Spiritual Essentials for a Joy-Full Life ~ #4 “Responding Rightly When Life Unravels” – Philippians 1:12-18a

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Responding Rightly When Life Unravels

Philippians 1:12-18a

Well, if you would, please take out your Bibles now and turn in them to the book of Philippians in the New Testament and chapter 1. If you don’t have a Bible, I would encourage you to find one under a chair in front of you and turn in the back section of that to page 154. You would find yourself at Philippians, chapter 1. We’ve been launching into a study on the book of Philippians that we have titled Spiritual Essentials for a Joy-Full Life.

One of the spiritual essentials we’re going to learn about in chapter 1 is basically this: essential perspective. If we’re going to have a joy-full life, we need to have essential perspective. The section we’re coming to today in chapter 1 is one that is intensely practical. It is, men and women, survival help for when life happens to us. I have titled the message today Responding Rightly When Life Unravels. We could have called it Keeping Your Head Up When Life Gets You Down or Maintaining a Sweet Perspective When Circumstances Turn Sour.

Now one of the things I want to do is I want us to be real honest with ourselves today. We want to be just transparent and talk for a moment about our nature, our human nature. What do we tend to be like when life gets tough, when life unravels, when the circumstances turn a little bit sour? I know myself all too well. I think I know some of you because this is the way we generally tend to react. We begin to think these thoughts…I have it rough. My life is tough. My situation that I’m in is really hard. We begin to reinforce that thinking over and over.

Part of the implication we’re really implying with that thought process is this: You know, life is so rough and tough. To respond rightly is really a little out of my reach. I mean, we begin to think it’s okay to be down and discouraged and maybe even a little bit depressed because of…Look what’s happening to me? I mean, after all, I have it rough. My lot is tough. My situation is hard.

Here is what I want us to think about for a moment. As followers of Jesus, we just need to pause and ponder this. If life can unravel on us as followers of Jesus, if the circumstances can turn bad, and we begin to cry out, “Life is unfair!”…if we get deflated by circumstances that go badly, if we become bitter when other people mistreat us…how different really are we from those without God in our culture? That’s a good thought. Good thing to think about. How different are we from those who do not have the Holy Spirit resident in our lives?

Here is the point. As followers of Jesus and as someone who is a temple of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to have a positive perspective. It is possible to experience joy in our lives in the midst of difficulty and adversity. For some of us, we’re thinking, Well how does that really work? Well that’s what Paul is going to lead us through this morning.

We want to talk about responding rightly when life unravels. We’re going to be looking at chapter 1, verses 12 through the first part of verse 18. But before we even go there, I just want to remind you of the context and the backdrop of these verses because our instructor, Paul, lived what he is about to teach us. Again, it’s so easy for us to think, My life is rough. My life is tough. Well, one of the good things is to take a little deeper look into Paul’s. I want us to keep your finger here in Philippians, and let’s go a little bit to the left in your Bible to 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, and we’re going to see something about Paul’s life. Often I think my life is rough and my life is tough. Well then, it’s good to take a glance at Paul’s life.

If you’ll notice chapter 11, verses 23 to 27. He says, “Look at my life. I’ve had far more labors, far more imprisonments. I’ve been beaten times without number.” You know, I’ve often wondered how many times was that? How many times have you ever been beaten up in your life? “I’ve been beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes.” It was 39 lashes because they believed one more would probably kill you. “Five times,” he says, “I was beaten within an inch of my life.”

“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.” That’s where a group of people take a pile of rocks and cover you with them with a little velocity behind it. “Three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the ocean. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen (the Jews), dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food (Could you say that about your life?), in cold and exposure.”

Man, you read down through a list like that, and it’s no surprise he says in Galatians 6:17, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” He is basically saying, “You want to see the scars? Let me just show you the scars I have received.” Now, that’s part of the backdrop of what he wants to write to us in Philippians. But I also want us to go to the book of Acts. So, turn a little further to the left in your Bible to the book of Acts, which is the historical book in the New Testament. We’re going to see some more of just the backdrop of what was going on as he writes these words in Philippians.

In Acts, chapter 21, verses 27 and following, Paul comes to Jerusalem. What happens is because he is there, a riot ensues. He is illegally arrested and held. I’m not sure how many of us have been illegally arrested and held, but that’s what happened to him. In fact, as you look at this riot, it’s wild. It’s just totally out of control. In fact, if you look at verse 34, part of what was happening in this riot is some in the crowd were shouting one thing about Paul. Some of them were shouting another thing about Paul.

The military official couldn’t figure out what was going on. So, he grabs Paul and takes him inside. He tries to find out what was happening. We know from verse 38 that part of what they were yelling out was, “You know who this guy is? He is that Egyptian terrorist. You know, the one who was on the 10 Most Wanted list.” That’s who this Paul guy is.

Notice in verse 38. He says, “Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the 4,000 men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” You know, how many people have ever accused you of that? You know, he is the leader of the assassins, and he has 4,000 of them out there. You know, that’s the kind of thing that came Paul’s way. In chapter 22, it’s kind of interesting. He asks to speak to the people of Jerusalem. He gets this speech going, and about halfway through, a second riot breaks out.

Then in chapter 23 of Acts, he goes before the Sanhedrin. What is really interesting in chapter 23, verses 12 and 13 (has this ever happened in your life?) 40 plus people say, “I am not going to eat or drink until I see his dead body in the street.” They made a death plot pact…40 plus people…to get rid of this guy. That’s Paul’s life. In chapters 24, 25, and 26, he is still arrested. He spends time before Felix, the governor, and before Festus, the governor, and before Agrippa. Some two years… I mean, think about this. This just wasn’t a week. Some two years he keeps making these appearances.

You know, Paul had dreams. He had things he wanted to do in his life. He had things he wanted to experience in his life. Romans 15, verses 23 and 25, tell us he wanted to travel to Rome and to bring the gospel message to Rome and to be able to do his preaching and leading people to Christ and establishing churches. He wanted to go visit Spain. He had things he had plans to do.

Well, by the time you come to Acts, chapter 27, he is on his way to Rome. But he is a prisoner rather than a preacher. In fact, while he is on that ship, it runs into a hurricane, and the ship runs aground and sinks. The whole shipload of them are bobbing out in the ocean. Then, you know, we see him. He finally gets to Rome. He is in Rome, and he is under house arrest as we’ve stated. He is chained to a soldier 24 hours a day. By the time he is writing the book of Philippians, months and months and months and months have gone by. In fact, probably two years.

So you think about all of this. You know, first this riot happens. It’s like some four years later the case hasn’t been adjudicated. He finds himself chained to a Roman soldier. So, I ask you, how’s your life going? You know, again we say, “My life is tough. My life is rough. The circumstances that are happening to me, like nobody…” Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! This guy lived what he is getting ready to teach us.

See, Paul could have lashed out as all these things happened. He could have decided to do a life dance with bitterness as his partner. But he didn’t do that. He could have started a pity party and said, “You know, I’m just down. I’m depressed. I’m just going to sulk and feel sorry for myself.” He could have started asking all those questions we want to ask to God. “Why did You let this happen to me? I mean, I’m trying to live for You. I’m trying to do Your will. This is what You let happen to me?” He could have done all of that. What do you do when life unravels? We can learn from this guy. We can learn from Paul.

I like to read what he has to say in verses 12 to 18. I invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read what he writes. He says, “Now I want you to know, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.”

Responding rightly when life unravels… I want to highlight two ways Paul tells us how we can respond rightly. They are these… First, remember who is in charge. As all these kinds of events happen to us, remember who is in charge. Second, stay focused on the primary priority. That’s how we can respond rightly when life unravels. Remember who is in charge. Stay focused on the primary priority. We want to look at those two things.

1. Remember who is in charge. That’s exactly what Paul does here. He remembers God is sovereign. Everything that happened to him was a matter of God’s providence in his life. That, by the way, is an Old Testament truth. Turn with me in the Old Testament to the book of Daniel. You have Isaiah and Jeremiah, and then you have Ezekiel and Daniel. We see this truth that God is sovereign. He is completely in charge at all times.

In Daniel, chapter 4, verses 34 and 35, this is really the testimony of King Nebuchadnezzar. Notice what he says in verse 34 of Daniel, chapter 4. He says, “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.” God is always in charge. Verse 35, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” In fact, in verse 37, Nebuchadnezzar describes God as the King of heaven. He says, “All Your works are true; all Your ways are just.”

God is sovereign. He is in charge all of the time. Nothing can happen to your life or my life or Paul’s life except it passes through the providential hands of God. This is not only an Old Testament truth. It’s a New Testament truth. You might turn with me to the book of Romans, which Paul also wrote. At the very end of chapter 11, we have such a strong statement here of the fact that God is in charge. He is sovereign. He is the One who rules. You’ll notice it says in verse 33, “Oh, the depth of the riches (11:33) both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

I like the New Living Translation here. It says, “How impossible is it for us to understand His decisions and His methods!” He is just so much bigger than us. He is in charge fully. There are no accidents with Him. “For who has known (verse 34) the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” God is in charge fully. He is sovereign. He is in control.

In fact, Romans was written some six years before Philippians. In Romans, chapter 8, verse 28, Paul said, “All things work together for good.” God is in control. God is sovereign. God has a plan. Really what he is saying as we’re going to see in Philippians is, “I have been guided by the providential hand of God. Where I am is right where God wants me.” What appears to be an obstacle to us, looking at it from God’s sovereignty is really an opportunity. You see, what appears to be a setback to us is really a setup when we look at it from God’s sovereignty. Often this happens to us. Maybe you feel this way today. Often we have a sense that we’re stuck. I’m just stuck. I don’t like being here. The reality is we’ve been positioned by God to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. God is sovereign. He is in charge.

You remember the story of Joseph out of the Old Testament? Life is just going wonderful. Then suddenly your brothers sell you into slavery. Some slave traders haul you off to a place you’ve never been before. Then if you follow the story along, you’ll know that eventually Joseph becomes falsely accused and sent to prison. How many people here have ever been falsely accused and sent to prison? Probably not very many of us, if any. Was Joseph stuck, or was Joseph positioned by God in His sovereignty? The answer is God is sovereign and providential in all that happens. He was positioned, not stuck. Ultimately, the nation of Israel was saved from starvation because of what God had sovereignly arranged with Joseph.

You look at Jesus. In Acts 2:23…interesting statement. It says that He was nailed to the Cross by the hands of godless men. Not just a bunch of nice people, but a bunch of godless men grabbed Him and beat Him and nailed Him to the Cross. Was Jesus stuck, or was Jesus positioned? See how that works? God is sovereign. He always has a plan in your life and my life. Responding rightly when life unravels means that we remember who is in charge. No matter what happens, He has a plan.

Look back in Philippians at chapter 1, verse 12. He says, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances…” All this crud that has happened to me…that is not the way I wanted it to be. But you see, God sovereignly providentially was allowing it. This has “turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so (verse 13) that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ…” Literally he says, “my chains in Christ.”

What he was really saying in that statement is he is saying, “I am not here by some sort of an accident. I’m really not a prisoner of Rome. I understand that I’m a prisoner of Rome, and I’m chained to a Roman soldier, but I’m really not. I am really a prisoner of Christ because you see, He is so sovereign. He is so providential that what I’m experiencing is exactly what He planned for me. In His sovereignty and in His providence, I’m not a prisoner of Rome. I’m really a prisoner of Christ. My chains in Christ become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard.”

Now we read that, and we don’t catch the sense of the significance of that little statement he makes. The Praetorian Guard was the imperial guard of the day. Historians tell us that it was made up of 9,000 of the elite crack [top performing], handpicked soldiers. This was the crème de la crème. They would get double pay and bonuses for serving as part of the Praetorian Guard. Part of what the Praetorian Guard would do is that they would bodyguard the Roman Emperor. They were a lot like the Secret Service in the United States. I mean, you just get the crème, you know, to guard the Emperor. Another one of the jobs that the Praetorian Guard would do is they would guard political prisoners.

Now, if you know the history of how Paul went out preaching the gospel and founding churches, you’ll know that the normal thing he did when he would go to a community is that he would start with the synagogue because that’s where the Old Testament Scriptures were, and he could build on that and then present Christ to people as being the Messiah. That was his normal plan.

No doubt, if he could have walked into Rome in the normal way, that’s what he would have done. He would have done the normal thing. “Got my plan. I know how this works. I go to the synagogue.” He tried to do that in Philippi; there was no synagogue, but that was his normal way of doing that.  But basically, God said, “Wait a second. I have a whole different plan. I know you never even thought about this. You never even dreamed about this. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what you’d want to do.” But God said, “I have a different plan.” He is in charge.

I can just imagine what it was like for these Praetorian Guards, you know, to hear about this guy by reputation. You know, “Did you hear about the guy who is being guarded over there? He is that guy who was the rising star among the Jews, you know, back in Israel. He was the guy who was persecuting them and torturing men and women and imprisoning them…the followers of Jesus. That’s what he was doing.

Then suddenly now he has become the leader of the whole group of the followers of Jesus. I mean, this guy is a wild dude!” I can just imagine how some of that crack Praetorian Guards were thinking, I want to get a little glimpse of him. You know, sometimes we hear about something happened to somebody. We all go, We just want to see what they look like. You know, What did they look like? Well, that’s I’m sure what they did.

They looked in on the guy. Probably they’re going, That’s the dude? Becausewe know his appearance wasn’t really that exciting to look at. He didn’t look like the kind of guy who would do all those sorts of things. So no doubt just the word about who he was passed around. But not only that, but you had guys who were chained to him. Commentators differ on whether they were eight-hour or six-hour shifts. But think about it for a moment…24 hours a day.

If you took a six-hour shift, that’s four per day times 365 times the two years he was in Rome. That’s some 2,900 opportunities Paul had with a captive audience, you know? A guy who can’t go anywhere because he is chained to Paul. If you had an eight-hour shift, that would be three per day times 365 times two years is some 2,200 opportunities Paul had to talk to people about Christ and to share the message that He is the God who loved them. No doubt, he shared directly with how many of that 9,000…I don’t know, but a number of them.

Not only that, but they could overhear the conversations he was having because we know from Acts 28, people would come visit him as he was under this house arrest. So, they would have these spiritual conversations. “Did you know what happened over here?” And such and such. You know, “These people were this kind of people and then they heard about Christ…” They were listening to all this kind of stuff.

God had a special plan even though life had unraveled for Paul. He says, “The cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard.” Then he adds this little phrase “…and to everyone else.” You know, these were influencer people in Rome. Not only that, but if you look at the end of the book in chapter 4, verse 22, he says this as he is writing. He says, “All the saints greet you (here in Rome), especially those of Caesar’s household.” Isn’t that awesome? That some of the people in Caesar’s household had come to know Christ. You say, “Well how did all of that happen?” Well, these guys…some of them guarded Paul. But some of them would then be assigned to guard the household of Caesar. Of course, they had contact with the household of Caesar. Just the word passed as people come to know who Jesus really was. It’s an amazing thing.

Now, was that easy for Paul to be set up for this kind of ministry? He went through some really rugged experiences…rugged experiences. Notice what he says in verse 14. He says, “And that most of the brethren (here), trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear.”

Do you notice what he is really communicating here? Listen, men and women, when we go through really difficult times and difficult circumstances in our lives and we respond rightly, guess what? People notice. People will notice your response. People will notice my response. When life unravels, we have an opportunity to imprint other people. People notice. Your kids are watching you. Young people are watching you. Your neighbors are watching you. Your roommates are watching you. Your coworkers are watching you.

How do you handle it when circumstances turn sour? See when life unravels…when circumstances sour…when we’re faced with difficulty and adversity…we need to remember who is in charge. There are no accidents with God. He always has a plan. We’re not stuck. We are positioned. What seems to be an obstacle is really from God’s sovereignty and opportunity. What seems to be a setback to us circumstantially is, in God’s providence, a setup. Often, God allows these things to happen because He wants to open up new vistas of ministry for us. See, we’re not looking at it that way. We’re so focused on the circumstances that are happening to us that we miss the fact that He often wants to open up new vistas of ministry.

Warren Wiersbe tells a story. He says everyone has heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a very famous British preacher, but very few know the story of his wife, Susannah. You see, early on in their married life, Mrs. Spurgeon became an invalid. That would be discouraging. That would be tough to deal with. Early in your marriage, and you’re an invalid? It would be easy just to throw up your hands, and “I’m mad at God. I’m bitter over this. This isn’t fair. I know everybody else who is married…they’re not, you know…” But that isn’t the way she dealt with it at all. In fact, some people said, “Well, the only ministry she’ll ever have is encouraging her husband and maybe praying for him.”

But God gave her a burden. That burden was she wanted to share her husband’s books with pastors who were unable to purchase them. Now we have to realize, you know, in that time of history, having theological books was a very rare thing. Spurgeon wrote some great stuff. So that was her burden. But these pastors couldn’t purchase them. So that burden soon led to the founding of what was called the Book Fund that people gave money to. As a work of faith, the Book Fund over the years provided thousands of pastors with the tools for their ministry. All of it was supervised by Mrs. Spurgeon from her home.

You see, what seems to be an obstacle is really an opportunity. What seems to be a setback is really a set up in the providence of God. He may want to be opening up new vistas of ministry. Wherever you are today, don’t view yourself as stuck. Look around for the opportunity God will have for ministry. Responding rightly when life unravels…the first way is to remember who is in charge.

Second way is to stay focused on the primary priority. In other words, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. What is the main thing? Well, the main thing that just bleeds through these pages is the gospel…the good news about Christ. In fact, the word gospel…it’s just all over the place here. It appears five times in this chapter in verse 5, in verse 7, in verse 12, and in verse 16, and in verse 27.

Beyond just the term gospel, you have in verse 15 words that communicate the gospel…preaching Christ. Verse 17, proclaiming Christ. Verse 18, Christ is proclaimed. You see, that was the primary priority. The message…the good news…that Jesus Christ was crucified and died for you. He rose again, and He forgives sins. He is excited about having a personal relationship with you. That, men and women, is the primary priority, and we need to remember that.

You see, there are many issues out there in the Christian world today that are vying for our attention. Issues that relate to social injustice in our world today. Issues that relate to environmental things. Issues from pornography to politics are out there vying for our attention. They’re legitimate issues, but they pale in significance and priority to the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can never lose sight of that. We need to stay focused on the primary priority.

One of the reasons why is because of the effects of the gospel. Because what does the gospel do? It changes hearts. You can look at American history, and really the abolition of slavery came about because of the effects of the gospel on our culture. The child-labor laws in our nation were really changed because of the effects of the gospel. Prison reform, which used to be a very ugly thing in our nation, came about largely because of the effects of the gospel on our culture because the gospel changes hearts.

All these issues are vying for our attention. But they’re not as significant as the priority of the advance of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Part of what really Paul is saying here…I want you to catch this…is “my own personal feelings, my own comfort, even my own reputation…takes a secondary place to the advance of the gospel message.”

I want you to notice verses 15 to 17. By the way, it’s amazing to me how we like to romanticize the early church. “Well, what we need to do is we need to be just like the early church. If we could just go back to being what the early church was… If we were just the early church…” Hey, I want to tell you something. The early church is just like we are, okay? There were good things with the early church, and there were bad things with the early church.

Notice he says here of the early church in verse 15, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.” Now these people who were doing this out of envy and strife were not heretics. No, no, no. They weren’t heretics. In fact, heretics are addressed in the book of Galatians in chapter 1, verses 8 and 9, where Paul says, “If anyone comes to you with a message that’s different than the gospel message that I preach to you, let them be accursed!”

You see, there were people running around, that the Galatians were having to deal with, who were preaching a different gospel. They were taking the gospel message and distorting it into a message of good works. “You need to work your way into being good with God” rather than “Christ died to do it all.” So he confronted them in the Galatians situation because they were heretics. They were distorting the message.

But that’s not the case here. They’re giving the message about salvation…”Christ died for you and rose again from the dead.” But they were doing it it says (this is interesting to me) out of envy. You go, “Well, no one would struggle with that today.” I mean, let’s be honest. How do you feel about the spiritual success of others around you? I mean, what do you feel when you’re leading a Bible study, and someone else has a bigger one? You know, we go through that sometimes with Equipping U [Wildwood’s training center]. You know, there will be sign-up sheets, and I had 10 sign up for mine, and Mark had 20. What’s going on there, you know?

How do you feel when someone is more effective in sharing their faith than you are or they lead more people to Christ than you do? Maybe they give more money to the kingdom than you are able to give. Maybe they’re more articulate. Maybe they’re more gifted. See, we struggle with the same kinds of things. These people were sharing the gospel but out of envy. They were doing it out of selfish ambition it says in verse 17 because they wanted to “cause me distress.”

See apparently these people wanted to look good to other people. That’s why they were preaching the gospel. They had adopted this rivalry mentality, this spiritual competition mindset. They were trying to promote themselves and to put down Paul. I mean, “Look, he is in prison, you know. He is probably in prison because God is trying to discipline him, you know. He is not being the way that he should be.” They were out to get people to admire them and to follow them. I like to say they were out to gall [annoy] Paul. They just wanted to irritate him. They were doing the right thing, but they were doing it for ego purposes. They were pride-driven people. That can happen in the Christian community.

At one time in England, there were two great evangelists, John Wesley and George Whitfield. Wesley and Whitfield didn’t always agree on doctrinal matters. Both of them, though, were extremely successful…preached to thousands of people. Multitudes would come to Christ. One time, it was reported that someone came up to Wesley and asked Wesley if he expected to see Whitfield in heaven. Wesley thought for a minute and said, “No, I do not.”

Of course, you know, the person who is trying to drive this somewhere got really excited. “Oh! So then you do not think that Whitfield is a converted man?” Wesley said, “Of course he is a converted man, but I do not expect to see him in heaven because he will be so close to the throne of God and I so far away that I will not be able to see him.” You see, what he was doing is “Don’t get on this envy trip. I’m not even going to play that game at all.” That’s a temptation.

You know, at times I’m asked about certain churches that are different from Wildwood. Some of them are bigger than Wildwood. What do I think? Well, the key in my response is really this…are they sharing and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, they’re off track. If so, God bless them for doing that. “Some,” he said, “did this out of envy and selfish ambition. Some, though, are preaching the message out of love and pure motives (verse 16).” But what’s the bottom line? Verse 18 he says, “What then?” I like the NIV. It says, “What does it matter? Christ is proclaimed, and I rejoice.”

In other words, he is saying this: “My circumstances, my desires, my situation is less important than the fact that Christ is proclaimed and God is honored.” Basically, he was saying this, “Why should I have a pity party? Why should I say, ‘Why me? Why now? Woe is me!’ if there is an opportunity for the good news about Jesus Christ to be shared?” What he is really saying is, “What happened to me is insignificant compared to the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Responding rightly when life unravels…remember who is in charge and stay focused on the primary priority, which is the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

Now I want us to talk about some life application as we get ready to close today…two life lessons and one passage for reflection. Here is the first life lesson…

1. Life is hard, but God is good. We need to remember that. He is at work in, with, and through everything that happens to you and to me. He is always in control. He always will be in control. He has a plan. I don’t know where you are emotionally today, but maybe part of what God wants out of you as a response is to have that attitude that life is hard, but God is good. Maybe He just wants you to say, “You know what? I’m ready, God, to let you be God again.” To do as the psalmist does in Psalm 95:6, to basically say, “Come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” Maybe that’s part of what He wants you to do again. Just to freshly kneel down before Him and say, “You’re the sovereign One. You’re in charge.”

2. When life is hard, look for opportunities to share the gospel, to share with others about Jesus. Remember, what seems to be an obstacle to us, from the sovereign, providential view of God, is really an opportunity. What seems to be a setback is really a setup. We’re not stuck. We’re right where God wants us to be. We’re positioned to be able to share the message of Jesus Christ.

Then the third part of our life application is a passage for reflection. Just if you feel the need to just get re-oriented a little bit, I would encourage you to look this week, in your quiet time, at Isaiah, chapter 40, verses 21 to 31. Spend some time there. Let God talk to you from that section of His Word.

Let’s pray together. Father, we just thank You so much for this Book. It is a living Book. It is a Book that will correct our thinking. It will instruct us and teach us and train us. Father, we all need to know how to respond rightly when life unravels. I just want to thank You for being a great God. I want to thank You for being a faithful God. I want to thank You that I can say…we can say together…our God is an awesome God. We just thank You. We thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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