I received a wonderful invitation at the beginning of July to be a guest lecturer at Boston Baptist College for their blitz class. It is a two-week "crunch" class that runs from 7:30 AM-12:20 PM Monday through Friday. While it is somewhat taxing for all those involved, it is a great time growing together in God's Word. The subject matter we've been discussing is Paul & his missionary endeavors, particularly highlighting the first church planted as a result of the Macedonian call- the church at Philippe. As we've explored his journeys and examined the book of Philippians, I'm reminded and convicted anew about what he was willing to undergo as the servant of Christ. While he sits imprisoned, the Holy Spirit has him pen a letter about joy in Christ that transcends any circumstance in this life. Hit pause and please read Philippians chapter 1
In chapter one, a type of circumstance that he brings to the forefront is how we are to respond when going through any opposition from the unsaved or unjustified criticism from those who are saved. While discussing the difficulties he's faced, he also speaks of the Spirit's power, Christ's sufficiency, the Gospel's need to advance, the goal of seeing people converted and saints edified.
The thought that I've not been able to escape is how often we react oppositely.
When there are struggles, troubles, criticism, or even opposition for following Christ, we look for "an out". We desire an avenue that will alleviate the situation rather than seek God's enablement to go and grow through it. Paul's attitude is summarized at the end of the chapter. He longs to be with Christ but is content, with God's help, to remain on earth for the advancement of the Gospel and to be a help to the churches. Even though other believers were making his imprisonment difficult due to their envy, Paul remained "all in" for Christ. He called the believers at the Philippian church to adopt the same mindset.
How can we adopt such a mindset?
Recognize temptations for what they are- moments to indulge in our desires and believe God isn't good. Often, when we experience temptations in our daily life or during times of difficulty, we want to operate on how we feel rather than what God has said. The devil's lie since the beginning has always been to question if God is good and invite us to rule ourselves independently. We need the Spirit's help and the truth of the Word as our most trusted allies.
Remember that our circumstances are not greater than our Savior's sufficiency- reading about Paul's attitude towards adversity in life and relationships reminds me that the Jesus who called him never forsook him; He was sufficient for every beating, accusation, misunderstanding, undesirable circumstance, lashing, betrayal, and abandonment. These issues didn't drive him AWAY from Christ, they hurled him towards Him.
Readjust our outlook to an eternal one- God is drawing the unsaved to salvation (they will resist) and is working in the lives of believers. Paul saw beyond what he wanted and what was currently unfortunate for him. He saw the unsaved's protests against him as evidence of their condition and their desperate need of Christ. He saw the purpose of his Savior in having him remain in unpalatable conditions as a discipling example for other believers in the various churches. He looked beyond this realm for answers and found solutions in an eternal outlook.
Outs abound, my friend- indulge in the reaction you desire, quit or leave your church, cut off a Christian relationship, don't seek pastoral counsel, isolation, etc. Christ is calling you beyond those "outs" and to lean into your situation with His help.Friend, can I ask you to consider your current attitude or response towards whatever difficulty may be taking place in your life? Is it one that says, "God, I need your help, believe in your sufficiency, and ask for you to further your Gospel work in me and towards others?”