I mean literally go home, get a piece of paper out and write down all the things that you can think of that God has done for you. Keep that piece of paper nearby and add to it every time you think of something else he’s done for you or something new that he does do for you becomes clear. Write it down and keep that list accessible because the more that we see what God has done, the less impressed and bothered we are by the things that he hasn’t done yet. And then we remembered that, that God did that and that and that and that and that and that and that. And then in all of that, and that’s wow. And it cultivates awe.
The other thing we can do is we can cultivate all through worship. They’re coming regular together as God’s people. And worshiping God. Music moves us. It’s one of the reasons that God calls us to sing songs and hymns and spiritual psalms to him because there’s something in the power of music that he has he built that actually creates it as a little bit of a sense of awe. So come regularly to worship or go regularly to worship in some other church. We’re not trying to grow Mission Hills, but go to a Bible teaching church and a church that worships God in Spirit and in truth because that cultivates an awe in us. Take the next step in worship so you know, maybe the next time that a worship song happens, you can move away from this to this and from this, maybe to this. Maybe can get a little lopsided.
And they’re silly things, but sometimes it’s that step of faith, that we go, “Let me step outside of my comfort zone because I don’t wanna get too comfortable with God,” right? That’s the purpose of stepping outside our comfort zones because we don’t wanna get so comfort with God that we’re no longer moved by awe that God is working in and through us so we cultivate awe.
Second thing we do is we check our agendas. Check your agenda, because our agendas tend to slip in front of God without us recognizing that it’s happening. And again, it’s not necessarily that our agenda sinful or wrong, it’s just that it’s not God’s. And what we can tell when that’s happening, by the way, as Paul tells us here, by those increasingly strong temptations to grumble and argue and to complain. This is not how I would’ve done it. This is not what I would’ve preferred. I don’t think this is the way we should be doing. I think it should look like this and this.” That temptation to grumble and complain, that’s the red flag that says, “Hey, here’s an agenda that’s gotten a little ahead of the leader of the pack. It’s got a little out front of God. Check your agenda.” Hardest thing about that is your agenda might not be sinful, but God’s not interested in just not sinful. He’s got bigger plans for you, and so we gotta put our agendas underneath his. Check your agenda.
Third thing is this advanced into dark places. Shine. The power of humility is it gives us the power to shine, to lead people out of darkness. So, go into dark places. You want global experience and so you heard about the opportunity to go to Kenya next year. Maybe God’s leading you to do that. You should head out after service or you should check us out online and get signed up for an informational meeting. Consider doing something like that or one of our other many many trips that are coming next year. Because there are dark places all around the world and you could be light in them. But also understand that there’s darkness in your own home, in relationships, in your families. Maybe you need to be the light who speaks into that? There’s darkness in the houses across the street from us. Maybe you need to be light in that dark place. There’s darkness in our schools at the end of the streets. Maybe God’s calling you to step into a darkness there and to be light there. There’s darkness all around us, but you are light. If only you’ll have the humility to put God’s agenda above your own. And if you do, then God’s gonna use you. He’s gonna use you to change things. That’s why we’re here. Because God’s working to help us become like him, but also to join him on mission in the world. Let’s have the humility to put his agenda first.
Let’s pray. God, thank you. As the people of God, we give you thanks for your goodness and your mercy and your grace. You’ve forgiven us for all the grumbling and the complaining and we confess we’ve done a fair amount of it. We confess beyond that. Lord, we kinda like it. There’s something really satisfying in it, and yet it’s a red flag that in fact what’s happening is our agenda has gotten in front of yours. And so we ask for your forgiveness. Ask for the power by your Holy Spirit to put your agenda first.
Speaking of that agenda, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just continue in an attitude of prayer? Would you just keep praying? I’m gonna ask you to pray for the people around you, the people watching online who don’t know God in a personal way, who don’t have a relationship with him. And if that’s you, just wanna speak to you for a moment. Because maybe today for the first time that you’ve heard, maybe in a way that connects for whatever reason, that that God is great, that God is awesome, that God is worthy of our awe. And yet he loves you and he knows your name and he’s not put off by the wrong that you’ve done and the sin that you’ve committed. In fact, even though our sin separates us from him, God loves you so much that he sent his own Son Jesus, to pay the price for your sin. He raised him from the dead three days later and he’s offering you forgiveness and adoption into his family. He’s offering to come into your life.
That God is offering to come into your life, to have a relationship with you that begins now and goes on forever. He’s offering to transform you and to make you a world changer. Give you an opportunity to be on mission with him. That’s what God wants with you. And if you don’t have that relationship, you can, you can begin that journey with God. And if you don’t have a relationship with God, if you don’t have the salvation we’ve been talking about today, you can have it right here, right now. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, just have this conversation with God. Say, “God, I am sorry. I’ve done wrong. I’ve pursued my own agenda. Haven’t really cared about yours. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. And so I know that you’re telling the truth, that you really are offering me forgiveness. You’re offering me freedom. You’re offering me salvation. And that all I need to do is say yes to a relationship with you. So Jesus, I’m saying, yes, I’m putting my faith in you, putting my trust in you. Come into my life. Start your work in me. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
Had a number of people make that decision for the first time this weekend. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? That’s so great.
In this week’s sermon Craig talks about a third benefit of humility which is that humility builds unity; unity is so important, because Christianity is a team sport. We don’t always think of it that way. We often think that Christianity is about our own relationship with God and about our individual salvation, but it’s also a team sport with a clear goal: to see God’s influence extended throughout the world. That’s not something one person can do…it takes a team.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us today. If you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. We’re in the midst of our Boundless Series, working our way through the Book of Philippians to uncover the secret to living bigger than our circumstances, or as Paul says in the Book of Philippians, the secret to being content in any and every situation. Now, one of the clearest teachings of the Book of Philippians is that the secret to that, the secret to living bigger than my circumstances is having a purpose that is bigger than my circumstances. Because when we have a purpose that’s bigger than our circumstances, it can’t be derailed by our circumstances and it transforms the way that we see our circumstances. So that’s one of the big secrets.
Now, I’ve got good news and I got bad news. And you’re like, “Why is there always have to be bad news, right? Like why it can’t just be good news?” Here’s the good news. Let’s start with the good news. This is really good news, okay? The good news is that as followers of Jesus, if you put your trust in Jesus Christ then you have that purpose, you have that purpose that’s bigger than your circumstances. It’s too big to be derailed by your circumstances, whatever they are. And it’s so big that it can in fact transform your circumstances, changing obstacles into opportunities, changing what looks like it’s gonna get in the way of everything that you are becoming, it can actually be the very instrument that causes you to advance into everything that God designed you to be. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have that purpose, and this is our purpose.
Our purpose is to become like Jesus and to join him on mission. This is what we were made for, this is what Jesus died to redeem us for and this is what we’re destined for. It is a purpose too big to be derailed by our circumstances and so big that it transforms our circumstances and us in the midst of them. That’s the good news. We have that circumstance. We have that purpose that’s bigger than our circumstance.
Here’s the bad news. A purpose that’s bigger than my circumstances is also bigger than me. A purpose that’s bigger than our circumstances is also bigger than me. Why is that a bad thing? Because if it’s bigger than me, it’s not about me. And that’s a struggle for us, isn’t it? Because we live in a culture that says it’s all about you, right? If they say it’s all about you until being all about you gets in the way of it being all about me. And that’s a problem because it’s really in fact at the very foundation of our culture is this unfortunate idea that it’s all about me. But it’s not. But that’s the way that we’ve lived for a very long time.
You go all the way back to the Book of Genesis. When God created Adam and Eve, he made them as his image. They made them to represent him, to extend his influence in creation. He said, “Rule and subdue creation. You’re gonna wrestle with creation and bring it under control and you’re gonna extend my influence throughout every nook and cranny of creation.” And he gave him a garden and he said, “Here’s kind of the template. Look around and see what I did here? You’re gonna do this out there.” But he said, “Hey, in the middle of the garden, there’s one tree and you’re not supposed to eat the fruit from that tree.” The tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He said don’t eat from that tree.
And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil almost certainly means the tree of deciding for yourself because that’s how they use that phrase in the ancient world. “To know good from evil” was really kind of a euphemism for being able to decide for yourself. They would speak about young people when they got to a certain age, let’s say, “Hey, if they’re old enough to know good from evil, which meant they’re old enough to make their own decisions and to be responsible for them.” In other words, they’re old enough to decide for themselves. And so God said, “Hey, that one tree, the tree of deciding for itself, don’t eat from that one.”
And, of course, then Satan showed up, right? Satan showed up and he said, “I know you heard that if you eat from that tree, you’ll die.” Which honestly makes perfect sense, right? Because if you’re deciding for yourself, you’re unplugging from God. And if God is the author and the source of life, and you unplug from God to go your own direction, you’re unplugging from life. So, of course, it leads to death. That makes perfect sense.
But Satan showed up and he said, “Nah, nah, nah.” Look at this. This is Genesis 3:4. It said, “‘No, you will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good from evil, deciding for yourself.'”
You notice all the “you’s” in there? You see them? It’s not an accident because what Satan is basically saying is, “Hey, it is all about you.” And we’ve been living that lie ever since. We’ve been living the lie that it’s all about me. And so the problem is when it’s all about me, my circumstances will always derail my contentment. When it’s all about me, my circumstances will always get in the way of me and my agenda and my purposes and my designs and my dreams and all that kind of stuff. And when circumstances aren’t going our way, we’re at the mercy of them and our contentment is fleeting. It’s inaccessible, it’s unavailable to us as long as it’s all about me.
Now, the good news again is that if we embrace a purpose that’s bigger than our circumstances, we’re no longer at the mercy of our circumstances. But to embrace a purpose that’s bigger than our circumstances means that we have to embrace a purpose that’s bigger than me. And to do that we have to say, “I guess it’s not actually about me.” And that’s tough because, from the moment that Satan showed up in the garden, we have built a culture that’s oriented around this idea that it’s all about me. It’s so permeates our culture that it’s invaded the Church itself. I see it even in the way that we talk about the Gospel.
I’ve had the privilege over the years of being in all kinds of churches all around the world, and I’ve heard some version of this in almost every American church, at least, that I’ve ever been in. Here’s the American version of the Gospel. The American Gospel says this, “Hey, good news. Jesus died for you so you can be forgiven of your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die.” And let’s be honest. That’s good news, but you notice there’s a whole lot of something in there, isn’t there? Whole lot of what? There’s a whole lot of you, which sounds suspiciously like exactly what Satan said.
This is the incredible sneakiness of the enemy’s agenda. That even in the good news of the Gospel, he’s managed to allow us to kind of somehow slide back into this idea that it’s somehow all about me and that’s not the Gospel that Jesus came proclaiming. The Gospel that Jesus proclaimed was God does love you. It is about you in that extent. He loves you deeply, so much so that he died so that you could be adopted into his family and you can be redeemed for his purpose. But you gotta understand it’s not about you. And until we are able to embrace a purpose that’s bigger than me, we’ll never be able to experience a contentment that goes beyond our circumstances. How on earth do we do that?
I wanna introduce you to a couple of guys today. If you wanna grab your Bibles and start making your way to the Book of Philippians chapter 2. We’re gonna be picking up in verse 19 where Paul is gonna introduce us to a couple of men. Now, these may be men that you’ve heard their names before, but honestly, at least one of these guys, you may have never heard their name, and some of you may have never heard either of their names. He’s gonna introduce two guys, Timothy and a guy named Epaphroditus. I have to say that very carefully because that’s a five-syllable name and that is… I’ve been looking for a like a nickname for him and the closest I came up with Pappy and that just feels wrong. So we’re gonna keep saying it.
But how many of you have heard of Timothy? How many of you heard that name before? A lot of people have heard of Timothy. How many of you have heard of Epaphroditus? Not nearly so many hands. And that’s not surprising because, honestly, these guys wouldn’t be in our minds at all if it weren’t for the fact that Paul thought highly of them because they’re not guys who necessarily did anything that drew attention to themselves. They’re not necessarily guys who led really big churches or preached amazing messages or wrote books of Scripture or advanced the Gospel into places that they’d never been before. They’re not actually guys who did any of that stuff, and so they’re not necessarily people we would be prone to knowing their names.
But what’s interesting is that in spite of the fact that we wouldn’t necessarily know their names, Paul thought that we should know their names. Paul thought it was important that we know their names not so much that we know their names, but we know something about them. Because what Paul is gonna tell us is these guys are incredibly valuable. When it comes to our mission as followers of Jesus, these guys are MVPs, which raises an interesting issue.
In our culture, we tend to think, well, if we wouldn’t know their names, then they can’t be all that valuable, right? But here’s an important truth we need to understand today before we get going. The number of people who know your name is no measure of your value to the team. Do you hear me, church? The number of people who know your name is no measure of your value to the team.
Let me prove this. How many of you can name one current or historical…? I don’t care. Just name one NFL quarterback. How many of you can do that? Come on. Get your hands up. Online, just go, you can type it in, right? Let the host know, right? Almost everybody, okay. I’m not a big sports fan. I can name seven or eight. Next question. How many of you can name one current or historical NFL left tackle? Interesting. A couple of probably fantasy football nerds out there, a couple of you. All right. I’m impressed. I’m impressed, but the vast majority have said no, right? Not surprising.
Here’s what’s interesting. On average, the highest-paid position in the NFL is, in fact, the left tackle position. On average, they make more than anybody else in the league. Why? Because without them, the quarterback can’t do their job. But nobody knows their name and yet the amount of money spent on them proves that in fact, they are incredibly valuable. What are we saying? We’re saying that the number of people who know your name is no measure of your value to the team. And what Paul is gonna do is he’s gonna describe some guys that we would not know their names apart from him, but they’re incredibly valuable.
And as we read through this, here’s what I want you to do, as we read through this, look for those qualities that made them so valuable. Here’s what he says. “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon.” He’s writing to the Church at Philippi. He says, “I got this guy named Timothy. I’m hoping that I can send it to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.” So he’s heard that they’re facing some challenges and he wants to send Timothy down to kind of find out what’s what and then report back because Paul’s anxious.
He says, “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father, he has served with me in the work of the Gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.” He doesn’t know how his arrest…he’s in jail in Rome. He’s waiting trial. He doesn’t know what the outcome that’s gonna be, so he’s gonna send Timothy to kind of let them know once he knows.
“And I’m confident,” he says, “in the Lord that I myself will come soon. But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, my co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and he’s distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and he almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only in him, but also on me to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. And therefore, I’m all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again, you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. And so then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him.”
In fact, if you’ve got a physical Bible, I encourage you to underline those words. It’s really important words. “And honor people like him because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help that you yourselves could not give me.” And when he says, “he made up for the help you couldn’t give me,” what he’s basically saying is this. He’s saying, “Hey, what I really needed was I needed company. I needed your company, but you couldn’t all come. And so he made the sacrifice to come and to be with me, to give me your company. He kind of, sort of a stand-in for you.”
Now, Epaphroditus also brought money. But Paul saying he had the money wasn’t nearly as important as the company, but the money was on some level important. Here’s what was going on. Paul was in jail because he’s been preaching the Gospel and so he’s awaiting a trial to find out what’s gonna happen. Now, an interesting thing about jail is that, you know, jail’s expensive. Did you know that? We have a problem in this country because we have so many people incarcerated and keeping them fed and clothed and to keep the heat on or the air conditioning or whatever, it’s an incredibly expensive thing to take care of all those people who aren’t producing anything for society. It’s actually a significant issue in our culture.
Rome solved the problem, and here’s how they solved the problem. When you went into jail, they’re like, “Good luck,” meaning they didn’t feel obligated to feed you. They didn’t feel obligated to get you water. They didn’t feel obligated to make sure you had clothes. They didn’t care about the heating conditions. They didn’t care about your sanitary. They didn’t care about any of that. You’re in jail. Good luck. Which meant that the only way for somebody to really survive in a Roman jail was that their family had to come alongside them and provide all of those things. Now, the problem is that Paul didn’t have any family in Rome and he didn’t have a lot of close Christian associates in Rome. And so Philippi is basically going, “Hey, we’ve gotta take care of this guy.” So they got together some money and Epaphroditus said, “I’ll lead the team. We’ll go and we’ll take it.” But somewhere along the way, Epaphroditus got sick. He fell ill.
Now, he could have turned around and gone home, but he decided not to. He decided to push on through the illness because he knew how much Paul needed his company. He knew how much he needed that encouragement that came from the presence of his family, his Christian family. So he pushed on, he got there, he delivered the financial gifts. He delivered some of the company and he got really sick at that point, almost died, Paul says. But at some point, God delivered him. And maybe it was a miraculous healing. Maybe it was over time, we don’t know.
But what’s happened too is that somehow or other, the people back in Philippi have heard that Epaphroditus got sick and so they’re worried. And so Paul says, “Okay, here’s what we’re to do. I’m gonna send Epaphroditus back and I’m also gonna send Timothy back.” And then what he does in this passage really is he’s kind of announcing his intention to send these guys. It’s he says a bunch of nice things about these guys, right? But he’s not saying nice things about them just to be nice. What he’s doing is, he’s technically, what he’s doing, he’s commending them to the Church at Philippi, which is to say that he’s recommending that the Church of Philippi pay attention to these guys. He’s recommending to the Church of Philippi, “Look to these guys and learn from them.” He’s recommending that the Church of Philippi look at these guys and imitate them. Because what Paul says is they’re valuable. They’re incredibly value… He has to introduce him because he says, “You may not know all that much about him, but you need to because they’re incredibly valuable.” Why is that?
There’s basically three things that he says here. Number one, he says they’re valuable because they kept the mission the main thing. They kept the mission the main thing. Do you see that? “Timothy,” he says, verse 21, “For everyone looks out for their own interests not those of Jesus Christ, but you know that Timothy has proved himself.” He’s proven himself in that he is looking out for the interest of Jesus Christ. And what is Jesus Christ’s interest? What did Jesus say? He said, “I came to seek and to save the…” What? “…the lost. I came to seek and to save the lost.” He said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor. The sick need the doctor and I’ve come to those who are sick. I’ve come those who are lost. I’ve come to bring light into those who are living in darkness. I’ve come to bring freedom to those who are living in captivity to sin.” That was Jesus’s mission.
And Timothy, he says he’s not looking out to his own interests. He’s looking out to the interests of Jesus Christ. That’s the mission, right? Timothy put the mission first. He made sure that the mission was the main thing. Epaphroditus, what does Paul call Epaphroditus? He says he’s my brother. We’re part of the same family in Christ, but also he says, this is verse 25, “He is my coworker.” He’s working to the same agenda. He’s working towards the same end. He’s working on the same mission. He’s my fellow soldier. He’s fighting back against those obstacles to advancing the Gospel, to extending God’s influence further and further into the world. Verse 30 says, “Because he, Epaphroditus, almost died for the work of Christ.” Right? That’s the mission. They’re keeping the mission the main thing.
Number two, they’re valuable because they worried about things that could take us off mission and not about what couldn’t. That’s where their minds went. They were worried about the things that could take God’s people off of mission. They weren’t worried about the things that had nothing to do with the mission. They weren’t mission critical. He says of Timothy, he says, verse 20, “I have no one else like him who will show genuine concern for your welfare.” It’s interesting, perfectly good translation. But a literal translation would be, he shows genuine anxiety for your welfare. It’s the literal word. It’s saying he’s anxious, he’s worried about, he’s concerned, he’s kind of tied up a knot, he’s really focused on your welfare.
Now, in modern English, we hear the word welfare and we think he’s really, he’s anxious about their well-being, but that’s not what welfare means. Welfare actually means well, in the old English, it means to travel well. It’s well, which means well. And then it’s fare, which means to travel. That’s why we pay cab fares. It’s a fee that we pay for traveling. Welfare, in the old English, literally means to travel well. And that’s a great translation because the idea there is he’s anxious about how well you’re traveling, how well you’re moving, how well you’re advancing the Gospel. He’s worried about things that could get in the way of you doing that, living on mission with Jesus. That’s what Timothy is anxious about.
And Epaphroditus, check this out, Epaphroditus, verse 26 says, “For he longs for all of you and he is distressed because you heard that he was ill.” He says he’s distressed. It was just a really powerful word in the original Greek. In fact, it’s the same word that was used to describe Jesus on the night before he went to the cross. Jesus on the night that he was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, knowing what was coming the next day, he’s described as being distressed, exactly the same word. In fact, he was so distressed, we know, that he began to sweat blood. Anybody ever been so anxious they sweated blood? Okay, then take whatever anxiety you’ve ever felt, take whatever stress you’ve got, take whatever things got you tied up in knots and then multiply that by about at least 100. That’s what this word means, which is a really strong word to use in this case.
He says Epaphroditus is all tied up in knots. Why? Because he heard that you were concerned that he was ill. Wait, what? Why would he be so upset about that? But here’s what’s happening. Epaphroditus is worried that they’re concerned for him is gonna take them off mission. He’s worried that all the time and energy they’re spending thinking about, “You know, is he okay? Is he gonna be fine? He’s gonna come back. Are we gonna see them?” They’re so worried about that. He says, “I’m worried that you’re so worried about me that you’re not worrying about advancing the Gospel there in Philippi. It’s taking you off mission.” He says, “I gotta go back so that I can prove to them I’m fine. We gotta get back to business.” They’re worried about that.
Interesting enough, Paul demonstrates exactly the same thing, right? He says this… He talks about sending Epaphroditus back. Verse 28, it says, “Therefore, I’m all the more eager to send him so that when you see him again, you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” Because Paul’s worried about exactly that same thing. He’s really grateful that Epaphroditus has come. He’s really grateful for all the support that he’s brought. He’s really grateful for the company. He feels better himself there in prison, but he’s like, “Yeah, it’s not about me. And I’m worried that they’re worried about you so much this gonna take them off mission. So Epaphroditus, you’re gonna have to go back so that I may have less anxiety.” Why these guys are so valuable because they worried about the things that could take us off mission and not about all the things that couldn’t all but the things that are not mission critical. That’s not big on their agenda.
Third thing is this, that they were willing to sacrifice to advance the mission. They were willing to make sacrifices to advance the mission. Timothy made a huge sacrifice. Notice the way Paul describes Timothy and his relationship. He says, “You know,” this is verse 22, “that Timothy has proved himself because as a son with his father,” as a son with his father, “he has served with me in the work of the Gospel ” That’s how Paul feels about Timothy, that they have that close of a relationship. It’s like a son with his father and Paul kind of is alone in prison there in Rome, and Timothy is one of his closest companions, one of his dearest friends and co-workers. But what does Paul say? He says he needs to go. He needs to go down and look into what’s going on at Philippi. Paul’s willing to make that sacrifice and Timothy is willing to make the sacrifice to go. Can you imagine if your father were in prison and alone? Can you imagine leaving him? But Timothy is willing to make that sacrifice in order to advance the Gospel in Philippi.
Epaphroditus, he says, verse 30, he says, “He almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life.” By the way, this is kind of a side note. Paul’s funny, but he’s kind of nerd funny. You being…you know anybody like that, they like to make these jokes and your like, “That was a nerdy joke and I’m embarrassed that I got it. I did, but I’m not gonna laugh at it.” There’s a little joke happening here. Epaphroditus means beloved of Aphrodite, and Aphrodite was the goddess of gambling. And what Paul literally says here is if Epaphroditus gambled his life, and he supposed…I can imagine him going, “Anybody? Anybody?” And you’re like, “That is crazy geeky, right?” Yeah, it is. But even in the midst of that, Paul has a good sense of humor. Good, good sense of humor. It’s subtle.
This is Epaphroditus. This is Timothy and Paul. We see that they risked their lives to advance the Gospel. They risked their personal comfort to advance the Gospel. They risked their connections to advance the Gospel. They made sacrifices to advance the Gospel. And for this reason, Paul says honor people like Epaphroditus.
That make a good bracelet, I think. We got the WWJD, “What would Jesus do?” How about, “What would Epaphroditus do?” What we know he would do is this. Number one, he’d keep the mission, the main thing. Number two, he would worry about the things that could take us off mission and not about the things that couldn’t. And then number three, he would make sacrifices to advance the Gospel. And this is what makes Epaphroditus and Timothy, in Paul’s mind, Christian MVPs.
What do Christian MVPs do? They don’t necessarily have positions. They don’t necessarily have astounding gifts. They don’t necessarily write books or have amazing communication platforms or any of those kinds of things. Christian MVPs do three things.
Number one, Christian MVPs, keep the mission the main thing. Do you need a position to do that? You don’t. Do you need a particular spiritual gift to do that? You don’t? Do you need a particular experience or an education or a platform to do that? No, you don’t. Every one of us has the ability to do that in our own lives and spilling out from our lives into this thing that we call the Church. Christian MVPs keep the mission the main thing. We can all do that.
Number two, Christian MVPs worry about the things that can take us off mission and not about the things that can’t. The stuff that can’t take us off mission, that stuff is not mission critical. We go, “God, you handle that. I’m only gonna focus on things that could take me off mission.” The way I handle money could take me off mission because I can end up in so much debt that I really can’t live on mission with Jesus, so I’m gonna pay attention to that. But you know what? The kind of car I drive, the kind of house that I live in, whether or not I have that second vacation home or whatever, that’s not mission critical. And so God, that’s on your hands. I’m just gonna worry about the stuff that could take me off mission.
In the Church, we worry about the things that could take us off mission. We don’t worry about the things that don’t. You don’t need a position to do that. You don’t need a particular gift set to do that. You don’t need a particular set of skills. You don’t need a particular set of possessions or any of those kinds of things. Every single one of us can do that. We can worry about, focus on the things that could take us off mission and not about the things that don’t.
And then number three, Christian MVPs are willing to sacrifice to advance the mission. They’re willing to make sacrifices. They’re willing to make financial sacrifices. They’re willing to sacrifice time in order to advance the mission. They’re willing to sacrifice their personal agendas to advance the mission. They’re willing to put aside their personal preferences to advance the mission. And again, you don’t need a position to do that. You don’t need a particular set of gifts to do that. You don’t need any kind of possessions or education, any of that. You don’t need any of that to be able to make sacrifices to advance the mission. Which means…check me on this, this is really cool, if we think about it. It means that every one of us, every one of you can be a Christian MVP. So you can be an MVP.
I know this a little bit cheesy, but let’s just do this. I want to drive this in. Why don’t you look at the person next to them and to let them know. Say, “You can be an MVP.” Go ahead, online, you do it too. Then the other person should say it back to you because otherwise, it’s all lopsided. Like, did you get that? Do you understand how cool that is? Every one of us as followers of Jesus has the potential to be an MVP, a most valuable player. It’s not about how well our names get known. It’s not about the platforms we have. It’s not about the positions we hold. It’s about our willingness to do three things: keep the mission the main thing, worry about the things that can take us off the mission and not about the things that can’t, and number three, to make sacrifices, whatever they look like in our lives for the sake of advancing the Gospel.
So let me just ask you three questions. Question number one, where does advancing the Gospel fall on my this-matters-most list? Where does advancing the Gospel fall on your list of priorities? What you need to understand is that if it’s not at the very top, then you’re investing in something more than advancing the Gospel and whatever it is you’re advancing in, does not have the capability of transforming your circumstances, of bringing contentment in spite of your situation. If the Gospel is not at the top, then whatever it is that you’re investing in most is not bigger, in fact, than your circumstances. It can probably be derailed by your circumstances and it does not have the power to transform you and your experience of those circumstances. Only advancing the Gospel does. So where does advancing the Gospel fall on your list of this matters most. You need to wrestle with that.
Question number two is, what do I worry about and is it mission critical? What do you worry about? What occupies your time and your attention? What draws your focus to it? Is it mission critical? Does it have the ability to do either keep you on mission with Jesus or to take you off mission with Jesus? In which case, okay, pray about that. Change whatever you need to change in the light of that so that you can stay on mission. But honestly, if whatever it is that draws your time and your attention isn’t mission critical, then give that to God. “So God, I’d like, if it worked out this way, I’d prefer this, but you know what? That’s not most important. This is on you. I’ll give this to you. I trust you. You’re good.” I’m just gonna focus on those things that could take me off mission and I’m gonna focus on the things that the people around me, it could cause people around me to not be able to live on mission. That that’s where I’m gonna give my time and my energy. The other stuff, I’m gonna leave that to God.
And then question number three, what sacrifices am I willing to make? Or what sacrifices am I actually making or am willing to make in order to advance the Gospel? That’s the place that we really begin investing in the Gospel as the main thing. It’s when we make sacrifices to see it advanced. Can I tell you about a couple of my MVPs? Their names are Judy, Gina, Arlene, Dottie, Jerry, Anita. They’re my MVPs. Because just a couple of weeks ago, we were on one of our short-term mission trips in Alaska and they proved themselves Christian MVPs by doing all three of these things over and over and over again.
We were there to do a missionary conference. There’s a group that we work with called Arctic Barnabas Ministries. They’d brought in missionaries from all over Alaska in all these tiny villages throughout the tundra and around that huge, massive area of land. And for the most part, these are missionaries that they didn’t have a lot of contact with each other. Some of them very isolated. They’re off-the-road system. They’re three, four hours by plane from the nearest road. Once it starts snowing, they’re kind of snowed in, not a lot of communication. A lot of them are the only Christians in that particular village and often the villages are just overrun with alcoholism and drug abuse throughout the very long winter. It’s a difficult place to do ministry.
And so Arctic Barnabas is this conference where we get to give them some biblical teaching to encourage them and strengthen them. We get to do worship. They never get to sing together as a Body of Christ. And I got to do the teaching and Danny got to do the worship, but we were not the MVPs because it wasn’t just the missionaries who came. They brought their families and I don’t know what is in the water in Alaska, but the number of children these people have is insane.
Like, I mean, often they were like, “Well, there’s five kids,” or “There’s seven kids,” or “There’s three.” And like there were so many kids that like you thought like if they tried to put all those people in the conference with those little kids, like there would’ve been no teaching. The worship would have been a disaster because of these kids running around and going crazy. They haven’t seen each other in a year. And so, Judy and Dottie and Arlene and Jerry and Anita and Gina, they did kids ministry. They played with kids. They blew bubbles with them. And Jerry, who wasn’t even sure how he felt about little kids, was down in his hands and knees playing with these precious young things and blowing bubbles and letting them eat the bubbles. That’s a separate issue that we decided not to deal with. And changing diapers… And some of them are not what they called spring chickens, their language.
And they got to the point that even reaching down to pick up these kids to change diapers got hard. They’re like, I can tell they need the diapers, even from here, I can tell but I can’t go down there. And so, but if somebody will hand me the kid, then I’ll change the diaper. And that was sacrifice. And, you know, they didn’t focus on the things that they could’ve focused on. I had a cushy cabin. I did. I feel bad about it. Not bad enough to have gotten out of it, but I was there with Coletta, too. And so because we were a couple, they give us this really nice cabin, but a lot of the other ones they’re staying in, you know, they were decent rooms, but they had to leave the room and to walk a ways to get to the bathroom. And it was, it’s Alaska in October. It was rainy and it was gray and it’s cold. It’s starting to snow. But they didn’t focus on that. They focus on things they could take them off mission.
I remember one thing that really bothered my assistant Judy, who was there, is that Judy was really concerned because there was this mom who didn’t sit in the session. She kept coming in and checking because she’d never really left her baby before and she was so nervous that she couldn’t really go and enjoy that. And Judy was kind of all tied up a knot. She’s like, “She’s missing out on the opportunity to be in there. She’s missing out on the opportunity to be part of the worship and to hear from God’s Word because she’s so…” And that’s what Judy was anxious about, not about her living conditions. She was anxious about whether or not this woman was able to participate in something that would help her to be on mission. And that’s an MVP right there.
All of those precious men and women, in my book, they’re exactly what we see modeled here in this text. They are Christian MVPs. They put the mission first, they made the mission the main thing. They were worried about things that could take people off the mission and they were willing to make sacrifices in order to advance the Gospel. How about you? What sacrifices are you making or are willing to make in order to advance the Gospel? And there’s lots of different ways we can do that. You can give financially, obviously. And by the way, those of you who are making the sacrifice financially by giving to the work of the ministry here at Mission Hills, thank you for that. You hear a story every week about how God uses it to advance the Gospel.
I was able to share a couple of months ago that because of your generosity, we’re able to sponsor a church through Compassion International that’s gonna be launched in Peru. And we didn’t even need to take a special offering because your generosity has made it already possible. We have the funds to do it. We’re getting really close. We’re gonna be able to make an announcement here in the next month or so about exactly where that’s gonna be. That’s because of your sacrifice. Your sacrifice is advancing the Gospel. But maybe you’re not giving and maybe that’s what God calls you to is to begin giving more regularly. Maybe you’re not giving at all, in which case your step is to begin giving something. Maybe you’re giving something, but maybe your next step is to begin giving something… It’s a percentage maybe. Maybe it’s 2% or 3%. Or maybe you’re giving something percentage wise, maybe your next step to sacrifice is to begin giving a tithe of 10%. What’s your next step to advance the Gospel?
Or maybe it’s a time issue. So many of you sacrifice your time and your talent, your ability by serving as one of our serve teams. You know, we have a
Guest Services Serve Team. We have Worship Serve Teams, we have Student Ministries and Kids Ministry Serve Teams. We have an Outreach Serve Team. We’ve got the Life Center Serve Team. We all have these serve teams and so many people are advancing the Gospel by making sacrifices of their time and their talents, their abilities in order to do that and maybe that’s you in which case you are acting like an MVP.
Or maybe God is stirring you that I need to do that. I need to act more like an MVP. I need to make that sacrifice. I need to join one of those serve teams. You can find out about that online or the Next Steps Room or at the Guest Services here at the Littleton Campus.
Or maybe since it’s Global Experience, maybe the sacrifice God’s calling you to is to be part of one of those short-term teams that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. Short-term teams exist to go out and to work with our partners around the world. We have 40 partners around the world. And short-term teams exist to go and to help them advance the Gospel in their area. And maybe you’ve been part of that team. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe God’s stirring in your heart that that’s what it looks like for you to take a step of sacrificing for the Gospel.
I’m gonna ask Mauricio Carbone. Mauricio is our outreach pastor. He’s gonna come up and as we round out our Global Experience here over the last three weeks, he’s gonna tell you a little bit about those short-term trips. And as he tells you that, here’s what I want you to ask yourself. No, actually that’s not what I want you to do. Here’s what I want you to ask God. “God, is that a sacrifice you’re calling me to make?” Would you tell us a little bit about the short-term trips here?
Mauricio: Yes, of course. Good morning. Over these past three weekends, we have been challenged to step on something bigger. Even when this means to get out of our comfort zone. I wanna share with you a little bit about my story. My journey began in Argentina when God called me to come to United States. I didn’t wanna come. But God challenged me to leave my comfort zone and step into something bigger. I arrive in United States with only one bag of clothes. I didn’t have much, but yet the confidence that God had called me. I don’t know what type of transformation you may face, but for me, I came as a single all by myself and because all of that, I became married with three children, which was a great blessing to me. By the way, if you’re single and you’re gonna go on short-term trip, we can not guarantee you’re going to get married.
God was using all of these to, in a sense, he was growing my faith. But at the same time, he opened a great opportunity for me. Coming to Mission Hills, it was a great gift. From the beginning, I felt there was a step, stepping into something bigger, which is to join Jesus on his mission. I have the privilege to be in the role of being the Outreach Pastor where it allow me to see the transformation that’s taken place here in the U.S. and around the world. For that reason, today, I wanna encourage you to participate in one of these opportunities. Short-term trip is one way to join Jesus on his mission. We are here today that we have a purpose for our lives and you can go and see around the world what God is doing.
Let me ask you a question. Would you consider working with children? Maybe helping a local organization that serve through a support ministry through BBS or maybe doing construction? What about sharing your faith with the students? Or maybe your skilled and you can work in the medical field, bring a transformation to a community? Those are the type of things that we have available for you to participate in 2020. Please stop by the lobby and get more information about all the short-term trips that we have for you. God bless you and thank you.
Craig: Thank you, Mauricio. So hey, a short-term trip is an amazing opportunity to make a sacrifice to advance the Gospel, but it’s not just a sacrifice. It’s an investment in becoming the kind of people who are in fact, as Paul describes Timothy and Epaphroditus, they’re Christian MVPs. It’s not about whether or not we know their names. It’s about whether or not they were valuable because they were advancing the mission. It’s a great opportunity for that.
We’re gonna do something a little bit different here. I’m gonna ask everybody who has already signed up to go on a short-term trip in 2020 or who feels God stirring in their heart right now, “Maybe I need to do that. I need to at least find out a little bit more about that and get signed up for one of the information meetings is coming up.” If God’s stirring in your heart to do that, you already know that, or you’re feeling it right now, would you do me a favor? Would you stand up? Come on. Thank you. Awesome. That’s fantastic. Awesome. First off, can we just applaud them? This is Christian MVP in action. Stay standing, stay standing, stay standing. Sorry. Back up, back up, back up.
I saw you guys. You stood up, you gotta stand back up because I wanna pray for them, right? Will you join me in praying for them? Not only that God would use them to advance the mission, but he would also use them to encourage us to find our way of serving it. And you know what? Maybe God’s not calling you to go on a short-term trip, but maybe he’s calling you to contribute to one. You can actually find out more information about that in the lobby as well. Or sign up for an information meeting if you wanna contribute to help make it possible for them to go. That might be the sacrifice God’s calling you to. But let’s pray over them.
God, I thank you for these brothers and sisters and I thank you for what you have led them to. As you’re stirring in their hearts, that this desire to put the mission first, to put aside those things that aren’t mission critical and to worry only about the mission itself and those things that could take us off, Lord. And I thank you for their willingness to sacrifice in order to advance the Gospel around the world.
Lord, would you bless them as they are in that process? Would you give them wisdom and discernment about exactly which trip they’re called to go to? And Lord, would you inspire each of us through them to live more on mission with you in whatever way you call us to do that. In Jesus’ name, amen.
We can become enslaved by sin, death and darkness when we cling to our earthly priorities, but we can be brought out of it through relationship with Jesus. When we hang onto things that keep us from God’s treasure, we are letting the “trash” of our lives come before the righteousness that comes through faith in God. To take hold of all God has in store for us, we have to let go of all we’ve stored up for ourselves.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. I’m glad you made it. I’m looking at the committed, the brave, the slightly fewer. This morning if you’re joining us online, and I’m guessing our online number is probably a little bit higher this morning because we’re broadcasting from Colorado and October in Colorado, you just never know. I was driving on my way to the church this morning and I saw a sign this had winter weather until Wednesday, right? So however you’re joining us, whether you’re at the Littleton campus or joining us from another campus or you’re online somewhere around the world, we’re really glad you’re here. I’m excited to hear because I’m really excited to be able to deliver this particular message to you today. We’re in our Boundless series working our way through the Book of Philippians in order to uncover the secret to living bigger than our circumstances. And I really believe that the message that God has for us today is gonna help us move forward in a significant way on that journey.
But before I get into that content, I do need to make a confession to you, something that the Holy Spirit convicted me of this week that I need to be vulnerable with you and share. So here’s the thing. So I own a three-car garage. That’s not my confession. Here’s what the coming…here’s what’s coming. I own a-three car garage, which means in theory, I can park three cars in my garage, keep them out of the winter weather that we’re facing this weekend here in Colorado. But in practice, no matter what, anybody wanna guess how many cars I can actually fit in my garage? Yeah, the answer’s no cars. I cannot fit any cars in my garage.
Now, let me be clear. This is not a hoarder situation, okay? It’s not like there’s so many piles of stuff that if you went into the garage, you’d be afraid they’d fall on you and no one would ever find your body. That’s not the situation we’re talking about, but there is too much stuff in the garage for me to really park any of my cars in there. Now, there’s three kinds of things in my garage that are taking up the space. I have some good stuff, okay? It is usable, it’s in good shape and it’s useful. I have a use for it on a regular basis. Then I’ve got stuff that’s usable, meaning it’s in perfectly fine working condition but I don’t have any actual use for it. So for instance, I know that in a crate in my garage I have a pristine mint condition dial up modem. Remember those? Anybody remember this sound? Wait for it, wait for it. Remember that? Some of you are like, what is that? That is the sound of the internet back in the day. Okay. I’ve got a perfectly good dial up modem and my garage. Now I don’t even know if I have a phone service at my house anymore. I don’t think I do. So it wouldn’t do me any good, but it’s still there and then I got some stuff that is not usable or useful. Like I know in one of my bins, I have an old laptop and it weighs like 30 pounds. It’s like the heaviest thing you’ve ever had on your lap actually. And I can’t use it anymore because first off it doesn’t have a working power supply. Second, even if I did have working power supply, the battery’s no good. And even if I could turn it on, its running Windows 95 okay. Like it is a useless object and yet it’s still there because I spent $1,000 on that thing, right? And it’s hard for me to just take something I spent $1,000 on and just go throw it away. It’s trash. This is a really difficult thing to do. But I was thinking like what would it take for me to really move that stuff out of the garage and park my car in? And I thought, well if somebody were to call me up and say, “Hey Craig, I wanna deliver a Tesla into your garage,” I think that would do it. I think I would suddenly clean everything out really quick.
By the way, it is October and October is Pastor Appreciation Month. So just saying, I’m just saying if anybody’s looking for a last-minute idea. I’m pretty sure if if somebody said, “I want to deliver a Tesla into your garage,” I would clean the garage out, right? Now, you’re going, okay, why are we talking about your garage? And the answer is because I think our lives are sometimes like our garages, so full of stuff that we don’t really have room for much more valuable stuff that God wants to move in.
Why don’t you go and grab your Bible and start making your way to the Book of Philippians 3. Today what we’re gonna do is we’re going to talk about some of the stuff that we hold on to that keeps us from taking hold of everything that God has for us. Here’s the situation. Paul is in jail in Rome and he’s writing to the church that he planted in the City of Philippi because he knows there’s some people coming in telling them they need to grab ahold of some stuff that he knows is gonna keep them from taking hold of much more valuable things that God has for them. He says this 3:1, he says, ”Further, my brothers and sisters rejoice in the Lord.” And I’m just gonna stop there for a second. We could honestly spend our entire time this weekend on that verse. It’s such an important verse and it’s easy to overlook it because it sounds a little bit like a spiritual cliché, right? Like exactly the kind of thing a pastor or a worship leader, rejoice in the Lord, but what you need to understand is that what Paul’s saying here is not a spiritual cliché. What Paul is speaking here is actually a very powerful and a very practical contentment strategy. He’s actually setting the stage for everything else he’s gonna say in this section, but what he’s also doing is he’s giving us a very powerful strategy for beginning to develop a contentment that’s not rooted in our circumstances. And so what he says is this, “Rejoice in the Lord,” and understand that’s not saying feel joy because it’s very hard to generate feelings. He’s actually talking about practices. He’s talking about here’s what you…I want you to do. I want you to rejoice in the Lord. I want you to express joy in the Lord. I want you to articulate joy in the Lord. Basically, he says, I want you to celebrate in practical ways, God and your relationship with him. That’s what he’s saying. Celebrate God and your relationship with him
Why does he want us to do that? And especially why does he let us to do that in practical ways? And the answer is because of this principle that we gravitate towards what we celebrate. We gravitate towards what we celebrate. We gravitate towards, we take up orbit around the things that we spend time celebrating. It’s basically it’s a biological truth. I don’t know if you know this, but a number of studies that confirmed that there we’re hardwired to respond in significant ways to the acts of celebration that we perform, okay?
So here’s what happens. When we celebrate our brains release something called dopamine. Every time we celebrate, regardless of what it is we’re celebrating or even how we’re celebrating, when we celebrate, our brains release dopamine and our bodies love dopamine. When our bodies get a hit of dopamine, what happens is we feel good. I can prove this, actually. Here’s one of the ways I like to celebrate when something good’s happening. I go yes. Let’s just do that together, okay? I know it’s a little weird, but just follow me. Okay. I’m gonna count to three and then we’re going to go yes. Okay, so one, two, three. Yes. Hope you did that online too. It felt good, didn’t it? Like there’s this little…there’s this tiny little like, ooh, that like, ooh, little bump up, right? It does. It feels good because that’s your body going, “Hey, here’s dopamine. You’re celebrating, I release dopamine.”
Now, our bodies love dopamine and not only does it feel good, but it actually enables us to deal with stress and pain in a much better way. So what happens is our brains release dopamine when we celebrate and our body’s like, ooh, that’s good. And our brain’s like, okay, I need to pay attention to the thing that caused that good chain reaction, okay? It’s the way that God built our brains. So what that means is we gravitate towards what we celebrate, our brains are like, “Oh, the body liked that, this is important.” And so we move more and more towards the things that we celebrate. We gravitate towards what we celebrate.
And here’s the problem. We celebrate a lot of things that we shouldn’t be gravitating towards. We celebrate a lot of things that ultimately cannot give us a platform for peace, contentment, security, significance or value. We often celebrate things, we gravitate towards things that can be taken away from us and can take all those things that we’re looking for away from us, right? So for instance, we celebrate possessions, don’t we? We celebrate possessions. We get a new car and we celebrate. We tell people about it and we drive it around. We polish it. That’s an act of celebration. And we gravitate towards what we celebrate. And then of course the car gets scratched or it doesn’t smell like a new car, so we have to do weird things like go to the gas station and buy one of those fresheners. It’s supposed to smell like a new car, right? Because we’ve gravitated towards what we’re celebrating and we’re looking for that feeling again. But it can be taken away from us. And with it, contentment and the peace and the security and the significance and the value, all the stuff we attach to it.
Or we celebrate accomplishments, don’t we? We celebrate accomplishments. I got that promotion and we celebrate or, you know, like I got a good grade on the test and we celebrate or I’m the valedictorian in the eighth grade class and we celebrate that and then things happen like, you know, we moved to high school and there’s a whole bunch of other people and suddenly we’re not the smartest in the class anymore. And with it goes our piece and our contentment because we gravitated towards what we celebrated. We don’t get the promotion or somebody else moves into the company. They’re advancing faster than us or whatever it is, we’ve gravitated towards it because we celebrate it. But then it went away and with it, the peace and the contentment and security and all the other things that we were looking for.
So what’s the alternative? Paul says, celebrate God and your relationship with him. Rejoice in the Lord. And again, not in sort of like theory, but in practice, like actually do acts of celebration about God and your relationship with him because we are gonna gravitate towards what we celebrate. And when you do that, and God is the source of the celebration, God’s never going anywhere. And no matter what your circumstances are, there is still peace and contentment that are possible if that’s where you’re at. So he says, rejoice in the Lord. How do you do that? Well, very practically. I mean three quick things you can do. Number one, you can sing. And I mean that literally because here’s another brain fact. You ready? Our brains interpret singing as celebration. It’s the way God built us. Whenever we sing our brain’s like, “Oh, we’re celebrating, okay, better get busy.” And that’s true no matter what we’re singing about. And even the act of listening to people singing, our brains interpret it as celebration. Studies have confirmed it.
So what do we sing about? Well, we need to be careful about that because again, our brains interpret singing as celebration no matter what it is, which means that if we listen to or sing along with sad songs, our brains begin celebrating sadness and we gravitate towards what we celebrate. Or if we listen to really angry music, our brains interpret that stuff as celebration, and we gravitate towards what we celebrate, and we ultimately become more angry. It’s just…it’s a biological fact, it’s the way God built our brains. On the other hand, if we listen to and sing songs about Jesus, about God, and celebrating God’s goodness and his greatness and what he’s done for us and had an incredible thing it is that we have this relationship with, what has happened, we gravitate towards what we celebrate. So singing can be one of those really powerful things.
Second thing you can do is you can speak that kind of praise or celebration to other people. Go, “Hey, I saw God do this in my life. I just wanted share this with you maybe with your spouse or with your Life Group or some other group of people around you.” When we speak it out loud, our brain recognizes it as celebration and we gravitate towards what we celebrate. So you can speak that kind of thing out loud. Or honestly, you can also just write it down. Even the act of writing down things that we’ve seen God do or what we’re thankful for actually has the power to have to move us closer to God. It’s the way that God built our brains. We’re actually gonna talk about this. Right around Thanksgiving, we’re gonna have a couple of weeks where we talk about the power of praise and we’re gonna push it into this a little bit more, but all of these are practical ways that Paul says, this sets the stage for what I need to tell you and the rest of this passage. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” Celebrate and gravitate towards God and your relationship with him. And the reason this is so important to set the stage for is cause he’s about to speak to some issues where people were telling the Church in Philippi, hey, you need to celebrate these things. Here’s some things that you need to put value on. Here’s some things you need to move towards. Here’s some things that you need to find significance in, and Paul wants to say, no, no, no, no, no, no, and so he’s setting them up. No, you need to celebrate God and not so much these things. Here’s what he says. He says, ”It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again. I’ve said this before.” He says, ”But it’s not a problem for me to repeat it because it’s so important and it is a safeguard to you.” Notice that word. It’s a safeguard. This is setting you up for success. He says, ”Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.” You’re like, okay, that escalated quickly, right? What’s just happened here, here?
Here’s what’s going on, in the Church in Philippi and in several of the cities where Paul planted churches, there were a group of people who are coming around to the Christians, the followers of Jesus, they were saying, hey, hey, it’s great that you have faith in Jesus. That’s awesome. So glad, but that’s not enough. If you’re really gonna be right with God, there’s some other things that you need to have. And specifically, the one thing that they’re focusing on here is they’re saying you need to be circumcised. And the room goes still. I’m gonna hope you know what circumcision means because I’m not getting into it. We’re just gonna say it’s a minor outpatient surgical procedure, okay? And if you don’t know what it is, then after the service, you should talk to somebody who’s looking uncomfortable right now, okay? Here’s the thing. Circumcision is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, God commanded it. In fact, when he called the first Jewish person who himself, a man named Abraham, God told Abraham, “One of the things that you’re going to do to demonstrate your commitment to me that you’re my people is you’re gonna circumcise yourself and your household.” And for every Jewish person, since then, circumcision was practiced and it was a way of kind of externally indicating like I’m of the people of God, okay?
Now, in the early days of Christianity, all of the followers of Jesus were Jewish. They are all descended from Abraham. The apostles were Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, obviously, and so all the followers of Jesus were Jewish, which means they were all circumcised, all the men at least, right? But then the Gospel began to spread out and it began to go to the Gentiles, so the non-Jewish people who were not circumcised. And then there was a group of people who kind of arose who basically went to the Gentile followers of Jesus and they said, hey, it’s great that you’re followers of Jesus. That’s awesome. Your faith is definitely a necessary part of your salvation, but if you’re gonna follow a Jesus, a Jewish Messiah, you kind of need to be Jewish, which means that you kind of need to be circumcised.
What does Paul think about that teaching? He says they’re dogs. And don’t think you’re a golden retriever. He says they’re scavengers. They’re lurking and they’re trying to take scraps and run out of the church with the scraps they’re able to grab ahold of. He says they’re evil doers. He doesn’t say they’re thinking wrong. He didn’t say if they have incorrect theology. He says they’re doing what? Evil. He says there are evil doers. They’re doing evil. He says they’re mutilators of the flesh. This is not a thing that honors God. In fact, it is a tragedy as a mutilation of the flesh. Wow. Now, it’s interesting that that’s the kind of thing that you would expect somebody to say if he didn’t have the advantage of circumcision, right? It’s the kind of thing that you would expect somebody to say if he didn’t have the advantage of these sort of Jewish markers or distinctives because people often kind of slams something or put something down if they don’t have it, right? I have the privilege of having a seminary education. I’m so grateful for that. Sometimes I’m in groups of pastors where people start slamming the seminary and inevitably the pastors who are slamming seminary are people who didn’t go to seminary. It’s kind of the way it works, right? So you sort of expect, well if Paul’s saying circumcision, it’s just not important. You’d expect him to be somebody who doesn’t have the advantage of having circumcision and being set apart in that way, right? But that’s not the truth. The fact of the matter is, Paul has been circumcised. He just doesn’t think it matters anymore. He doesn’t think it makes him the people of God. He didn’t think it’s what makes him right with God. He says this, verse 3, he says, “For it is we who are the circumcision,” meaning it is we who are the people of God, “who serve God by his Spirit.” Says the people of God aren’t defined by a physical thing, it’s a spirit thing, is we who are the people of God who boast in Christ. Jesus is about our faith in Jesus. “It’s we who are the people of God who put no confidence in the flesh.” This is not about a flesh thing. It’s not about an external thing. It’s about a faith thing. It’s about a spirit thing.
And he says, but just in case you’re thinking I’m dismissing it because I don’t have access to it, let me tell you this, verse 4 he says, ”Though, I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I got more: circumcised on the eighth day. In the beginning of my life, I’ve had that distinctive. I’ve had that marker. Of the people of Israel, I’m a blood relative of Abraham. I was descended from Abraham. I’m Jewish in every possible way. Of the tribe of Benjamin, of a respected tribe within the Nation of Israel. A Hebrew of Hebrews, the best of the best. In regard to the law, the Old Testament rules and regulations,” he says, ”a Pharisee,” a group of people that were committed to obeying every single rule and regulation, even putting a fence around the Old Testament Law to make sure that they didn’t accidentally break it. So they put new rules to make sure they didn’t stray too far from it. He says, “As for zeal, as for passion, persecuting the church, I’m so committed to being Jewish that I hunted down the followers of Jesus because I didn’t think that they were honoring all of the Jewish traditions and distinctives enough. I hunted them down and I killed them. That’s what I did before I met Jesus. And as for righteousness based on the law and obeying the rules and the regulations, faultless.” He says, ”I had it all.” I had it all. These people are coming in and they’re telling you, hey, having faith in Jesus is great, but it’s not enough to be right with God. You gotta have circumcision and some of these other things. Hey, I not only had all the things they’re talking about, I had a lot more that they can’t claim. And you know what I think about all of it? “But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” They don’t matter.
Well, on one level he says they don’t matter, but actually I realized this week, as I was studying this passage, after I read this verse 1,000 times, but I realized this week I’ve misread it a thousand times, and maybe you’ve had a similar experience if you’ve heard this verse before. I read this and I go, okay, so whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss. And when I saw the word or heard the word loss, what I thought, my brain kind of made a substitution and I thought he’s saying lost. Whatever were against me, I thought lost meaning gone, meaning left behind, meaning of no significance. But what I realized this week was, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s not saying they have no value. And so I left him behind. He’s saying they have negative value. The word loss literally means negative value. In fact, that same Greek word that he translates here at other times as translated as penalty. Proverbs 27:12 says this, it says, ”The prudent, the wise, they see danger and they take refuge, but the simple or the foolish. They keep going and they pay the penalty.” Same Greek word. Paul says, ”Whatever I once thought gains, I now consider a penalty.” It’s not just of no value, it’s a negative…they’re actually holding me and holding me back and so very literally what he says here is whatever used to be advantages to me or I used to think of as advantages to me, I now consider disadvantages for the sake of Christ.
Well, how can he say that? How can all of those things including the good things that God ordained for his people, how can they be considered disadvantages? You remember my garage? The answer is because when we hold onto these things, it makes it very hard for us to take hold of other much more valuable things. He says, for the sake of Christ. And in effect, what Paul is saying here and we need to be clear about this, is he saying that the trash we hold on to keeps us from receiving the treasure God has for us. He’s saying the trash that we hold onto keeps us from receiving the treasure that God has for us. And you might go, okay, hang on a second. I get it. I understand the point, but that seems a little harsh. It seems like maybe you’re pushing it a little bit far. To call circumcision and these other distinctives of the people of God in history to call those things trash, you’re pushing it too far, Craig.
But that’s exactly what Paul says. Look at this next verse, he says, ”What is more,” verse 8, ”I consider everything a loss. Everything a disadvantage because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost let go of all things I consider them,” what’s that word, Church? “garbage.” He says, “I consider them garbage, trash that I may gain Christ.” And honestly that might be an understatement. The King James translates the word there as dung because it can mean excrement, which is even worse than garbage or trash, but trash isn’t pushing it too far. That’s what Paul under the inspiration of God himself says. Because the trash we hold on to keeps us from receiving the treasure that God has for us, this treasure of knowing Christ. He says, ”I wanna gain Christ” verse 9, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law. I want righteousness that doesn’t come from trying harder and checking off the boxes of the do’s and don’ts. No, I want that which is through faith in Christ that I receive as a gift from God. The righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, not because I’ve earned it because I can’t and I’m glad that I can’t because if I could somehow earn it, I would always be afraid that I had lost it, that my behavior wasn’t good enough, that my track record wasn’t sufficient to keep me in the grace of God.” He says, ”I don’t want that.” I want the salvation, the righteous that comes as a gift from God that all I have to do is say thank you. I accept it.” Verse 10 he says, “I wanna know Christ. I wanna know him, yes to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings becoming like him in his death.” Says, “I want to know that power, that the power of Christ who lived the perfect life, died on the cross to pay for my sins and in his death brought me freedom and then three days later he rose from the dead. I wanna know the power that lifted him out of death and out of darkness, out of sin.” He says, “Because I still struggle with sin.” Because we all still struggle. In Ephesians he says that you are all dead in your sins and transgressions separated from God, trapped in sin and death and darkness.
But in Christ, there is the power to lift from that. Not only in the end, not only when we walk into glory, but even here and now to begin experiencing the power of the resurrection to set us free from all those things that hold us back because I wanna know that power. Verse 11, “And so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection of the dead, the true life with God both now and forever. He says, “Not… Verse 12, ”Not that I’ve already obtained it, I’m not all the way there, or that I’ve already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
I love that sentence. Read it again. “But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” He says, ”I wanna let go of anything I have to let go of so I can take hold of the one who took hold of me.” And you think about this, what did Jesus have to let go of to take hold of us? We looked at it just a couple of weeks ago in Philippians 2. The Son of God let go with his glory. He let go of the honor that was due him. He let go of the right to be recognized and to be worse. If he let go of all that. He basically said, yeah, I know that’s what’s due me, but I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, that’s trash that I let go of so I can take hold of something much more valuable. And what is the incredibly valuable thing that he let go of honor and glory and worship to grab hold of? It’s you. It’s me. It’s us. He let go of all that so that he could take hold of us. We’re his treasure. Think about that for just a second. This is how much God loves you. In spite of our sin and our selfishness, God loves you so profoundly he let go of all of those things so he could take hold of you. Paul says, I wanna follow his example. I wanna let go of everything that I think has value, everything that I now recognize as trash so that I can take hold of true treasure, a relationship with the One who has treasured me so much that he went through that to take hold of me. Wow.
He says, ”Brothers and sisters,” verse 13 ”I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do, one thing I have taken hold of, forgetting what’s behind, letting go of all of that stuff and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This is what I’m doing. He says, I’m not there yet. Says, I’ve only smelled the bread in the oven. I haven’t taken a bite yet. I’ve only dipped my toes in the cool water of the lake on a hot summer day. I haven’t yet plunged beneath the surface and experienced all that there is. I’m just beginning to taste the outside edges of it. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of everything that God has for me, but the very little that I’ve experienced is so incredible that there’s nothing that I wanna hold onto if it’s gonna keep me from taking hold of everything that God has and that’s really at the bottom of it, that’s what this whole passage says. He is saying to take hold of all that God has in store for us, we have to let go of all that we’ve stored up for ourselves. That’s it.
In the simplest terms, everything that Paul’s saying here boils down to that, to take hold of all that God has in store for us, we have to let go of all that we’ve stored up for ourselves. How do we do that? Three questions. Three questions that we need to ask, answer and act on. Question number one, what do I need to let go of? What do you need to let go of? What are you holding on to that’s actually gonna keep you from taking hold of everything else that God has for you? You know, it might be a bad thing. Sometimes we hold on to bad broken things. We call those sin in the Church, and it may be that even right now, the Holy Spirit’s speaking to you and you know that there’s a sin in your life that, that you know it’s not good for you. You know it’s nothing compared to everything that Christ has for you, but it’s just for whatever reason, it’s so hard to let go of. You need to identify that. You need to call it what it is. You need to repent of it. Well, maybe it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s not a bad thing. Honestly, maybe it’s been a very good thing. Maybe it’s something that God’s even used in your life to get you to a certain point, but now he’s going, okay, it’s time to move past that. Maybe that’s a relationship or a job or something like that. Or maybe it’s a neutral thing, but something that you celebrated so much that you gravitated towards it and now it’s very difficult to break out of that orbit. Now, some of you when I asked this question, you know, what do I need to let go of, you…some of you immediately go like, I got it. I know exactly what it is. Can we please move on? Some of you, maybe it’s not so clear. You’re going, like, I get the idea, but I’m not sure what it is I might be holding onto. Maybe here’s a couple followup questions. Maybe you ask this question, what am I celebrating? What do I find myself celebrating? What is it easiest for me to celebrate? Because it might very well be that that’s your kind of identifier because the reality is that we gravitate towards what we celebrate. And so if you can identify what you’re celebrating, that might point you very quickly to the thing that you’ve got in such a tight grip that you can’t open your hands to take everything else that God’s got for you. Or maybe you flip it around. Maybe it’s the thing that you’re most afraid of losing. Maybe it’s the thing that you find this kernel of fear growing in you. Because you’re like, what would I do if that thing went away? What would I do if this was taken, what if circumstances changed and I didn’t have that? What’s the thing you need to let go of?
Question number two, what is it keeping me from taking hold of? I think it’s so important that we have some understanding of what it is that God is offering because it’s very hard to let go of something that we found security and hope and peace in unless we understand that what’s being offered to us is infinitely better. Do you understand what it is to know Christ? Do you understand what it is to know a God who loves you so much that he sacrificed his own Son to buy you back to take hold of you? Do you know what’s promised? Maybe you don’t. So maybe what you need to do is you need to but read the Book of Revelation. Well, maybe you need to read the last part of the Book of Revelation because the ramp up to the last part is a little different than what I’m talking about. Revelation 20 and 21, actually a great place to start. You begin to get a picture there of everything that is in store for us. And to see that what’s in store for us is actually what God wants to begin working in us even now, maybe that’s what you need to do to begin understanding what it is that God has for you. I love what God himself said through the Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 29:11. For some of you, may be a familiar verse. He said, ”I know the plans that I have for you.” You may not know and honestly you may not even be able to wrap your head around it, but I know. I know the plans I have for you. “Plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Can you take it on faith that whatever God has for you, it is infinitely better than what you have for yourself? We need to have some sense of what it is that we’re being offered so that we can begin to pry our fingers off of the things that were grabbing hold of. As we were talking about this on Tuesday in our planning meeting, Danny Oertli, our weekend experience pastor, reminded me of a really powerful statement from CS Lewis, one of my favorite quotes from him. He said, would you pop it up? He said, ”It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not to strong but too weak. We’re half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when in fact infinite joy is offered to us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We are. We are far too easily pleased. And so God offers infinite joy. We’re like, “Oh no, I’m good. I got this thing and that thing,” but they’re all things that can be taken away from us. We need to have some sense of what it is that God offers, that sets the stage for being able to do.
Number three, which is this, how will I get it out of my garage? How will I get it out of my garage? We need a plan, right? We need a strategy. Hope is not a strategy and it’s important the way identify the things and we begin pushing towards all the things that God has for us, but we probably need a specific plan or very little progress will actually happen. So how do we do that? How do we get it out of our garage? Honestly, Paul has given us one of the most powerful and practical things, which is rejoice in the Lord. Again, not a feeling, but to actually celebrate God and your relationship with him in practical ways. We talked about a few of those earlier today. Make that a regular part of your life if it’s not, because we gravitate towards what we celebrate. So one of the first keys to moving these other things out of our garage to make room for everything that God wants to move in is to celebrate God and your relationship with him in practical ways, to rejoice in the Lord. It’s not a cliché, it’s a powerful practical strategy.
Maybe part of your strategy too is to get some people around you to talk about this. Maybe you talk about with your Life Group or with your spouse or some other friends. You go, “Hey, I’m kind of seeing that I need to get my fingers off of this so that I have room to grab what God wants. How about you?” And you discuss it and you maybe you make some practical steps together and you hold each other accountable. God will lead you in that. You’re smart, but you need a practical plan to move it out of your garage. And it’s so important that we do that. Why? Because to take hold of all that God has in store for us, we have to let go of all that we stored up for ourselves.
Would you pray with me? God, on behalf of followers of Jesus gathered in this place and gathering with us online around the world right now, I confess to you that we are too easily satisfied, confess to you that we have found hope and meaning and significance and contentment and security in things other than you. We confess that to you and we invite your Holy Spirit have your way with us, Lord. Reveal us those specific things that we have so tightly in our grasp that we can’t take hold of all the much, much better things that you have for us. Reveal those to us, Lord. Give us a glimpse of what it is that you’re offering us and who it is that offers it because though there’s no greater treasure than that simply to know you. And Lord, give us the wisdom to begin taking practical steps to get our fingers off of it, to move it out of the garage, to make room for all that you have.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you begin praying for the people around you and the people watching online? Because I believe there are people listening to this right now that they don’t have a relationship with that God. They have not taken hold of the One who longs to take hold of them. And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you very briefly. It may very well be that the reason that you don’t have that relationship with God is because there’s other things that you’ve been holding tightly to. Maybe it’s your own sense of righteousness. Maybe you think, well, I’m a good person. Are you good enough? You probably know the fear that comes from that. And maybe it’s possessions or popularity or some other thing, but you know that you’re holding on to something and it’s kept you from taking hold of a relationship with God. And maybe for the first time you heard that God loves you so much that he wants to offer you something infinitely better than anything you’re holding onto.
And if you don’t have a relationship with that God, you can have it starting right here, right now. Wherever you are, this is what you say to him. And if you’re ready to begin that relationship, would you just say this to God in your own heart? Say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I’ve trusted in other things than you. And I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for rescuing me. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead and I want the power of your resurrection in my life. So I’m ready to accept your gift. Jesus, I’m reaching out my arms to you. They’re empty, ready to take hold of you. Come into my life. I put my trust in you for now and forever. Amen. Can we just welcome those who made that decision for the first time today?
Join Reza Zadeh as he encourages us to gain the greatest gift: being in relation with the Creator. Contrary to traditional understanding, our purpose as believers in Christ is not solely to get to Heaven, but that we will attain something even greater. When we live for Christ, our old self dies and we are able to focus instead on expanding God’s kingdom.
Danny: All right. We have a tremendous privilege today. Reza Zadeh, this will be his third time speaking here at Mission Hills Church. We love Reza at this church. And if you didn’t know, Reza works with Athletes In Action full-time. He works with collegiate athletes as well as pro athletes. He and I are both graduates of Colorado State University, the Harvard of the West and so he works with a lot with CSU and also as chaplain for the Denver Broncos. So please make Reza feel welcome this morning.
Reza: Danny, thank you. Thanks so much, bud. The Harvard of the West. Man, you have definitely green and gold glasses on because we are not that good, just so you know. But, I love his faith. He’s great. Mission Hills, it’s always great to be here. Love coming and being with you all. My family and I, my family was here last service. It’s great, and we are so appreciative of the way you love Jesus, the way you serve the community and the way you dive into the Scripture. So it is a privilege to be here. I do wanna say welcome on this daylight savings morning. And if there is ever a greater lie in this world for parents than you get an extra hour of sleep on Daylight Savings, you don’t. I’m sorry parents. I understand. I’m with you. I remember when our kids, we have three kids now, 11, 9 and 6. When our oldest two were, we had two under the age of two, and I remember we went to bed very naive thinking that, “Oh, this is gonna be great. We’re gonna get an extra hour of sleep.” Nobody told our one-and-a-half-year-old, our newborn that you’re supposed to sleep an extra hour on Daylight Savings. So instead of getting up at 5:30, they got up at 4:30 and it was a nightmare. So parents, I understand, but thanks for coming and being here.
Well, hey, we are here at Mission Hills, we’re in a series and we’re diving through a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote. And this is a letter to a specific church in a specific place going through some specific things in its particular culture. And so here’s one thing that we have to remember when we read the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians. He wrote this letter, he didn’t write the letter to us. He did not write this letter thinking that people in 2019 are going to be reading it. But, by the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the words that the Apostle Paul wrote are timeless, and they speak to our circumstances just like they spoke to the Philippian people. And so here we have the Apostle Paul, he is in prison writing these letters. This Philippians is one of those letters that’s called the Prison Epistles, which basically means these are letters that Paul wrote while he was in prison. Presumably theologians and historians believe, excuse me, that he was in prison, either in Ephesus or in Rome. So we don’t know exactly where, but it really doesn’t matter. We just know that he was in prison, and he was encouraging this church to walk with Jesus in a specific culture. And here’s what I love about the Apostle Paul and the letters that he wrote and the words that he wrote, that his theology, the way that he talks about God, the way that he talks about salvation is unmatched all throughout the 66 books that make up the narrative of God’s story with us.
The Apostle Paul’s theology is incredible. And he’s not just challenging people in their actions, and their beliefs, but he’s really giving people a lot of thought on because of this is what Christ is, what Christ has done, what are the ramifications for you and me? What are the ramifications for God’s people in the midst of the culture that they live in? And so as we dive into this, we’ve gotta understand when the Apostle Paul wrote this, last week, Pastor Craig walked us through the first part of Philippians chapter three. When Paul wrote this letter, he did not have chapters in mind. He didn’t have numbers in mind at all. We added those later to make it easy for us to break down and to read and to find different things throughout the scriptures. And so the Apostle Paul, when he writes this, Pastor Craig walked us through the first part, excuse me, of chapter three and he ended last week. Pastor Craig walked us through when the Apostle Paul was talking about this athletic metaphor about what does it mean for us to be able to run this race and yet have a prize set before us. You know, one of the things the Apostle Paul was saying is, Hey, becoming a Christian is not the end of it all. It’s not like as soon as we understand that Christ is Lord, that we submit our lives to Jesus, that our life is over. The Apostle Paul actually says the race has just begun. And it’s not like when you run a race and you start off really well in a race, then you can just coast for the rest of the time. The Apostle Paul is saying actually starting the race, starting the walk with God is only the beginning. And so that’s where he’s taking us and that’s where he’s, he’s leading us to.
When I have the opportunity to talk to people about… Excuse me. I’m so sorry. When I have the opportunity to talk to people about Jesus and what does it mean that John 3:16 and, and many of us understand John 3:16. If you grew up in church, you know John 3:16. If you knew someone that grew up in church, you’ve heard John 3:16. If you’ve ever driven by a church, like you know, John 3:16. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And I love asking people, “What does it mean to have eternal life? What does eternal life mean?” And inevitably, people would say that eternal life means that I go to heaven. And so, but we’ve gotta understand eternal life does not mean that we go to heaven. The purpose of our life as believers in Jesus, the reason that God created us was not to go to heaven, although that’s a benefit for us. But our purpose is not to get to heaven because if the purpose of us getting to heaven was true, then the moment that you heard the Gospel of your salvation, the moment you believed in the name of Jesus, the moment that the Holy Spirit came and dwelt in you, if the goal was to get to heaven, then the moment that we believed that we would just disappear and go to heaven. But for some reason you and I are still here. And I’m presuming there’s a few of you here who have trusted Jesus with your life and you’re still here. So obviously God has something else in mind for the purpose of our lives, that eternal life in John 3:16 that if you believe in the name of Jesus, you have eternal life and you will not perish.
Eternal life is something greater than even go into heaven. Later on in the Gospel of John, John defines what eternal life is as he quotes Jesus, speaking to his Father on our behalf, as Jesus is praying for us before he’s about to go to the cross. And in John chapter 17… Thanks brother. In John chapter 17 Jesus himself defines exactly what eternal life is all about. In John 17:3 Jesus says that, this is eternal life, that they,” us, the followers of God, “That they might know you, the one and only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” And so eternal life is not getting to heaven. Eternal life means we get to know God, that we get to be in relationship with the Creator, that the One who made us also wants to be in proximity with us. That’s what eternal life is all about. And when we can live in a place where we know God, that we see this life clearly, we get to bring glory, honor and praise to his name. So this is what Paul is trying to tell believers through all of his letters, through all of his teachings. He’s letting us know that because of what Christ has done that you now have the opportunity to see yourself differently, to see the world differently and it’s got some ramifications on how we live our life in a specific culture, in a specific time, in a specific place, going through certain circumstances. So this is where we have found ourselves. And the Apostle Paul says very clearly, “I’ve started this race, you started this race,” and we haven’t fully obtained it. The race isn’t finished, but yet we need to live from a certain place knowing that we’re running this race. And this is where Paul leaves us off in the first part of chapter three that we started last week with Pastor Craig.
Now, we’re gonna continue, we’re gonna walk through Philippians chapter 3 starting from verse 15 all the way to the end of chapter three, verse 21. And there’s some specific things that the Apostle Paul is building on from that thought that we started with. This is where the Apostle Paul is now launching from as he finishes this letter. Meet me in Philippians chapter 3:15-16. And friends, we’re just gonna walk verse by verse through these through the last part of chapter three and really try to figure out what was the Apostle Paul saying and what does it mean for us living in 2019. Philippians chapter 3:15-16 says, ”All of us then who are mature should take such a view of things.” So basically if you’re mature, you understand you haven’t arrived, that you’re on this race, that you’ve got to press on to receive this prize that is in front of us. And if you’re mature you should take this kind of view. And if on some point you think differently then if you disagree with us, then God’s gonna show you, he’s gonna make it clear to you. ”Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Friends, I love that. Let us live up to what we have already attained. Let me tell you what we have already attained. That what Paul is saying is run the race in such a way knowing that you’ve already won the race. You know, if we take a look at Revelation 22 at the very end of the Scriptures that we have, that God has given us, inspired by the Holy Spirit, written by men. At the very end of Revelation 22, you know when it says? That Jesus wins. That Jesus wins the eternal battle. Jesus wins. He overcame death. He defeated Satan and Jesus wins. And because we as followers of Jesus have submitted ourselves to him, we are now in Jesus. Guess what? You and I win too. And so Paul is saying, we’ve already attained this. This is where we live. So run the race knowing that you’ve already won the race. Now, if I’m gonna run a race knowing the outcome, that’s gonna free me up from being distracted from anything else because I know that I’m gonna win this race. Paul is saying, you’ve already attained it. Live from a place of victory, not from a place of trying to strive to win, but live knowing you’ve already won.
A few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of coming and being here, we walked a lot through the Scriptures and we talked a little bit about the context of what was happening in Philippi, and we’re gonna come back and talk about that a little bit. But one of the things that we’ve talked about and as an overall narrative of the teaching that you hear here at Mission Hills, is that there’s four parts to the Gospel story. The first part is found in Genesis chapter one and Genesis chapter two, it’s generally called the Creation. That God created. God created the heavens and the earth. God created humanity. God created us to be in relationship with him, Genesis one and two. And then the second act of God’s story comes into play, and Genesis chapter three specifically talks about what we know as the Fall. Original sin. That Adam and Eve, through Adam and Eve sin entered the world because humanity said, “What God wants to give us is not enough. We’re not gonna wait for what God wants to give us. We’re gonna take what we want for ourselves.” And that’s called sin, that we have missed the mark, that we have walked away from God’s holiness and that we have it for ourselves, and because of that, humanity is marred with sin. And from Genesis chapter four all the way to the end of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, from Genesis four to John 21, we have what’s called Redemption. That God has his redemption process in place. And he instituted the Law in the Old Testament of rituals that people would have to perform to be reconciled to God. And then he gives us Jesus, the second person of the Trinity steps into humanity and dies on a cross and resurrects from the grace so that we might be redeemed. And so redemption is the third part of God’s story. But there is a fourth part that I think we forget. And the fourth part starts with the Book of Acts chapter one, it goes all the way to Revelation 22, the very end of the Scriptures. And that’s the Restoration process of God, that God is in the process currently of restoring creation and humanity back to its original state. And that’s where we find ourselves.
So the Apostle Paul is saying from creation all the way to restoration, we live from a place of victory. We have attained that. That’s where we are. And a huge part of God’s attributes and to understand the story of God and where we sit, we’ve gotta understand what the holiness of God is all about. The holiness of God is a hard concept to talk about because we don’t fully understand, what does it mean that God is Holy? What does it mean that he is 100% Holy and cannot be in the presence of anything that is unholy? It’s one of the greatest qualities of God that we know his holiness. But we also know that it’s not only a beautiful quality about who God is, it’s actually one of the damaging parts or one of the all-consuming parts that also destroy us. That God’s holiness, a good way to think about God’s holiness is different metaphors, and the best metaphor that I have found to think about God’s holiness is the sun. That we know that the sun, everything revolves around the sun, and the sun is bright, and we know this from discovering things that scientists have discovered, things that God has created, and then we know that even through photosynthesis that plants, God created plants to take in carbon dioxide, this poison and utilize sunlight, these sun rays, and through that produce oxygen that all living creatures breathe in. That light from the sun is the basis of all of our life. That other things, time and energy and distance, everything is measured by this thing called light. Sun rays, the sun is an essential part of us. But we also know this. If you get too close to the sun, what happens? You are consumed and you are destroyed. God’s holiness is just like that. In a lot of ways, God’s holiness is beautiful, magnificent, and it really radiates a lot of beauty. But at the same time, if we approach God’s holiness marred with sin, if we are not holy, then we too are consumed and eventually destroyed. And so throughout the narrative, throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, we understand this idea that when Moses came across God in the burning bush and the holiness and the presence of God, God had to say, “Moses, stop. It’s too dangerous. You can’t come any closer. My holiness is too much for you. Take off your shoes for this as holy ground.”
And then we know that God’s holiness resided in the temple in the Old Testament, and the Jews that worked around the temple and the Jewish priests that worked within the temple, they had to go through moral cleansing. They had to adhere to some moral standards so that they wouldn’t be impure and they could stand in the presence and be around the proximity of the holiness of God. That those that would even walk into the temple, that they had to not only be morally pure, but ritually pure as well, and when they were morally and ritually pure, they would be able to stand before the holiness of God and not be consumed. And this is where Jesus steps in for us. This is what I love about Jesus. Some of you have heard my stories. I’ve shared. I was born in Iran, I grew up Muslim. I did not know Jesus growing up at all. I met Jesus as a college athlete at Colorado State University, and here’s what I love about Jesus. Here’s what I love, why claim to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus. Because, no other religion, no other faith in this world has an answer for what happens when sinful humanity stands before a Holy God. That Islam doesn’t have an answer for that. Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Judaism, no ism out there has an answer for what happens when sinful humanity has to stand before a Holy God, that every other ism out there, every other religion says, you’ve gotta do these things and do these things and do these things and do these things ,and Christianity is the only one where Jesus says, “The work is done. I did the work on your behalf. You just simply receive that gift.”
You see, we are able to stand in the presence of God who is holy because of what Christ has done on the cross. And what the Apostle Paul is saying is live from that place. Live knowing that you don’t have to earn anything. Live knowing that because of what Christ has done, because of what he’s taught morally, because of what he’s done on the cross ritually, that we stand, cleanse and pure before a Holy God. That’s what the message of the Gospel is all about. And Paul is saying, live from here. You’ve already attained this. We live from a place of victory, not from a place of defeat. And we live knowing that the old self is gone, crucified, that the old is gone, it’s dead, and now we live brand new. So we’re living different lives. And Paul is reminding believers to live from this place that you’ve already attained. And in verse 17 he continues. ”And joined together and following my example, brothers and sisters. And just as you have us as a model,” you have us, your leaders, your church leaders, Paul is saying, you have us as a model. ”Keep your eyes on those who live like we do.” Listen, he doesn’t say, “Hey, why don’t you keep your eyes on those who talk like we do? Why don’t you keep our eyes on those that vote like we do or listen to K-LOVE like we do or have Christian things in their house like we do?” He doesn’t say, “Keep your eyes on people that talk like we do.” He says, what does he say? He says, “Keep your eyes on people that live like we do.” That there is something in us that the Apostle Paul knows about us, that we are gonna be tempted to look at anything and everything that might look Christian but may not be aligning to Scripture. And friends, if there was ever a season in this world that this is a warning for you and I, it’s today. Because of the readiness of social media and tweeting and YouTube that anything can sound good, that people could use the Scripture to make it say anything they want to. You could twist this. But you gotta understand, how do you determine between right and wrong? How do we keep our eyes on the right people? Friends, just because somebody sounds good, it doesn’t mean that they’re walking with Jesus. I love the C.S. Lewis quote. And C.S. Lewis says that when we get to heaven, most of us are gonna be surprised by two things when we stand in heaven. The first, we’re gonna be surprised about who is there that we knew for sure wouldn’t be there, and we’re gonna be surprised at who’s not there that we thought for sure would be there. That there are false teachers all over our culture and in Christian circles. Jesus says this, “You’re gonna be able to know my disciples specifically by one thing. By their fruit.” And is their fruit rooted in love? Because if their fruit is not rooted in love, I’m not sure they’re representing the Gospel and the kingdom that Jesus speaks about.
The Apostle John who wrote the Gospel of John also wrote some letters in his old age. And in John, in 1st John, he encourages us to test the spirits to know if they are from God. And he tells them, there’s one defining mark as you test the spirits, here’s how you test them. Do they claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and has come from God and has died on our behalf? Because listen, people can use the name of Jesus, but if they try to add anything to the salvation that Jesus offers, they’re not the type of people that John is talking about. There’s a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. And a wolf might look like a sheep, a wolf might listen to what sheep listen to, a wolf might shop where sheep shops, a wolf might vote the way sheep’s vote. But how are you gonna know that something is a wolf and not a sheep? When it turns and starts consuming the sheep. Jesus is saying, keep your eyes open because there’s gonna be some people that are gonna try to consume you that are, that look like sheep, but they’re actually wolves, and Paul is affirming this. And there’s this distinguishing mark confessing that Jesus is the Christ. Because if people say that you can earn salvation or earn blessing in any other way besides the presence of God or the work of Christ on the cross, they’re not communicating the true Gospel. The true Gospel message is that man was sinful and we are without hope in our own efforts. It is only through what Christ did on the cross that we have a chance to stand before a Holy God. And it’s almost like Paul knew that we as people were gonna look to others to find our value and our worth. You know, sociologists and psychologists have told us that since 2007, in the last 12 years, that mental health issues, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts have skyrocketed 350%. Three hundred and fifty percent in 12 years because of these things that are happening in our culture. Do you know what else was introduced into our culture 12 years ago? This thing. Twelve years ago, this was introduced to our culture. And it’s no coincidence at all that as soon as this was introduced to our culture, mental health issues have started to skyrocket. Because, when we find our worth and what other people are doing or how our Pinterest parties look like, other people’s Pinterest parties or do people like my photos or not like my photos, when we find our worth and our life doesn’t match up to what other people’s lives look like, of course, we’re gonna start to feel anxious. Paul is saying this exact same thing.
Paul is saying, watch who you look at, because who you look at and where you find your worth will speak volumes to your heart. And if we start consuming poison, then we’re going to have a poison in us that’s gonna start deteriorating us in our hearts. These are some of the themes that Paul talks about. Listen to what he tells the Colossians in Colossians chapter three. ”Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” He’s like, look, you’ve already attained salvation through what Christ has done. So why don’t you set your hearts on things above? Don’t look to this world for your worth. Don’t look to this world for your affirmation. Why don’t you get your affirmation in your worth from a voice that really matters, the One who created you, not from the one that’s trying to destroy you? ”Set your minds on things above not earthly things for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Your old self is gone. It’s dead now. Live in a way knowing that your old self is gone and your old self is dead. And then he continues this theme and he continues to say, watch who you listen to in verse 18 and 19 in Philippians 3, ”For as I have often told you before and now tell you again, even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Listen to how he describes these enemies of the cross of Christ. “Their destiny is destruction. Their god is their stomach. Their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” You see, he’s telling us very clearly there are some characteristics of people who are destined to destruction. And the way that you can tell the people that you look at if they’re destined for destruction, he says, simply look at this, “Their God is their stomach.” All they care about is their essential appetites being fulfilled. If they feel it, they do it. If they want it, they go get it. They don’t have to wait for it because they’re gonna push and push and step over people and get whatever it is they want.
In our day and age, it looks like this. They scroll and scroll and scroll, but they’re misinformed. They’re as connected as ever with people all around the world, but we’re as lonely as we could ever be. That we have 24-hour news cycles, but yet we have a lot of ignorance going around in our world. Basically, he’s saying, “Their god is their stomach.” Everything they live for is found in this world. And can I tell you this very plainly, friends? This world is incapable of fulfilling you the way that you want it to fulfill you. It’s almost like trying to consume a deep hunger with a candy bar. It can’t work. It doesn’t work that way. Their glory is in their shame. Not only have they sin, but they boasted about their sin. They’re proud of it and they want to pull others down. And their mind is on earthly things, that their entire existence is about what they can accomplish and what they can collect and accumulate here on this earth and it doesn’t matter who you step on or step over to get it. Now, friends, let me be also very clear. It is not wrong to achieve things. It is not wrong to have an incredible business. It’s not wrong to have things in this world. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying. The Apostle Paul is saying, just be careful that your mind is not fixated on things of this world. Don’t allow your worth to be determined about your family. Don’t let your worth be determined about whether you’re single or married. Don’t let your worth be determined about what school’s your kid got into or schools who can afford. Let your mind be set on things that are above, things that aren’t going to get distracted. Set your things on things that actually matter. And here’s what he says. Because, people that don’t, that set their things on earthly things, it’s not a very popular thought, but he says their end is destruction.
And students, let me tell you this, that I understand that it is a hard time to be a student. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in middle school or high school with this device. I don’t know how you all do it, but here’s what I do know. That you’re gonna be tempted to try to align yourselves with the ways of this world because it seems pleasant and it seems fun. But very clearly, very plainly, I need to tell you that the ways of this world will not lead you to eternal life, but they’ll lead you to destruction. The Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans, it’s the most theologically rich letter that he wrote. In Romans chapter 6:23 very plainly, he says, ”The wages of sin is death.” That a wage, we know a wage, that when we accomplish a work, when we go work for somebody and we do something for them, then we get a wage from them. It’s a payment received for acts that we perform. And so what the Apostle is saying, he’s saying very clearly, the payment that we are owed for sin is death. Now, that doesn’t mean that as soon as we sin, we’re gonna drop dead and die. He’s saying the death is actually different. The death is a spiritual death because when we sin, we are now marred with sin and we can’t stand in the holiness of God. And so we are spiritually dead to God. But that’s not the end of the story. Listen to how he explains it to the Ephesians in Ephesians chapter two. ”As for you,” he’s speaking to Christians here. ”As for you, you were dead. You used to be dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time.” Listen to this, ”Gratifying the cravings of our flesh, following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” That’s not very good news there. And then there’s verse four. ”But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace that you have been saved.” That he says that we were dead in our transgressions and sins, that our sin, that this world is trying to pull us down to destruction, but it’s Christ that saw us pulled down by the world and he raised us up in himself through his death because of his love. And while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That tells me this. You don’t have to clean up your life before you show up to church. You don’t have to clean up your life before you come to Jesus. I work with athletes for a living. Athletes get injured a lot. Not one of them has tried to take out a knife and repair their own ACL before they go to the orthopedic surgeon.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. You see, Philippi had a history and Paul was writing specifically to a specific people going through a specific thing. And about 100 years before Paul wrote this epistle, about 100 years before he planted this church, in 42 BC there was a civil war that broke out in the Roman Empire. And there was two generals and the General Antony and Octavius were the two generals for the Roman army that squelched the civil war. And one of the major battles was right here in Philippi. And so what these two generals did and Octavius eventually became the Emperor Augustus, that he went on to become the Emperor of all of Rome, that what these generals did, instead of taking all of the soldiers that were fighting in this little civil war in this Greek province of Philippi, instead of taking them back to Rome, they chose to stay in Philippi. And so here’s what was happening. Over the course of 100 years in Philippi, there was a civil war in the Roman Empire that broke out. It was crushed by the Roman Empire. These two generals were elevated into leadership. And instead of taking these hundreds of Roman soldiers back to Rome, guess what they did? They settled in Philippi. And so here we have some Roman soldiers that are from Rome, understand the culture of Rome, understand the celebrations of Rome. And in this day when Paul was writing this letter, the Roman Empire had actually elevated the Emperor Augustus to this godlike status that they would even say that every knee will bow before the lord, lord Augustus, the Caesar. And so when Paul writes his letters, he speaking a lot to believers living in a culture that elevated this political leader. In a way it should have never been elevated. But in Philippi, you had all these Roman soldiers for the course of about 100 years. They were marrying Greek women. They were bringing in their customs into this Greek providence. And here’s what the Apostle Paul’s about to say, is I want you to look at these Roman soldiers. They’re citizens of Rome, but they’re living in Philippi, that their citizenship is somewhere else. And because they are from Rome, they’re trying to bring Rome here in Philippi. And in a way the Apostle Paul is saying, I want you to watch what they’re doing because actually what they’re doing, I want you to copy that, but in a completely different way. Here’s what he says in verse 20 Paul says, ”Our citizenship is in heaven.” Just like the Romans, their citizenship was in Rome, but they lived in Philippi. They brought all the customs. They lived as Romans in Philippi. And the Apostle is saying, why don’t you live as a citizen of heaven?
I shared with you before, I was born in Iran. We came to the United States when I was really young. In 1996, I became an American citizen, and Iran is one of those countries where you can’t denounce your citizenship. So I have dual citizenship. On my passport, I now have a U..S passport that says my birthplace is Iran, and my citizenship though is America, that I am an American citizen. In 1996 in the LA convention center, I stood there and I took an oath. And the oath that I took to become an American citizen was that I would uphold the Constitution of the United States of America no matter where I was in the States or anywhere in the world, that my citizenship now belongs here. So I have to represent myself as if I live here. A few years ago, I took a trip to Israel, and I went to Israel. And I don’t know if you know this, but if your passport says you were born in Iran and as American citizen, you try to go into Israel, it doesn’t go that well. I mean, they’re kind of, you know, Iran wants to blow them off the face of the planet, all this stuff. That’s not really healthy when you try to go visit when you were born in Iran. I show up to the Tel-Aviv Airport and I’m thinking to myself, “I have no clue how this is gonna go. I’ve never left the country up to this point. I always tell people, like I was born in another country, this is my overseas mission trip. Like, this is where I live. I don’t particularly like going outside of this place. But I went to Israel and it took all about 45 seconds. I handed my passport to the lady, and she looks at it and she goes, ”You’re born in Iran?” I said, ”Yeah.” She goes, ”Can you please go sit in that room?” And I was like, ”Okay.” So I sit in that room, no kidding, five hours. Five hours, I’m in this room and I’m just kind of sitting there. I’m thinking my luggage is going around that little conveyor belt. I don’t know. My tour group’s gone, I’m in Israel, I’m Iranian, this is terrible, you know. And they come, and I’m starving at this point because the only thing they had in there was me and all the other middle Eastern men that have come through Tel-Aviv are in this room and there’s one vending machine. And I didn’t wanna put my credit card in there because it’s in, everything’s in Hebrew. I don’t know how much it is or what I’m getting back. And so I’m just sitting there. And after five hours of questioning and all this stuff, they say I can finally go. And they hand me this little white bag with like a lunch in it. And I’m like, “Great. I’m hungry.” So I open it up and there was little sandwich in there with a bottle of water. And I open up the sandwich, and no kidding. It’s a slice of cheese, some tomatoes and some cucumbers. And I look at it and I was like, “Can I get some meat in here?” And they’re like, “No, it’s not kosher. We have kosher rules. You can’t mix meat and cheese.” And I was like, “Dude, take the cheese. Like, I’ll take the meat. Like, that’s fine.”
But because I was in Israel, I had to abide by kosher rules now. Now, I had to abide by them, but I didn’t adopt them. Like, I didn’t adopt that at all. I love my meatball with cheese, you know, when I’m here. But I want you to keep that in mind, that when you’re in another place, you abide by their customs, but your decisions are made from somewhere else. Paul is saying, you’re a citizen of heaven. Stop looking at this world. Stop living as if this world is all that there is. Go ahead and participate here but propel your thoughts there. Appreciate what happens here, but your value comes from another place. Your conversations are here on earth, but your citizenship is from another place. But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. We live in this world, but we’re not citizens of this world, that we are here, we are in this world, but we’re not of this world. It’s not a passage in the Old Testament, but it’s a thought, I mean, the New Testament, but it’s a thought that Jesus came back to and the Apostle came back to over and over. And even John, when he wrote his letters, he said, “Hey, don’t love things of this world. Don’t fall in love with things of this world, because if you loved things of this world, the love of the Father is not in you.” Now, he’s not saying don’t love pizza. He’s not saying don’t love this thing. He’s saying, don’t find your worth in things of this world because when you find your worth here, you’re incapable of finding your worth in heaven. It’s exactly where Jesus was telling us to look, and this is what the Apostle Paul was saying. Listen to what, how Peter says it. Peter says in 1 Peter, chapter two. ”Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Peter knew that non-believers are gonna look at Christians and they’re gonna be very skeptical of Christians, and he knew they weren’t gonna like Christians. So Peter says this, why don’t you live a certain way that’s gonna bring glory and honor to God and maybe just maybe people are gonna start considering their own lives. You know Peter doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, Hey, I want you to post on Facebook and convince everybody that you’re right and that they need to commit their lives way you committed your life. Peter doesn’t say argue your way through culture. He says, why don’t you live a certain way and allow the way that you live to be a testimony for me? Be diligent that while you’re traveling through this land, make sure people know you belong to Jesus.
Peter didn’t ask Christians to go on the attack and fight those who oppose them. You know, here’s something that we have to understand about the Gospel of Jesus that Paul wrote about so eloquently. That I can say this as a guest, and if you don’t like it, then I just won’t be invited back and that’s okay. But the Gospel of Jesus, if the words of Jesus and if the ways of the Kingdom that Jesus speaks about doesn’t interrupt your life or get you to think about how you live your life, I’m not sure you fully understand the words of Jesus or the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the very first public sermon that he gave, he gave some really quick one liners. He didn’t do that so Hobby Lobby could sell plaques. He said specific things because he knew that we’re gonna be tempted to live a certain way. So he says, “Hey, why don’t you think about living as the ways of the Kingdom of God? Why don’t you be humble? Why don’t you be meek? When two people oppose each other, hey, how about you not pick sides and shame the other person? Why don’t you be a peacemaker? If someone even comes to slap you, why don’t you turn your cheek?” I mean, these are hard sayings. Like, I look at that and I’m like, “I ain’t letting no one slap one cheek or the other.” But we have to allow the Gospel of Jesus and his teachings to interrupt our lives. And if we’re not even willing to allow our lives to be interrupted by Jesus, I’m not sure we fully understand the depth of what he’s done on our behalf. You see, friends, I don’t think, it’s not wrong for us to accumulate things. It’s not wrong for us to have successful businesses. None of that stuff is wrong. But do it in a way that brings glory, honor and praise to his name, not glory, honor and praise to yourself. That’s the ways of the Kingdom of God and this is what Paul is saying, that if the truth of the Gospel doesn’t impact our relationship, our finances, our time, our priorities, our politics, have we truly understand the depth of what Christ has called us to live? That he calls us to live as citizens of heaven, not citizens of a country. That are our allegiance is to Jesus first and foremost, as we participate and live in this world. Our value comes from another place as we appreciate the places that we live and who we are here. And then he finishes up in verse 21. Talks about Jesus Christ, ”Who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly body so they will be like his glorious body.”
He’s speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, that when Jesus went to the cross, he took our sins on our behalf on that cross so that we could stand holy before God. And he went into that grave. When he was in that grave, on that third day with all the angels, we’re waiting to see what would happen. He took off his grave clothes. He folded up his grave clothes, he put them on the bed. The stone was rolled away and he walked out defeating death once and for all. You know, when I fold my napkin at dinner, when I need to step away from the table, it’s making a statement saying, “Hey, I’m gonna be back.” So when Jesus folded his grave clothes, set them on the bed, walked out of that grave. He said, “Hey, I’m leaving, but I’m going to be back because death is gonna come knocking on the door of my people, but I’m gonna defeat death once and for all so my people can stand before the holiness of God in relationship with him for all of eternity. This is the Jesus that we serve. Paul is telling us to live our lives in a way knowing we have already attained all of these things. We don’t need to earn it. It’s been given to us by the precious blood of Jesus. There were some lawyers of the Pharisees that came to try to trick Jesus. And they came to him and they said, “Hey, should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” You see, they had been thinking about this for a while because they knew they had to trap Jesus because they were, all these people were starting to follow Jesus in the ways of the Kingdom that was contrary to the ways that the religious people wanted them to live. And Jesus looked at them knowing exactly what was in their heart that they were trying to trick him Jesus says, “Why don’t you take out a coin?” So they take out a little denarii and they take out a coin. And he says, “I want you to look at that coin. Whose picture is inscribed on that?” And they look at it and they say, “It’s Caesar’s. Caesar’s picture. Caesar is what’s inscribed on that coin.” Jesus goes, “Well, fine. Go ahead and give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. If his inscription is on it, give that to him.” But you know whose inscription is on you? You’ve been created in the image of God, that the mark of the Holy Spirit is on you. And if the mark of the Holy spirit is on you, if his inscription is written on our hearts, then we give to God what belongs to God. See, this is what Paul is talking about. That it’s time for some of us to think about not just emulating people who talk like Christians, but actually start looking at what does it mean to walk as followers of Jesus that takes the words of Jesus seriously and doesn’t allow culture to dictate how we’re gonna act. I’d even say not even allow Christian culture to dictate how we’re gonna act. But the words of the Holy Spirit that speak to us, that whisper through us throughout our days that would define us.
Friends, let’s pray. Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the reality that our citizenship is found in you, not in things of this world. So Lord, we sit here humbled in thought, trying to reconcile what does it mean for us to live in this world but not be of the world, to appreciate the place, this great country that we live in, but yet recognize that our allegiance is to you in all matters. And so Father, in this tension that we sit and we just pray, Lord, that you would lead us and guide us. Thank you for your blood, Jesus, that you have cleansed us, that we can stand before a Holy God in your name. So Lord, we come to you and we thank you for these basics of thought and these basics of faith that we come to. And Lord, we wanna give you our worship in how we live our lives, not just how we talked about it. So Father, bring us back to the purity of faith, of what it means for us to follow after you and not make it about things that really are not that important in the grand scheme of eternity. And we will give you all glory, honor and praise in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Are you willing to pursue peace? When we are conflicted, whether with a person or situation, we have to pray for it; when you prayerfully give thanks for what you feel conflict about you’ll find peace comes from focusing less on criticism and more on giving credit to God, who gives us peace.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us this morning. We are rounding third base and heading for home in our Boundless Series. Last couple of months, we have worked our way through the Book of Philippians, and we’ve been on the search for the secret to living bigger than our circumstances, or as Paul says, and he wrote the Book of Philippians, “The secret to being content in any and every situation.”
Today, we’re going to deal with one of the biggest contentment killers out there, which is conflict. And maybe you immediately go, “Yes, yes. That’s obvious,” but maybe not, so let me prove the point. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re gonna do a little mental exercise.
It’s actually really important that you don’t write this stuff down. Just do it here, because if you write it down, people around you are going to see it. And some of the people around you are going to be able to hear what you’re talking about, and that’s going to create conflict, which is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do today.
So just in your head, here’s what we’re gonna do, I’m gonna name a group that you probably belong to, and I’m gonna ask you two questions about that group. First group is going to be your family. So think about your family, however you define your family. And here’s the two questions.
First question is this, I want you to rate the amount of contentment that you feel in your family. You see why we don’t want to write this down. It could cause so many problems. So 0 to 10, 0, like, no contentment at all, 10 is constant contentment, okay, your family, rate your contentment. Now, I want you to rate the conflict, the amount of conflict in your family, 0, perfect peace, 10 constant conflict. Okay, got your two numbers.
All right, let’s set that aside. Now, let’s talk about maybe a group of friends that you belong to. So with that group of friends think, okay, 0 to 10, how much contentment, now, 0 to 10 how much conflict. Now, let’s talk about maybe your work or where you go to school. How much contentment? How much conflict? Here is what I’m going to predict is probably true for most of us that the numbers do this, that when one number goes up the other number typical goes down.
In other words, if the amount of contentment that you feel in an area of life is pretty high, chances are the amount of conflict you think is happening there is actually pretty low. On the other hand, if your conflict number is high, your contentment number is actually probably pretty low, because there’s this kind of inverse-reverse relationship between the amount of conflict that we experience and the amount of contentment that we feel. All right. Do we all see that?
Contentment is killed by conflict. Conflict is a huge contentment killer. It’s also a mission killer. Conflict kills mission, because it’s very difficult for a group to accomplish the purpose that the group exists to accomplish when we’re in conflict with each other, right. To do our thing, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder and move forward together on mission, but when we’re focused each other, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing wrong with me. What’s wrong with you?” Right? We’re, like, leaning in towards each other in that conflict. We’re not leaning in towards our mission. And so, unfortunately, conflict is a huge mission killer.
It’s not that conflict itself is the problem. The problem is that unresolved conflict ultimately leads to division, and division is what takes us off mission. This is what Jesus himself said about division. He said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” And same way if a house…if a household of a family is divided against itself, it cannot stand. And if a household or a kingdom can’t stand, then of course, it can’t accomplish its purpose.
Now, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The bad news is that conflict is inevitable. I mean, the only way to avoid conflict is just to be one of you, and honestly, even sometimes then. That’s a whole different message. We’ll deal with that on another day, okay. But as soon as you add another person into the mix, there’s gonna be some conflict. It’s inevitable. Conflict is inevitable. Every couple has conflict. Every family has conflict. Every church has conflict. Every company has conflict. Every neighborhood has conflict. Every country has conflict. Conflict is inevitable.
Now, the good news is that conflict doesn’t have to lead to division. It doesn’t have to lead to that group going off mission if it’s handled in a healthy way. So here’s the thing, conflict is inevitable but division is optional. You hear me, Church? Conflict is inevitable, division is optional. And we get to make the decision whether or not the conflict that we experience will lead to division and lead us going off mission. How do we do that?
I want you to go and grab your Bible, start making your way to the Book of Philippians 4. We’re going to take a look at a passage today that’s going to give us some of God’s insight into how to handle conflict so that it doesn’t lead to division, so that it doesn’t take us off mission with him. Now, while you’re making your way to Philippians 4, let me just say something.
As I was studying for this message, I realized something about the passage we’re going to look at today. I realized two things, actually. The first thing I realized was that a lot of the content in this passage is very familiar. There’s a good chance that you’re going to recognize some of these verses. And that’s going to be true, even if church is not a regular part of your life. Even if you’re kind of new to church, chances are you’re going to recognize a couple of these verses.
They’re kind of like Christian catchphrases almost. In fact, I promise you this, if you want to take me up on it, sometime this week go to Hobby Lobby. Walk around Hobby Lobby, and I guarantee you’re going to see at least five items with one of these verses printed on that item. Okay. These are kind of like standalone Christian catchphrases, okay, very familiar phrases.
So the first thing I realized is a lot of this content is familiar. The second thing I realized, though, is that the context, the setting for these verses is unfamiliar. It’s probably gonna be true for many of you. It was definitely true for me. I never realized the setting in which these particular verses occur. And when I did begin to understand the setting, it actually changed a little bit about the way that I understood these verses in a way that opened them up in terms of my understanding, but also my ability to apply them.
And hopefully, you’ll have the same experience today, because the reality is that all these familiar phrases are related to conflict management. Let me show you what I mean. Philippians 4:1 says this, “And therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and I long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord.” In this way, dear friends, he’s saying to the Church of Philippi that he loves so much, he says, “I want you to stand firm with the Lord. I want you to be on mission with him, advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence to the world. I want you to stand firm in the Lord in this way.”
In what way? And he goes on to explain what way he means. He says this, verse two, “I plead with Euodia, and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord,” and all God’s people went, “What? You just said you want us to stand firm in the Lord in this way, and then you brought up these two people. Who are these two people? Who are these two women?” They’re two women he mentions by name here, which is kind of an unusual thing for him to do. And he pleads with them, which is a very strong emotional word. It expresses his deep longing for them to be of the same mind.
Here’s what we know, we know first off that they weren’t of the same mind. In other words, that they were in what? They were in conflict with each other. We also know that these are women of considerable influence in the Church at Philippi. We don’t know exactly what their positions…or if they had official positions, but we know that they had considerable influence. And so what Paul is concerned about is that their disagreement with each other is going to lead to division in the Church. And so he’s going after it, saying, “You got to deal with this thing.” And so he pleads with them to be of the same mind.
Now, what’s interesting is that we do not know what the source of their conflict was. We don’t know what their disagreement was. I would venture to say that it probably was not theological. It probably wasn’t an issue about who God is, because Paul usually goes after that stuff really kind of, sort of, going for the throat. He didn’t pull any punches when it comes to theology. And he doesn’t do that here.
I also would say it’s probably not a moral issue about right living, right behaving, because, again, Paul goes right at that stuff. He doesn’t pull any punches, and he doesn’t do that here. In fact, he leaves it kind of unknown, which is interesting because what it suggests is that Paul didn’t think that the source of their conflict was nearly as important as them solving it. You hear me? He’s much more interested in the solution than he is the source of it. And I think that’s an important principle.
If we’re going to deal with conflict effectively, one of the things we have to come to understand is the source of our conflict is not as important as the solution to it. And as long as we’re fixated on the source of our conflict, we’re not going to put in the effort necessary to end up solving it. And there’s a humility issue that’s required to be able to let go of some of the source of the conflict so that we can focus on the solution, too. But the source of our conflict isn’t as important as the solution to it. And so Paul pleads with them to be of the same mind.
Now, when he says be of the same mind, understand he’s not saying to think identically about every single issue. That’s not the issue at all. It’s not what he’s saying. What he’s saying is you need to have the humility that will allow you to move forward on mission together. That’s what he means by same mind, with the humility that will allow you to move forward on mission together.
It’s interesting when he says, “Be of the same mind.” It’s the same phrase that he uses in chapter two in Philippians to talk about how important is that we have the same mind as Jesus, who had the humility to let go of all of his honor and glory so that he could advance in his mission to save us on the cross, to be obedient to the Father’s plan.
And so now he says, “Have the same humility that will allow you to move forward on mission together.” Then he says, this, verse three, it’s interesting, he says, “Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the book of life.”
What Paul does here is he invites three other people to get involved in finding the solution to this conflict, to keep the conflict from becoming a division, which takes the Church off mission. He invites three different people to get involved in this. He invites somebody that he calls his true companion, and we don’t know exactly who that was. Educated guess would be Luke. Luke was the guy who wrote the Gospel of Luke, wrote the Book of Acts. We know that he was involved in the City of Philippi about the same time that Paul was writing this letter. So that’s a pretty good guess. But we don’t really know who he was.
The important thing is that whoever this true companion is, Paul says, “I want you to use the influence you have to help these women solve this conflict before it becomes a division that takes the Church off mission.” He also invites somebody named Clement. We don’t know who Clement is. Because he’s mentioned by name, chances are he’s somebody of considerable influence in the Church in Philippi, maybe an elder, or maybe a pastor. It doesn’t matter, again, who he is. The point is, Paul saying, “Hey, use your influence to help these women solve this conflict, resolve this conflict before it becomes a division.”
And then he invites “all of my fellow co-workers,” which I think probably means all of the people in the Church of Philippi. He basically involves everybody in bringing a solution to this conflict. Why? Why is he so concerned about it? Because he understands that a church in conflict is a church off mission, that when a church is in conflict with each other, they cannot be a mission. The Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission that we choose to be part of. And when we’re in conflict with each other, we’re not standing side by side living out the mission that the Church exists to be about.
So Paul says that you guys got to get involved in this. It’s all about mission. Part of the reason I say that, if we could actually pop up verse three again, he says this, he says, “Look, I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side. They have fought at my side. They’ve worked in the cause of the Gospel.” That’s mission, right?
Because these women were on mission, but now I’m concerned that they’re not living on mission anymore because they’re so focused on this conflict with each other that the mission has fallen by the wayside. And he says, “I’m also inviting not only my true companion, not only Clement, but all of my fellow co-workers.” Why co-workers? Because they’ve been working alongside Paul in advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence in the world. That’s mission. It’s all about mission.
And here’s where it gets interesting. What he’s about to say is all those familiar phrases that so many of us have heard before, that we treat like standalones, but what we need to understand is that none of them are standalone. They’re all actually part of this instruction to help these women deal with this conflict. These are all principles of conflict management.
Here’s part of where I know that if you actually want to drop down all the way to verse nine, which concludes this passage, check out what he says at the end of the passage. He says, “Whatever you have learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you.”
You see how he bookends the section. He starts off with “people in conflict,” he ends with “the God of peace,” and everything in between those bookends is intended to help us become people of peace. And so he gives four principles for conflict management. The first one is this, he says, verse four, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice.” How many of you have heard that before?
Yeah, go on Pinterest, guarantee you’re gonna find a plaque, or a plate, or something. It’s a very familiar verse. Actually, you might recognize it, even if you were just here a couple weeks ago, at the beginning of chapter three. He said almost the same thing. He said, “Rejoice in the Lord.” And now he adds the word always. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” When? Always.
“Well, wait a minute, Paul. What about in this…” “Yes.” “Well, okay, Paul, in this particular situation…” “Yes, always, rejoice in the Lord always.” And I’m not sure that you really heard me. So let me say it again. Rejoice. Why? Why is this so important? Well, we saw it a couple of weeks ago because we understand that we gravitate towards what we celebrate. Remember that? We gravitate towards what we celebrate.
What we celebrate, we find ourselves gravitating towards. And so it’s the way that God’s built us. Whatever we celebrate, we find ourselves in orbit around. Now, here’s what happens. If I’m celebrating something over here, then I gravitate towards that thing. And if you’re celebrating something over here, then you’re gravitating towards that thing, and we’re gravitating away from each other.
But if we’re celebrating the same thing, if we’re celebrating the Lord God and our relationship with him, I’m gravitating towards him. You’re celebrating him, you’re gravitating towards him, and guess what, we’re also gravitating towards each other. We’re drawing closer together.
So Paul says, “One of the most important principles for conflict resolution is you have to have the same source of celebration.” He says, “Peace comes from a common commitment to celebrate the Lord.” Peace comes from a common commitment to celebrate the Lord, because when we’re celebrating the same thing, we’re moving towards each other.
What he says is basically, hey, it’s really hard to live in conflict with other people that you were worshiping alongside, that when you and I are truly worshiping God, together, we’re drawing not only closer to him but towards each other. It’s hard to be in conflict that leads to division in those moments.
Now, that assumes that we’re truly worshiping. I mean, let’s just be really clear here. It’s entirely possible to stand next to somebody in a worship service, and watch them sing and think to yourself, “What a hypocrite. I can’t believe she’s…she didn’t mean those words.” Yeah, you can say a comment like that but you’re not worshiping, right.
But when you’re truly setting that aside and worshiping the Lord and moving towards him in worship and they’re doing the same thing, you’re also moving towards each other. He says peace comes from a common commitment to worship the Lord. And then he says this, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” How many of you heard that one? A pretty common one. Sometimes we leave off the second part, which I think is really important. He says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near,” which sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it? And it’s supposed to. He’s, like, “God is watching.”
And apparently this gentleness business matters a lot to him. That we’re gentle, by the way, can also be translated as…it can be translated as yielding. He says, “Let your yieldingness…” and yielding basically means willingness to give up ground on non-essential issues.
In other words, it’s an unwillingness to insist on being right about every little piece of it, because that leads to more and more conflict. It’s hard to get a resolution when you’re not willing to yield a little bit. So he said, “Let your yieldingness be evident to all.” It can also be translated as courteous. Let your courteousness be evident to all, or let your kindness be evident to all is another common translation.
What he basically says is this, he says, “Peace comes from being committed to kindness.” It has to do with the way that we treat each other, especially when we’re in conflict with each other, which is when it gets hard, right? He says, “Let your kindness be evident to all.” I don’t like that all business. I’d rather he had said, “Let your kindness be evident to some.”
Because honestly, here’s the truth, like, when I’m in conflict with somebody, I can be kind to that person, but I’m usually going to tell somebody else about it. I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m not great at this one. I’m ashamed to say it but the truth is, this is not a principle that I have mastered in my life. It’s just not. If you talk to my wife, if you talk to my kids, and if you talk to some of my staff, they’re going to be able to tell you stories, if they’re honest, of times that I was not as kind in the midst of conflict as I should have been.
Just from this past week, people could tell you stories of ways that I was not kind as I should have been. I was not exhibiting a kindness that was evident to all. Now, I’m getting better at it. I think if you went back a year, you’d have a lot more stories. I’m getting better. I’m working… Let me tell you something that’s helped me, and maybe this will be helpful to you, one of the things that I do now, it’s a regular practice, every morning after my prayer time, I actually have a little book, and I write down some principles that I want to pay attention to that day.
I want to live according to these principles. And what I do is I write down, I say, “I will be kind, period. Therefore, comma, when I’m irritated, I will be slow to speak.” I write that every morning, and it’s making a difference. God is using that to help me in life, but I’m not perfect.
I’m actually getting better and better at the part, like, when I’m irritated with somebody, I can be kind to them. It’s that other people that I struggle with. Here’s the two big tests of my spirituality. One of them you’ve heard about it, you probably experienced it, it’s traffic, okay, massive… The other one is really close second, and that is going through airport security. I hate airport security, and partly it’s because I’m a rule follower, and I really like to do everything right. It’s like I can never do it right because they keep changing the rules. But I work really hard.
And I desperately want…like, there’s a part of me that feels, like, if I do it right, I’m going to end up going through there and the security people are gonna be, like, “Good job. Man, you nailed that.” I’m, like, “Did I get an A+? Did I just get… That would be awesome.” That’s part of how I’m wired, right.
And so I’m really careful. We were going through security a couple weeks ago, and, you know, I got up there, and I took every item out that was larger than my cell phone, that was electronic, and I put them in the bin. I made sure that they didn’t touch each other and overlap. I made sure there was exactly an inch between all of them. I carefully measured that out.
That went through, and I got my backpack going through. I got my shoes off, put my belt off, put my shoes in one side of the bin, and put my belt on the other side of the bin. I made sure they weren’t touching. And I was, like, “I’m feeling pretty good about this. I’m going to get an A+ for sure.” And I was about to go in, and the security guard goes, “Hey, you can’t do that.” “What can I not do?” “You can’t put your belt in the same bin with your shoes.”
Now, there was a lot of things that occurred to my head, but none of them came out of my mouth. I felt really good about that, so good. My kindness was evident to her. But then I got through security, and I rejoined my family, and my kindness was not evident to them. I kind of laid into the security guard. Actually, I’m ashamed to say, but actually I used the words, “I think it’s just a power thing. I think it’s a power trip. She’s on a power trip.”
And then I heard the worst thing from behind me. I heard, “Hey, Pastor Craig.” “Oh, no, no.” And it’s Charlie from our Littleton Campus. And I don’t think he heard my rant about the security guard. And we had a conversation. He laughed, and my family looked at me, like, “Ah.” Yeah, my kindness was not evident to all. Maybe you have a similar struggle.
But he says, “Peace comes from a commitment to kindness,” not just in the moment with the person we’re in conflict with, but also in the ways that we talk about that person to others. So that brings peace. He says, “Do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Many of you heard that one. Again, common standalone. And we often use it as a way of teaching that one of the biggest antidotes to anxiety is prayer. And that’s true. I don’t want to undermine that.
But in this context, he has something very specific in mind when he talks about in every situation, and specifically what it means is in every situation where you’re having conflict with somebody, what should you do? He says, “You should pray.” And if that’s where he stopped, it wouldn’t be all that hard, right? God’s the God of peace.
And so if I’m in conflict, and I want peace in that relationship, I should pray to the God of peace to bring peace. That’s not so bad. But he adds on that other really frustrating word. He says, “With thanksgiving.” And we try to wiggle out from under the real implication of that. We try to wiggle out, and we go, “Well, yeah, that’s just good practical wisdom, right? I mean, you should always pray with thanksgiving, because honestly, if you haven’t been grateful for the ways that God has answered your past prayers, why would you expect him to answer your present ones?”
I mean, as parents, if our kids aren’t grateful for the things we’ve done for them or given to them, we’re less likely to want to do more things for them and give them more things. And so gratitude is just a basic principle for effective prayer. That’s true. But in this context, I’m fairly confident what he means is when you have conflict with someone, pray for peace with thanksgiving for the person you’re in conflict with. Ask for God to bring peace in that relationship, and do it by giving thanks to God for that person.
“Oh, are you sure about that?” Because that feels like a little bit of a stretch, right? Except that, look at what he says the result of that will be, verse seven, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The result of this prayer is peace, which means it was a prayer for peace.
And he says it doesn’t make sense on a human level, because you’re still in conflict with that person, but the moment that you begin to pray for peace, and you begin to give thanks for that person, genuine, heartfelt thanks for that person, the conflict begins to evaporate. And he says, “And the peace of God comes,” and he says it will do what? “It will guard your hearts.” That’s an interesting thing to say.
Why guard? Guard from what? What’s the big picture thing that he’s concerned about avoiding? What’s he looking to help guard the Church against? Division. Division. He says, “Peace comes from praying for it with thanksgiving for those we’re in conflict with.” There’s your principle, which is so natural to do, right?
Praying for judgment, that’s pretty natural. Your Old Testament, even praying for God to smite them, right? Like, that’s natural when you’re in conflict with somebody, but to pray for peace with thanksgiving for them, that is unnatural, but it generates unnatural results. It generates peace. Peace comes from praying for it to the God of peace, with thanksgiving, for the person you’re in conflict with.
Think about somebody you’re in conflict with right now. Don’t look around, just right here. Ask yourself a couple of hard questions. Number one, am I praying for peace in that conflict? Are you praying for peace in that conflict? Question number two, even harder, am I praying about that conflict with thanksgiving for that person?
Maybe if you haven’t experienced the peace, maybe it’s because you haven’t given the thanksgiving. This is verse eight, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” How many of you heard that before?
Again, we treat it like a standalone verse. This is the verse when I was growing up that everybody used, especially my Sunday school teachers used to say, “Don’t fill your mind with garbage. Don’t watch bad movies. Don’t listen to music that glorifies sex or violence. Don’t read bad books. Don’t put bad stuff…think about noble things. Think about good things.”
And that’s true. But in this context, he means something very, very specific. And the keyword probably to understand it is that word admirable. That word admirable literally means worth admiring. And in the Greek, it’s only ever used to talk about other human beings. This word admirable is never used to talk about ideas, or concepts, or books. It’s always used to talk about other people. He says, “Whatever is worth admiring,” admiring in who? In the person you’re in conflict with.
So when you’re in conflict with somebody, the natural tendency is to think about all their character defects, to magnify those until we villainize the person, and that’s why we can justify praying for God to smite them, right? “Look how awful they are.” Paul says, “You gotta flip that around.”
No, no, no, when you are in conflict with a person, you need to think about, or, literally, it’s dwell upon, it’s focus on, he says, “Focus on whatever is true, whatever matches up with God in that person, whatever is noble in that person, whatever was right or righteous in that person, whatever is pure in that person, whatever is lovely in that person, whatever is admirable in that person. In that person, do you see things that you honestly wish were more true of you than they are now, worth admiring?”
If you see anything that is excellent or praiseworthy, worthy of praising in that person, dwell upon such things. That’s tough, right? And so you gotta flip it around. When you’re in conflict with the person, what you need to do is you need to focus on those things that even though you’re not inclined to do it, if you’re really honest, you got to give them credit for, right?
“Well, I’m really upset about this and this, but I gotta give her credit, boy, she’s a great mom. I gotta give him credit, he is a really hard worker. I gotta give them credit, they’re really generous. I gotta give her credit, she really knows the Bible. I gotta give her credit.” I see a lot of this or that. And what Paul’s basically saying is we have to dwell on those things. He says, “Peace comes from focusing on credit more than criticism.” We focus on the things we got to give them credit for more than on the things that we’re critical about. He says, “The result of that is peace.”
This is verse nine, “Whatever you’ve learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice.” These aren’t theoretical principles. These are very practical principles, “Put them into practice,” and here’s the result, “And the God of peace will be with you.” Interesting passage. It begins with people in conflict. It moves to the God of peace, and everything in between is to help us become people of peace with the result, he says, that if you pursue peace in this way, the God of peace will be with you.
That’s great news. It’s great news if we are willing to do what Paul talks about here. It is bad news if we’re not, because the implication would be that if we’re not willing to pursue peace in this way, then we will lose something of the presence of God, right? If we pursue peace, the God of peace will be with us. If we don’t pursue peace, maybe not so much.
And so what we have to decide is, am I so interested in holding on to the source of my conflict that I’m willing to lose something of the presence of God in my life, in my family, in my church, in my Life Group, whatever it is? Paul says, “The presence of God depends on our willingness to pursue peace.” The presence of God depends on our willingness to pursue peace. So, are we willing? Are you willing?
Now, obviously, the principles that he gives us here are first and foremost, they’re intended for conflict management within the Church. But the principles apply in every other relationship. They apply in our marriages, in our Life Groups. They apply in our neighborhoods. They apply at work, in our group of friends. The principles themselves—let’s review them real quick:
Number one, peace comes from a common commitment to celebrate the Lord, to celebrate the same thing and so move together. Peace comes from being committed to kindness. Kindness is evident to all, not just to the person we’re in conflict with, but even to the way we talk about that person to others. Peace comes from praying for it to the God of peace with thanksgiving for those that we’re in conflict with. And then finally, peace comes from focusing on credit more than criticism, and the things we have to give him credit for more than the things that we’re critical of.
The presence of God depends on our willingness to pursue peace in this way, in these ways. So three quick questions for you. Number one, what disagreements have you allowed to become divisions? Conflict is inevitable, division is optional. And often, the division that we have experienced is because we have not been people of peace. We haven’t pursued these principles.
So what disagreements have you allowed to become divisions. Or maybe you’re not there, but maybe you are in a conflict that’s kind of moving in that direction, so you would ask what disagreements are in danger of becoming divisions? And then question number two, which of these peace principles needs the most work in my life? I think for most of us, at least one of those four, we go, “That’s not evident in my life. That’s not natural for me. That’s something I really struggle with,” and maybe that’s the one we most need to begin working on, taking steps forward and pursuing peace in that way that Paul gives us.
And then question number three, whose forgiveness do you need to seek? Because many of us are here today, and the very conversation about divisions is uncomfortable because we immediately know of relationships that had conflict that we allowed to become divisions, and we’re living in that now. And the reality is, when you look back, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we have to recognize that some of the fault lays at our feet. Maybe the whole conflict was your fault, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you weren’t wrong, but maybe you didn’t pursue peace in the way that God’s called you to, and that division is the result.
The first step is asking for forgiveness. So whose forgiveness do you maybe need to seek about a conflict that you allowed to become a division? Some of you, honestly, you’re probably here because of conflicts that you allowed to become divisions in other churches. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness from somebody. Maybe it’s an issue in your family or a group of friends. Maybe it’s an issue at work or in your neighborhood. Are you willing to take that step to be a person of peace? The presence of God, the very presence of God depends on our willingness to pursue peace.
Would you pray with me? God, as followers of Jesus, and on behalf of my brothers and sisters, I stand here to confess to you that we have not been the people of peace that you’ve called us to be. Even now, as your Holy Spirit moves in this, we recognize relationships where there’s been conflict that we have allowed to become division, or at least it’s in danger of it right now, and it has to do with our lack of humility, and our unwillingness to pursue peace in the way that you call us to.
And so, Lord, we confess that to you. As the Holy Spirit enables, we lay the specifics of these things before your feet and we say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive us.” And we also give thanks, knowing that no matter how badly we might have messed the pursuit of peace up, that there is forgiveness and there is new hope in all these relationships because you are a God of peace. Teach us to pursue peace and so to invite your presence.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor right now? Would you just begin praying right now for the people around you and people watching online all over the world? Because I want to speak to those of you who don’t know this God of peace. You don’t have a relationship with the God of peace.
In fact, honestly, maybe for you, the idea that God is a God of peace is a hard concept. Maybe you’ve never even heard that. Maybe you’ve heard that God is a God of wrath and anger, and all you’ve ever heard about is how much he hates your sin. And let me be clear, he does hate sin, because he loves you. He hates sin so much because it separates you from him, and he hates being separated from you.
But understand, he is a God of peace. He loves you so much. He’s so committed to peace with you. He sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, who came, and he lived a perfect life with no sin of his own to pay for. And then he on his own decision, by his own choice, he went to the cross. He died there and, in his blood, he paid for every sin you’ve ever committed, for every wrong you’ve ever done. That was the plan, because God wants peace with you.
Jesus died to forgive your sin. Three days later, God raised him from the dead to prove that he had defeated sin and death. That’s a fact of history. And now, Jesus is offering you peace with God, a relationship with God that begins now and goes forever, if only you will receive it. That’s the only thing standing between you. And if you’re ready to put your faith in what Jesus did to have your sin paid for, to have peace with God, wherever you are, you can have that right here right now.
This is all you have to do. In your heart, you just have this conversation with God. Say this to him, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I created the conflict between us with my sin. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead, and I believe you’re offering me forgiveness, adoption into the family of God, in peace with my God, my Creator. I’m ready to receive that. I’m ready to be at peace with God. So, Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you. I’m putting my faith in you. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
We’ve had number of people make that decision already this weekend. Can we just welcome them into this family of God at peace with their Father? That’s so awesome.
The secret to contentment can be found in being able to see and use every situation to live on mission with Jesus; this requires a relationship with Him. When we experience circumstances with Jesus as part of our life, it changes how we see what’s going on and every unique opportunity to further the Gospel.
Craig: Welcome to Mission Hills, so glad to have you with us this weekend. Who’s ready to hear some powerful life-changing truth from God’s Word? Well, I really believe God has something powerful in store for us today. For the last few weeks, we had been walking through the Book of Philippians, uncovering all the pieces to this thing that Paul calls the secret to being content in any and every situation. And today we’re gonna wrap it up by finding that one last piece of the puzzle. One of the things we’ve seen over the last several weeks is that we can’t look to our circumstances for contentment because, unfortunately, even if our circumstances are good, they’re also going to change. And so, if we look to circumstances for our contentment, as soon as our circumstances change, our contentment goes away. So, we can’t look to our circumstances for contentment. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible not to look at our circumstances, right?
I mean, they’re right in front of us, they surround us. So, how do we stop looking at our circumstance? And the answer is we don’t. What we’re gonna uncover today is this truth that the key isn’t to stop looking at our circumstances entirely, the key is to start looking at our circumstances through a particular perspective, through a particular lens, which is gonna allow us to see some things which lead to contentment regardless of the circumstances. And so, here’s just kind of the question that we need to ask ourselves today, “What perspective can I take? What perspective can I take on every situation that will allow me to be content in any situation?” That’s the big question we’re gonna ask and answer today.
Why don’t you go out and grab a Bible, so and making a way to the Book of Philippians, we’re gonna be picking up in chapter 4 starting in verse 10.
Now, while you’re making your way there, let me set the stage one last time. So, Paul is writing this from prison in Rome. And there’s an irony to that because Paul wanted to go to Rome, he had a dream to go to Rome. He had been praying to get to Rome and his dream was that he would preach the Gospel in Rome, that the Gospel would invade the capital of the Roman Empire. And as the Church was strengthened, as the Church grew, it will become kind of a launching pad for taking the Gospel out into the rest of the world. So that’s what Paul wanted, but that’s not what he got. Paul is writing this from Rome, but he’s writing this from prison in Rome. He’s not there as a preacher, he’s there as a prisoner, which really felt like, I’m sure, that it kind of was derailing his dream. It felt like an obstacle to what he was hoping he would see God do there in Rome.
Now, while he was in prison in Rome, some of his friends in the City of Philippi heard about it and they very graciously sent a gift with a man named Epaphroditus, who brought this financial gift to help support Paul in his imprisonment and maybe even to continue his ministry, assuming that everything kind of played out okay with his trial that he was waiting for. And it’s here, as he wraps up the letter, that he kind of really focuses in on this gift that they had sent and he wants to say thank you. But in the process of saying thank you, Paul actually gives us the punchline to the entire Book of Philippians. Why don’t you go ahead and look with me chapter 4 verse 10 he says this, he says, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, you’ve always been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.”
So, he’s not saying that they had made any kind of mistake here when he says they renewed their concern, he’s saying, “For a long time there was no tangible way for you to express your concern for me, but as soon as you heard that I had a tangible need, you immediately jumped in and you supplied that need. So, I’m just really grateful for you,” he says. Now, in verse 11 he says, “I’m not saying this because I’m in need.” In other words, “I’m not telling you thank you for the gift you’ve given because I need something more, right?” He’s saying, “No, I’m grateful but I’m not saying it’s because I’m in need for I have learned,” he says “the secret, I’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty, and I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all of this through him who gives me strength.”
That’s another one of those Christian catchphrases. We print it on things, Hobby Lobby is filled with items that have that verse on it, right? And maybe you’ve seen a different translation. Maybe you’ve seen a translation says, “I can do all things through him or through Christ who gives me strength.” And the only problem with saying, “I can do all things,” as opposed to what the NIV says here, “I can do all these things,” is if we see it as, “I can do anything,” we won’t have a problem because Paul’s not saying, “I can do anything imaginable.” He’s not saying, “If you can think it up, I can do it through Christ.” I mean, he’s not saying, for instance, you know, “I can walk through walls through the power of Jesus.” Because if that’s what he meant, he wouldn’t still be in jail, right?
He doesn’t mean, “I can do anything no matter,” what he means is, “I can do all the things that I’m telling you about here. I can do these things, even these things that seem impossible to you, because they’re so outside of your experience.” So contrary to our common sense, even what he’s saying is, “Hey, when I have plenty, I can be content.” You go, “Well, that’s not hard.” He says, “Yeah, but I also can be content when I’m in want.” Well, that’s a little trickier, right? He says, “I can be content when I’m well-fed, but I also can be content when I’m hungry.” He says, “I can do all of this through Christ who gives me strength.” That’s the him that he’s talking about.
And what Paul is saying here, this is so important, Church, what he’s saying is this, he’s saying that being content depends on our relationship with Jesus. You hear me? Being content in the way that Paul’s talking about depends on a relationship with Jesus. Apart from a relationship with Jesus, you cannot have the contentment that Paul’s talking about. You can have a circumstantial contentment. Apart from a relationship with Jesus, you can be content in this moment or that moment, but you cannot be content in every moment. You’ll be content when the circumstances are going your way, but as soon as those circumstances change, this content will go away with them. He says, “You can only be content in any and every situation because of a relationship with Jesus.”
Now, there’s three kinds of people that are hearing this message. Some of us have that relationship with Jesus. We don’t have a religion, we have a relationship with Jesus and we have learned to turn that relationship with Jesus into a lens or a perspective that allows us to see our situations differently and allows us to be contented in any and every situation. So, some of you have a relationship with Jesus and you’re looking at every situation through that relationship and, therefore, you’re content. How many would say that that’s you? Not a whole lot of hands, but some of you, that’s great. It’s possible to learn. And so, there’s no reason anybody should be hesitant to say, “Yeah, that relationship with Jesus is changing the way I think about my circumstance. That’s fantastic.”
Some people are in the category where have a relationship with Jesus. Again, it’s not a religion, it’s a real relationship, but you haven’t learned how to regularly turn that relationship into a perspective that changes the way you see your circumstances. And so, if you’re in that category, you have a relation with Jesus but your contentment is kind of up and down depending on the circumstances. How many of you would say that that’s you? Yeah, probably a few more hands there. I think I probably most often fit into that category.
There’s a third category of people listening right now and that’s people who would have to be honest and say, “I don’t have that relationship.” I mean, some of you, that’s an easy thing to say, you’ve never had the relationship, you’ve never even really understood what that was about and you’re not even entirely sure why you’re listening to this, maybe somebody dragged you or said, “You should listen to this,” and you’re like, “Yeah, it’s me, I don’t have a relationship.” And that’s fine, but you need to understand two things. Number one, you need to understand that apart from that relationship, you can never have true contentment. You’re always gonna be dependent on your circumstances for contentment.
The other thing you need to understand though is that you can have the relationship. God loves you so much, He sent his own Son to die for you. He raised him from the dead to prove that he had accomplished what he set out to do on the cross. And because of what Jesus did, you can have this relationship which can, in fact, transform the way you think about your circumstances.
Some of you also fit into that third category that you don’t have the relationship, but it’s not as obvious to you. And you may even think that you have the relationship, but it’s really, it’s rooted in your religion, it’s rooted in all the things you’re trying to do. You’re going to church regularly and you’re doing the good things, you’re trying to avoid doing the bad things. And, you know, where you do some of the bad things you try to make up for maybe with some extra generosity or something like that. And the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way. And that may be you, you know that’s you if actually…if when I said, “Do you have a relationship?” You find yourself going, “I hope I do.”
You don’t have to hope, it’s not the way it works, because you don’t have to earn a relationship by getting over a finish line of enough goodness. That’s not the way it works, none of us are good enough. But God loves you, he sent his Son to die for you. He raised him from the dead. And if we receive Christ by faith, we enter into that relationship and that relationship is what changes the way we live.
Some people go at it backwards, they’re like, “Well, if you have a relationship, it looks like you do these things. And so, maybe if I do these things then I’ll have a relationship.” And it’s not the way it works. And some of you find yourself in that category. But whether you’re in the first, or the second, or the third category, what we all need to recognize is that being content depends ultimately, it’s rooted in our relationship with Jesus. That’s a non-negotiable. It’s the foundation which everything else that Paul says here is based.
And what Paul is telling them is, “Hey, because I have Jesus, I am content. No, my circumstances aren’t great, but my contentment doesn’t depend on my circumstances. And so, I appreciate the gift you sent,” he’s basically saying, “I’m really grateful for it, but you understand that your gift might have changed my circumstances, but it didn’t change my contentment because I already had Jesus in the midst of that and that’s all that counted.”
And yet he says, verse 14, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. It was kind of you. I’m grateful for it. And moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only.” He says, “You guys have had a long history of doing this for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts.” Again, he’s trying to tell them, “Let’s be clear on this, I’m grateful for the gifts but I’m not saying thank you because I’m gonna ask you for more, right?” He’s not saying thank you for their gifts because there’s a support letter on its way, right?
He’s not saying, “I’m grateful for your generosity because we’re launching a new campaign.” No, no, he says that’s not the issue at all. “Not that I desire gifts, what I desire,” he says, “is that more be credited to your account?” That’s an interesting statement. He says, “I want you to continue to be generous so that more would be credited to your account.” What account is he talking about? Well, this is God’s account, okay? And think of this as basically the longest-term IRA you’ve ever heard of. You remember IRAs, they’re Individual Retirement Accounts, and you put your money into it, but you don’t get it out until you hit a certain age, right?
Well, this is the longest-term IRA you’ve ever seen. You don’t get this until you’re dead. And you’re like, “What good is it then?” Oh, it’s so good. What he’s talking about here is an account that God keeps, not an account of rights and wrongs, this is an account of joy. This is important you understand this, this is an account of God’s joy in you, that your generosity in spreading the Gospel and your generosity in advancing his influence in the world, that there’s an account and there’s a day coming you’re gonna walk into his presence and he’s gonna pull up that account, and he’s gonna pour out joy on you. For the ways that you’ve been on mission with him, is gonna be an incredible experience.
So Paul says, “I’m not saying thank you so you’ll keep giving to me, I’m saying thank you so that you keep being generous and advancing the Gospel, and that’s gonna be more and more and more credited to your account, and that’s gonna be an amazing moment when you stand in the presence of Jesus someday.” He says, “Listen, I’ve received full payment. I’ve got all I need.” He says, “I’ve got more than enough, I am amply supplied now that I have received, from Epaphroditus, the gifts that you sent.” He says, “I’m good.”
And he says, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God.” I love that. I love that he calls their generous gift a fragrant offering. You know fragrant, right? Smells good. It’s a smell-good gift. I love that. I mean, do something for me, think about your favorite smell. Can you do that for me? Maybe it’s bread in the oven. That’s good, right? Maybe it’s the vanilla going into the chocolate chip cookie batter. Oh, that’s good. Maybe it’s garlic in the pan with some butter and maybe a little olive oil.
Garlic is funny, isn’t it? Because like garlic in the pan is the most amazing smell ever, garlic in somebody’s mouth, like, the worst. I don’t know how that plays out, okay, but maybe in the pan and think about the pan or maybe, you know, it’s that time of year, maybe it’s pumpkin spice for you, maybe it’s cinnamon, right? What I want you to do is I want you to think about your favorite smell in the world. Now, I want you to imagine you come into a room that’s filled with that smell. Just the right amount though, right? Like, I kind of like the smell of cinnamon, but if you go into Michael’s right now, like, I get a nosebleed in Michael’s. It’s just way too much. I’m not talking that level, okay? Remember that perfect amount that hits you but it doesn’t knock you down, okay? Your favorite smell, you walk in and you smell it. How do you feel?
That’s what Paul says is how God feels when we’re generous to advance the Gospel. He says that God, God encounters our generosity like that, like that perfect smell. What he’s really saying is he’s saying, God…listen to me, God experiences joy when we’re generous in order to advance the Gospel. How incredible is that that we, by our generosity, can give the God of the universe joy? Isn’t that amazing?
You know at Mission Hills, one of our core values is crazy generosity. We make decisions through the lens of that core value. One of the things we say is we say, “We’re crazy generous,” meaning, we mirror God’s outrageous grace with our outrageous giving. And we do that because in part, how can we not be generous when God has been so generous to us? How can we be stingy in the way that we care for others, and give to others, and advance the Gospel into the world when he has given us the blood of his own Son to wipe away our sin? But also, we seek to be generous and to mirror his generosity because we know that when we’re generous, we actually give our God joy.
How incredible is it that by the simple act of generosity, you can make the Creator of the Universe get a little goosebump, right? Get a little joy, you know, that’s an incredible thing that we can have that impact on God. He says, “The fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice.” And he says this, he says, “And my God,” verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. You’ve been generous, but you need to understand that you can’t out generous God. He’ll take care of you. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
And he kind of wraps things up, he says, “Greet all of God’s people in Christ Jesus. Say hi to the brothers and sisters there in Philippi.” He says, “The brothers and sisters who are with me, the ones here in Rome, they send their greetings to you. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” And that’s the punchline to the whole book, “Especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” That’s the punchline.
Did you know that biblical books have punchlines? I didn’t, but I came to understand as I was studying this, that in a lot of ways, the entire Book of Philippians was a very long, slow setup for that phrase. Why do I say that? Here’s what you gotta understand. Paul’s in prison, it’s not the assignment he wanted, it’s the assignment he got. Probably feels like it’s an obstacle to what he wanted to see happen, what he really sincerely believes God wanted to do in Rome because he’s not out on the streets preaching, he’s in a small cell. He’s locked down 24/7, he’s guarded by Roman soldiers. And they are never lack in their duties, there’s no chance to slip out because these are the best of the best or the elite, they’re actually the palace guards watching him.
But somewhere in the midst of that difficult experience something changed for Paul. He began to look at his circumstances through a slightly different perspective. And from that new perspective, he saw something that he hadn’t seen. And I don’t know if he was praying for it, I’d like to think that he might have been, that he might have, at some point, kind of woken up and gone, “God, I hate these circumstances, but you know what?” Maybe he started praying the way you and I often pray in difficult things, maybe he just said, “God, what are you doing?” And then maybe he progressed to God, “Would you show me what you’re doing? I need to see it.” And in that something happened, he had a new perspective. He noticed something he hadn’t noticed, the thought occurred to him, “You know, yeah, I am locked up 24/7. I’m one guy, I’m definitely a captive. But in order for me to be a captive, these guards have to stay here, which means, yeah, I’m a captive, but it also means I’ve got a captive audience.”
And so, he started preaching. He started talking to the guard, he says, “Can I tell you why I’m here?” And they’re like, “Whatever, dude.” Something to pass the time, right? And so, he began to tell them about the Good News of Jesus Christ. And all the way back at the beginning of our series in Philippians 1:13, Paul actually hinted at the result of that. He said this, Philippians 1:13 he says, “As a result of preaching to these guards, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else.” And we said several years ago that everyone else is almost certainly everyone else in the palace. “It’s become clear to the whole palace guard and to everyone else in the palace that I’m in chains for Christ.” He says, “They know the Gospel, not just the guards, they did their duty, they heard the Gospel they went back to the palace and they told people about this guy who was in prison. They told people about this story of the crucified and risen Savior.”
They told people that he’s preaching this Good News, that we can have a relationship with God by faith in what Jesus himself did. That it’s not a question of earning it, it’s not about doing all the right things, and avoiding the wrong things, and trying to get the scales balanced, that it’s simply by saying, “Yes, Jesus, I’ve done wrong, but you paid for all of it. Thank you. I trust you and you alone.” And that we have this relation with God. They started telling people about that. And you know what happened? Some of them believed, some of the people in the palace guard believed and some of the people in the palace believed.
And, by the way, you know whose palace it was? It was Caesar’s palace. And I know some of you were thinking about a very different place right now. Just put that aside. We’re talking about the original Caesar’s palace here, okay? And you know who lives in Caesar’s palace? Caesar’s family, the Royal family. Some of the most influential people in all of Rome, some of them came to believe. How do I know that? It’s the punchline, right?
“All God’s people here sends you greetings, especially those,” he’s been waiting a long time to say this, “especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” What? Yeah. See, his imprisonment didn’t…it didn’t derail the dream. His imprisonment didn’t become an obstacle that kept the Gospel from invading Rome. His imprisonment actually became the opportunity for the Gospel to invade the Roman palace, the most influential people in the entire empire. See, that’s our God, right? This is a God who looks at what we think are our obstacles and goes, “No, no, no, no, those are opportunities, you just didn’t even imagine.” This is a God who looks at what looked like roadblocks and goes, “No, no, no, I can turn that into a result you wouldn’t have even dared to pray for.”
You know, and I wonder too, I wonder if Paul, as he was praying about going to Rome, I wonder if he wasn’t pretty bold in his prayers. I can imagine Paul going, “Hey, God, would you give me a chance to go to Rome? It’s such an influential place. God, would you open doors for me to be able to preach the Gospel in the City of Rome? God, would you bring many people to know you and love you in the City of Rome? God, would you raise up people who are generous in their support of advancing the Gospel and your influence around the city. God, would you do that?” And maybe even it occurred to him briefly, he started, “Hey, God, would you allow me to get into the palace? Well never mind. Okay, I know, I went too far. I know, I know, I know.” He probably never even dared to dream about that, let alone to ask God for that just seemed like a little bit too much and yet now he says, “Yeah, because of my imprisonment, there are people in God’s family in the palace itself.” This is the punchline of the entire Book of Philippians.
Well, what Paul’s basically teaching us is this, he’s teaching us that the secret to contentment is having the perspective to see and to seize every situation’s unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus. You see that? That’s the whole book right there. It’s a lot of words, I feel bad about that. I usually try to make my summary statements really kind of tight and portable, but I’m summarizing the entire book, so hope you’ll give me a little bit of grace. I needed a couple extra words this time, but this is the whole book. The secret to the contentment that Paul is talking about, the contentment that isn’t based on circumstances, that contentment that can happen in any and every situation, he says the secret contentment is having the perspective to see and then to seize every situation’s unique opportunities to be on mission with Jesus.
Let me tell you four quick things about perspective and the power of perspective. The first one we’ve already touched on. It’s this, it’s who we face circumstances with determines our perspective on them. What did Paul say? He said, “I can do all these things that I’m talking about, all these crazy counterintuitive things, I can have contentment in every situation through him who gives me strength, through Christ.” See, facing circumstances with Jesus changes our perspective on them because that’s the way it always works. Who we face circumstances with changes our perspective on them.
You can think about this in very simple everyday terms. Let’s do something…I probably shouldn’t do this in church, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I want you to think right now of the person in your life that just annoys the bejeebers out of you. Think about the most annoying person you know. Now, imagine you get a phone call tomorrow and the phone call is, “Hey, congratulations. You’ve won an all-expenses-paid top-of-the-line luxury cruise.” It’s the best cruise line, it’s the best food, it’s the best shore excursions, it’s the best. One catch, you gotta go on it with that person, you gotta stay in the same cabin with that person, you have to spend all your free time with that person, there’s two deck chairs arranged just for the two of you, you have to eat all your meals with that person, you gotta go on all the shore excursions with that person. And some of you were like, “No, thank you.” Right? Because suddenly it doesn’t sound so much like a prize, it sounds a lot more like a punishment, doesn’t it? Who we face circumstances with changes our perspective on them.
The good news is it also works the other way around, right? You can have circumstances that aren’t necessarily pleasant, but if you face them with the right people it changes your perspective. I’m going to a conference this weekend or this week. I’ll actually be back next weekend and I’m really excited, by the way, next weekend I’m gonna teach a message that God’s really been using in my life in some very powerful ways, I’m gonna call it the Power of Praise. And I really believe that God’s got some powerful things for you next weekend. It’d be a great message not only for you to be at, but it could be a great message to bring people who don’t normally come to church. I guarantee you, God’s gonna do something very special next weekend.
But between now and then, I’m going to a conference this next weekend. And it’s not a conference I’m super excited about, I only go every few years, I think it’s good to connect, but it’s just not a super exciting conference. I’ll tell you, here’s the name of the conference is The Annual Gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society, so you can imagine the good times, right? I think it’s good to reconnect with a scholarly community occasionally, but I’m not super excited about it. But Coletta is going with me, my wife’s going with me, and that totally changes it.
I’m not really super excited about the conference, but I’m really excited about my wife. So, I’m really excited about some time that I get to spend with her. I’m already making some preparations. I’ve, like, been online and I’ve been finding some really good discussion starters and some questions that we’re gonna talk about. We’ll make the most of all. I’m really excited about that. Not because of the circumstances but because of who I get to face it with. And how much more is that gonna be true when we face circumstances with Jesus, right? That’s why he says that a relationship with Jesus is the foundation for contentment. That’s truth number one that who we face circumstances with determines our perspective on them.
Here’s the second truth, our perspective on our circumstance or circumstances determines what we see in them. Our perspective on our circumstances determines what we see in them. Because how we look at something determines what we notice or don’t notice, what we’re able to perceive and what we’re not able to perceive. I mean, for instance, all of you are looking straight at me even those of you watching online, you’re looking at me through the screen, and I have a different perspective than any of you and that is I can actually see the faces of the camera operators. You can’t do that because you’re not looking from that perspective. I can see something you can’t because the perspective that we have actually determines what we can or can’t see.
I remember when I was little, one of my favorite things is my dad sometimes would grab me and he’d pick me up and he’d throw me into the air and then catch me obviously, right? This is important to say, I guess. And I loved that moment and part of it was just the sensation sort of flying from him. But some of it too was, you know, like normally my perspective was down here. And in that moment I got to see, I was like, “This is what adults see.” I saw the world from a different…and I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. See, when we face circumstances with Jesus, Jesus has a perspective that you and I can’t possibly. He sees it from above and he sees things that we would never have noticed. But in that relationship with Jesus, we can actually ask for it and Jesus will give us a little bit of his perspective and we’ll begin to notice things we would not have otherwise noticed.
See, Paul, I don’t know if he asked for it, my guess is he probably did. He said, “God, don’t just show me what you’re doing here but show me what’s going on here that you think is so important.” And the Holy Spirit began to give and he saw, “Yeah, I’m not just a captive, I’ve got a captive audience.” He saw something he hadn’t seen before. And here’s what you need to understand, Church, this is a truth, you need to understand. Every circumstance, every circumstance has unique opportunities for living on mission. Whatever circumstances you’re in right now, there are some opportunities to live on mission with Jesus to extend God’s influence or that are unique to that situation. That’s true in good circumstances, and it’s especially true in difficult circumstances. Every circumstance that you will ever face has some unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus. The question is whether or not you will have the perspective to see them.
And here’s why that matters, truth number three, what we see in our circumstances determines how we will respond to them. If we see only obstacles, we will respond only with frustration. But when we see opportunities, there’s another response that gets opened up, right? Another possible way of responding to our circumstances, which is the possibility of seizing those opportunities. What we see in our circumstances determines how we respond to them.
And truth number four, how we respond to our circumstances determines what we will receive from them. It’s interesting to me, some people go in the difficult circumstances and they leave those circumstances broken and battered. And other people go into the same circumstances and they leave almost as though they’ve been blessed. What’s the difference? The difference is the perspective they took, which allowed them to see things and whether or not they seized those things, how they responded determined what they received.
What did Paul receive? Listen, he went into a very difficult circumstance, but he went into it with Jesus. And Jesus gave him a little bit of a new perspective on a circumstance, he saw something he hadn’t seen before. He saw an opportunity and not just an obstacle, and then he seized that opportunity. He began to preach the Gospel and that Gospel went out from that little cell and it went into the palace and invaded the hearts and the minds, even if some of Caesar’s own family. And so, now, what has Paul received? Now, as he closes his letter to his friends back in Philippi, he says, “All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.”
That’s incredible, isn’t it? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, not just the grace and salvation, but the grace to give opportunities that are unique even in the most difficult of situations. The grace to have the perspective to see them, the grace to have the courage to seize them, the grace to have the opportunity to receive the blessing that comes when we’ve lived our mission, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit. Amen. That’s the whole book. The secret to contentment is having the perspective to see and to seize every situation’s unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus.
Four quick questions for you as we wrap up the study. I want you to think about the most difficult situation that you’re facing right now. Think about the one situation that you most are tempted to pray to be getting out of, right? That’s the one. Think about that one, and ask yourself this question, number one, “Am I facing this situation with Jesus?” If you’re those first two categories of people, you have the relationship, the question really is, “But are you leveraging that relationship into a perspective that allows you to see, in your situation, something very different than you would have otherwise seen?” And if you don’t have that relationship, in just a moment, I’m gonna give you the opportunity to fix that because you can have it before we leave today. “Am I facing this situation with Jesus?”
Question number two, “What unique opportunities for living on mission do I see in this situation?” And some of you may go, “Yeah, I see them, they’re obvious.” And maybe they’re not obvious to you. But you can, if you’re facing the situation with Jesus, you can pray for the perspective. You can say, “Jesus, throw me up. Give me a second to just glimpse things the way you see it. Let me see those things that you see,” and I believe that he will answer that prayer. What unique opportunities for living a mission do you see in that situation?
Question number three, “What would it look like to seize those opportunities?” It doesn’t always have to be something big and huge. Sometimes it’s pretty small thing, honestly, to seize those opportunities. I’ve shared several times over the last couple of years, my youngest daughter is struggling with chronic abdominal pain. We spent a lot of time, different things. A couple of weeks ago she had another surgery that we’re hoping is gonna be really helpful to her, but right before she went into the surgery we saw an opportunity and we seize it. It’s very small and we just…before we allowed them to take her, we stopped and we said, “Hey, can we pray?” And so Coletta and I, we just prayed. We prayed for, you know, for healing, for God to be present. We prayed and said, “Thank you for the doctors.”
We also said, “Hey, thank you for the nurses. Thank you for the skills that you’ve given them. Thank you for the care that they have for the patients. Please give them wisdom and strength. Thank you for the nurses and amen.” And I looked up and I realized that there was a nurse kind of had, she was standing at the edge waiting to take us in. And as I looked up from the prayer, she kind of looked at me and she said, “Wow, thank you.” Then I thought, “You know, that might be the first time she’s ever heard anybody thank the God of the universe for her. Thank the God of all creation for her skills and for her obvious care and expertise that she shows.”
I don’t know what God will do with it, but I’m really glad that I didn’t miss that moment. I received a blessing in seeing that I had been a blessing even to her. And maybe God planted a seed in her life there that’ll grow into eternal salvation if she doesn’t already have it. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. “What would it look like for you to seize those unique opportunities in that situation?”
And then question number four and this is probably the hardest question, but in some ways is the most important question as we finish the Boundless Series, “Am I willing to trust God to use me in this situation rather than just release me from it?” Because, friends, it may be that you’re in a difficult circumstance and God hasn’t released you from it because he has a blessing for you in it. Because God loves you too much to allow you to miss out on being a part of what he wants to do in and through you in that circumstance. And so, maybe you haven’t been released, not because God’s not listening, not because God’s not good, but because he’s too good for him to want you to or be okay with you missing that opportunity that’s unique in that particular situation.
Would you pray with me? God, on behalf of the followers of Jesus, we confess we often look with our eyes and our very, very immature hearts that our circumstances and we don’t see the opportunities that are there. And because of that, we often just so frustrated and tied up in knots, and we spend a lot of time praying for you to get us out of the circumstances. But, Lord, we thank you for the wisdom of your servant, Paul, who’s told us that we desperately need to stand on your shoulders and see these situations from your perspective and in that way to see some things, some opportunities we wouldn’t have seen, and then to seize those in that season to be blessed in a way we would never expected possible. Forgive us for all the ways we’ve failed to do that. Give us the strength and the courage to seek that perspective and to act in light of it.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just take a moment right now, just begin praying for the people around you, all the people watching online from all over the world. And if you’re listening to this and you’re in that third category we talked about, you’re the people who would say, “I don’t have a relationship with Jesus.” Maybe you knew coming in you didn’t, or maybe those words about it’s not about religion, it’s not about doing and don’ts, it’s about that relationship by faith, maybe that really cut to the quick and you realized, “Yeah, I don’t have a relationship. I’ve been depending on our religion.” Maybe that’s you, but for whatever reason you realized you don’t have a relationship, you need to understand you can have that relationship. You don’t have to earn it, it is yours for the taking. It’s a gift that’s being offered to you.
God loves you so much, He sent his own Son who lived the perfect life with no sin to pay for, but he went to the cross in order to pay for your sin. You were on his heart and mind as he laid there before the cross as they beat him, and then as he lay there upon the cross as they put the nails in, and then as he hung there on the cross as they held him, you were on his mind, his love for you was driving that. He died on the cross to pay for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history. And he is now offering you a relationship with God that’s free from guilt and shame for any wrong you’ve ever done because it’s forgiven. All you have to do is say yes to a relationship with him.
And if you’re ready to say yes to be forgiven, to be free, and to have this relationship with your Creator, here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you just have this conversation with God, say, “God, I’ve done wrong and I understand that it’s my sin that got in the way of our relationship. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, and a relationship with my God. I’m ready to say yes. Right here right now, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you, Jesus. Come into my life. My faith is in you and I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
We’ve had a number of people make that decision at Mission Hills and around the world this weekend, can we just welcome them into the family of God? So fantastic, so great.