A Van by the River

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Go ahead and turn to the book of Philippians chapter one. We’re on the story, the, uh, excuse me, new series together on Joy in the broken. And the interesting thing about Joy in the broken is that the apostle Paul writes the book of Philippians in prison, and he mentions joy some 19 times, joy and rejoicing in the Lord some 19 times in this book, as he is enduring the hardships of prison, saying to us that regardless of circumstances, to those who know the Lord, there is a joy that outlives the trials that we may go through in life. What we know about circumstances is that circumstances change, and the reason we know we can have joy in Jesus is that joy in Jesus remains consistent because Jesus stays the same. It’s not a matter of of if you’re going to go through trials, but when you go through trials and the encouragement that Paul gives is not to allow your circumstance to sway your faith in Christ, but rather let truth lead your walk in Jesus. The beginning of chapter one. We studied this together, talking about grace being messy, but God giving his grace to us. And through the birth of the church of in Philippi in Acts chapter 16, we saw that God took some individuals of of some difficult backgrounds and circumstances, and God grew within them his spirit, his desire for for them in this world. And let their truth lead them.

And Paul gets to chapter one and verse 12, and he begins to describe circumstances, more specifically circumstances in his life. And he’s recognizing for us that just because you know the Lord doesn’t mean life goes easy. There are trials that we will endure. We all have varying things that we will experience that that will challenge us in our trust in Jesus. What am I, one of the classics, I guess in the movie world for us would be the The Story of The Wizard of Oz, right? If you haven’t seen that, then you are un-American. I don’t know what that means, but if you haven’t seen it, the story goes like this. There’s Dorothy who gets caught in Never Never Land. I’m combining two stories in a giant tornado lands on a yellow brick road. Right. She follows it. She gathers some friends along the way. But, you know, along this journey, they’re outlining the course that that has laid out for them this yellow brick road that they’re supposed to follow. And on the way they encounter some things, they recognize that circumstances might challenge them from the journey that they are called to walk on. And it goes like this. Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my right, you know it. You’re even saying it in your head right now. You’re picturing them skipping down the yellow brick road, aren’t you? Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.

Right. And Paul thought of that coming to this passage of Scripture as he wants you to, to look at the thought and say it this way. Lions and tigers and bears. Who cares? Because there’s joy to come in. Jesus. The circumstances are always going to change. But Christ will always be consistent in your life. And the reason that you can have joy in the areas that you are is that Jesus walks with you. My son is at that age where he likes Disney, and so he picks one movie and 3000 times later we have. We know every word that exists in that movie. You know what I’m talking about, right? As a parent, if Walt Disney were alive, we’d line up and still strangle him, right? Okay, okay. Just watch that. Right. My kid watches the Croods. We’re into the Croods now in our house, and they are crude. And and they have this one phrase. The dad always says it’s about he always. He’s a caveman, and he always comes out of the cave, and he’s afraid. And he always tells his kids, never not be afraid, right? And then he sends them all out into the world to to do whatever they need to do. But the entire time, he just wants them to be afraid of everything around them. Can I tell you the best way to get where you don’t need to be, or where to avoid? Where you should be, is to start worrying about everywhere you shouldn’t be.

The lions and tigers and bears are everywhere. But Jesus is with you. When Jesus calls you. It’s not about what you’re avoiding. It’s about who you’re becoming in him. Sometimes we have the tendency to treat Jesus religiously as labeling ourselves. You know, I’m a good person because I don’t do this, and I don’t do this, and I don’t do this, and that’s not that. That may be in your mind what makes a good person, but it’s not according to God’s mind. What makes a godly person? Godliness is demonstrated through our relationship in Christ. It’s not about never not being afraid. But about recognizing there are lions and tigers and bears. And there’s also Jesus. And circumstances come and go. But the strength that Jesus provides endures them all. And the hope that Jesus gives. What could steer you from your walk with Christ? Where? Where are your pitfalls? What what could deter you? How bad do you want the finish line? What are the chains that imprison you that might stop you? That’s what Paul is discussing in in this, uh, this section of scripture from Philippians one, verses 12 on into the end. And then he gets to the very end. He describes his life and the circumstances he’s experiencing, the trials that he’s having at the very end. In light of what he’s going through in life. He encourages us as believers through the trials that we may endure as well, starting in verse 27.

I’ve titled this message. You’ll probably see in your notes in a van down by the river. Right. And what I mean by that is, none of us want to spiritually live in a van down by the river. God has called us for so much more, and Paul uses his example as a way of encouraging the life of the believers and understanding what Jesus has for them. And so in verse 12, he begins to describe his circumstance as one who is in prison. And he says, now, I want you to know, brethren, 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 that the most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. In verse 12. I love the way that Paul sums up his circumstance, because he reminds me of how much of a pity party I can throw sometimes, right? I mean, if you read in verse 21 he says that my circumstances has turned out for the greater good. This circumstance, this one word that Paul describes his entire life under is described in acts chapter 21 to the end of the book.

And then when the book ends, his circumstance still continues as one being imprisoned. Now, I don’t know about you. But me in prison writing a letter, I’m probably going to sum it up with more than. And that was my circumstance, right? You know that this this kind of happened to me. But but. And Paul begins to describe the joy that he has in Jesus. When Paul talks about this circumstance, the reason that he sums it up so specifically and so short, is because of this word that’s found in verse 12. It describes and gives us insight to how Paul is perceiving his situation. He says in verse 12, it’s for the greater good of the progress of the gospel. This word progress that Paul is using to describe his circumstances, one that he borrowed from a Roman military as a Roman military firm. In the military. They would send these engineer soldiers ahead of the Roman army, and their purpose was to pave the way for the battle that would ensue. As the army now has safe passage to the journey they need to take. Paul is looking at the chains of his moment, his circumstance of lions and tigers and bears, and he’s saying, you know, I could I could complain about this moment. But I have no reason to. Because there’s progress. God has allowed me to be in a circumstance that we have prayed for as a body of believers that no one has been able to reach.

I’m in the Praetorian Guard, he says. The leadership of Rome. I found my way through prison next to the leadership of Rome. Bible tells us the way that Paul was chained as there was a there was a soldier who would have been locked up to Paul, and they would have switched out every six hours. A new soldier would have came in, come in and been chained to Paul as a prisoner, and they would kept guard of him. And Paul, when you’re chained to the Apostle Paul for six hours, guess what the Apostle Paul is going to talk about? And so he finds himself, person after person, sharing in Caesar’s household under his leadership, the gospel. And now the gospel is penetrating Rome. It’s hit the capital and God is being glorified. And he’s looking at his chains and his circumstances. He’s saying, you know, this, this is just the circumstance that I happen to find myself in a moment. But but rather than complain about it, if I just open my eyes, I begin to recognize that the place that God has me is a special place where none of us have been with the gospel yet. In Rome. Statistics say that at the height of the empire, about 50% of the people who were in the Roman Empire became believers. How did that happen? Well, I think the body of Christ prayed for it.

And I think Jesus answered by providing circumstances that we may maybe not even looking for the hand of God in it to use for the progress of the gospel. Circumstances are always going to waver. But when your faith is in circumstances and your joy is in circumstances, that joy will be fleeting. But when it rests in Jesus and what he desires for eternity, and your hope is in that, and you see the progress taking place and saying in your life, God has you in a position. And and it may not be the position you want, and it may not be ideal, but you’re in a place where there is now a believer to share his truth for his gospel. There is reason to rejoice. If real, genuine change takes place. It happens through Christ in the gospel. And God puts us in positions to do that. And Paul writes in Second Timothy chapter two and verse nine, I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even unto bonds. But the word of God is not bound. I was reading about some Christians who have endured hardship, some recently in history. When I was reading was about Fanny Crosby, who she was blinded at six years old or six weeks old, and she came to write some of the greatest hymns in in Christianity. I don’t I don’t know about you, but but, but when you come to that place in your life where you realize you’re blind, maybe, maybe music and being able to read music and understand how to play that, you would look at that as an obstacle.

But Fanny Crosby looked at it as an opportunity to to sing God’s praise even more. And and through her circumstance, when when people know her story and come to sing the hymns of praise that she offers, souls are encouraged through that. Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, who whose ministry took over the British Isles for the Lord. Susanna Wesley is is one of those unsung heroes in Christianity, because she she had before, before there existed the technology and labor saving devices in hospitals now and and before long before disposable diapers and and washing machines. This lady had 19 children. Wait a minute. Did you guys hear me? This lady had 19 kids. She had 19 kids and only she had 19 kids. She raised them in the Lord. I mean, you think of lions and tigers and bears when I consider my my household and two kids, I’m like looking at her thinking, man, if she were around standing ovation, we would roll the red carpet out every Sunday for this lady. How does she do it? To raise them in Jesus. And things weren’t always easy. She was faithful. Lions and tigers and bears. Who cares? We have Christ. And I sit here today knowing that I’m going to go through circumstances and lives that are going to be up and down.

But I can stare at the face of adversity and say. You’ve already been defeated. I’m just waiting for the party to start when Jesus returns. Jesus has victory over sin and Satan and death. Circumstances don’t own me. In the moment, I begin to look at my circumstances rather than Christ. I give it power over me. But they don’t own me. Jesus does. Paul looks at his chains. And he says there is reason to rejoice because God is still at work. And he goes on and he talks about his critics. And he says in verse 15, some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill. 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 and my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul says in this passage. He says in verse 14, the way he’s continuing, he’s outlining the way some people have proclaimed God’s Word. In verse 14 he says, the way that he proclaimed God’s word, that he he teaches God’s Word or he speaks.

It says at the very end of verse 14 to speak the Word of God without fear. This word speak is not one for preach, but rather to simply share in conversation. And we saw this in acts 16 when Paul got into Philippi. Just the people he encountered, he talked to with Jesus when he was in prison, when he was chained to a Roman guard, as they were chained to him, they had to listen to him. And so Paul would share and he says, but there are critics whose interest in the way they share Jesus isn’t really solely about Jesus. He calls them critics. You know, I’ve been in I’ve been in Christian circles enough to know. The reason some people refuse to go to church is because of the way they were treated by other people in church. And can I tell you? You’re too good. To allow someone else to have the power to control you and your relationship with Christ. Jesus has called us for so much more than the circumstance that someone else might bring on us through a dissatisfying attitude. And Paul is looking at this criticism and he’s saying, you know what? I have to rejoice in these moments is the fact that at least the gospel is being preached. But do you know what these people are doing in the midst of preaching the gospel? Is that who’s better? He uses this word in this passage that refers to selfish ambition.

It’s like it’s like the way that you recognize a critic is is the way they canvas. It’s a political terme. They’re they’re canvassing for position. It’s like this war whose church is cooler. And scholarly people will come to passes like this and say, I don’t care. What I care about is Jesus. Now. I would love to see churches throughout this valley. In fact, on men’s group on Sunday we had another pastor come and share of a new church that’s just starting next town over from us. When we moved here, it was for the purpose of seeing just, uh, mainstream Christian churches throughout this valley proclaiming his truth that we may rejoice in him. We don’t care. Don’t care what label you put on yourself, don’t care what background you come from. What we care about is you knowing Jesus. And so whatever it is that we need to do to knock down those defensive walls within your life, that you can just sit in the simplicity of your seat this morning and just worship and praise and seek Jesus. That’s what we’re after. And I hope, regardless of whatever circumstance you’ve ever had, whatever critic you’ve ever faced, whatever someone has ever said to you that’s hurt you, deterred you, and distracted you and lions and tigers and bears from Christ. I hope that we can just let it aside us, as Paul’s describing here and just simply say, at least Jesus is being proclaimed.

There was an argument that would often take place or not much. It was tension that took place between the ministry of of John Wesley and George Whitfield, and someone came to John Wesley once and they asked him. Somebody asked John Wesley, do they think that they will see, uh, George Whitfield in heaven? He says, no, I don’t I don’t think I’m going to see him in heaven. So they said, then you don’t think George Whitfield is a is a converted man? He says, of course he’s a converted man, Wesley said. But I do not expect to see him in heaven because he he’ll be so close to the throne of God, and I’ll be so far away. Even in their tension together. The beauty of Jesus was being made known. And Paul says. And this a rejoice. He tells them in verse 19, he’s thankful for the prayers, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul uses this interesting thought about the spirit that’s supplying him in these moments. This word supply is the same word that we used in English, where we get the English word for chorus. So Paul takes this word supply. And for us today it means chorus. How in the world does that happen? Well, this word supply is describing a Greek event that would take place at a festival or an activity within the city.

When a city wanted to rejoice over something that they were going through, or some festivity that they had, someone in the city would fit the bill very lavishly, extravagantly, to pay for singers and dancers and the whole party supplies. And so, through the lavish provision of that individual, the town would literally rejoice in celebration. And what Paul is saying in this moment is that in his circumstance, in being faithful to God, God in his grace, supplied him with what he needed, literally rejoicing. Enjoy over the Lord. And sometimes we look at that thinking, man, how how could I do that in that circumstance? But can I tell you? Jesus supplies sufficiently for what you need for the day. Sometimes we think of hardships and we think, man, I could never do that. I could never go through that. I could never endure that. But we don’t consider as we’re making those statements is that Jesus meets you in those moments, and he supplies for you as you need. In fact, the provision that he gives gives opportunity for your soul to sing, regardless of circumstance, as you faithfully trust in him beyond the circumstance. Paul wasn’t reacting to his critics because Paul was focused on Christ. Because Paul knew Jesus was the one that supplied.

So then Paul describes as he describes his chains and his critics. He then describes his crisis in verse 20. According to my servant, expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me, and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better. Yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith. So that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus. My coming to you again. God. This is glorious today, as he was yesterday. And this is glorious. Today’s will be tomorrow. We by our actions, don’t make God more glorious. He is glorious. What Paul is saying in this verse. Is that his life is used to radiate that glory. At some point in your life, you’ve been outside at night and you’ve paused within those moments to stare up at the sky. And you looked at the beauty of the stars and the brightness of the moon.

And you admired it. And you gloried in it. Maybe you worship the Lord through it. But as people, there’s a desire within us for more. One of the things that we’ve created to draw the nearness of the stars is a telescope. We just want to examine the beauty more than what we see today. And while Paul is saying about his life in Philippians chapter one, verses 20 and on, he’s saying to the believers, there, listen, there’s nothing more I’d rather be than with Jesus. I really just want to be with Jesus. But I’m recognizing what Jesus is going to do through me, and God is using me as a telescope. He isn’t more glorious. But as I point the spotlight to him, the beauty of who he is can radiate more through me so that you can see him in your own life. And he’s saying to the body of believers, because my choice is to be a telescope for Jesus, that you are then encouraged. He says, through my story, it’s becoming your story in Christ. For us as believers. The the encouragement then becomes Let God use your story. When you look at the church in Philippi, as Paul planted, they were people that were just messy in the grace of God. And God grew them in a church came out of that because they allowed the Lord to use their story as a telescope to his glory.

And sometimes we think about our circumstances and say, you know, I wish this was a little bit different than I could serve Jesus this way, or I want to change this, and then I’ll start serving God. But Paul is saying in this passage, the moment where you have the progress that you’ve made, you’re in a position maybe no one else has ever been into to proclaim his gospel. And yes, you may want to change circumstances, but Jesus has you right where he wants you. Use your story to encourage others. I look at this passage of Scripture and I say to myself, um, why are you such a wimp? Trust in Christ. I mean, in these moments, Paul’s gone through chains and criticism and this crisis in his life. And and if he’s doing this and he’s seeing God be faithful, what in the world am I screaming about? Lions and tigers and bears. Make it count. Maybe if I were to say to you this morning on the theme of Philippians chapter one, the the verse that we typically point out is, is verse one and verse, uh, excuse me, chapter one and verse 21, for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Can I tell you? The expression of Paul’s joy in Jesus is rooted in that verse. If you stop and you ask the question, why is Paul so joyful in his in his circumstance? It’s because of what Paul shares in this passage.

He’s given everything to Christ. Why do I have joy in Jesus? How would you answer the question? For me to live as what? Dice game. For me to live as white and to die as what? I know sometimes we like to trick ourselves as Christians. I know the answer is Christ. For me to live as Christ to die is gain. Yes, you know, but maybe we should ask ourselves if we give someone else the opportunity to fill it out. What would they say? By my life. For me to live as white and to die as white. Paul describes his life the way it’s encouraging believers, and he gets to the very end of verse 27 and he says this. Only conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. So whether I come and I see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel, in no way alarmed by your opponents, which is a sign of destruction for them. But if your salvation for you, and that too from God for to you, and has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now here to be in me.

The greatest weapon that you have. In the midst of adversity. Is the consistency of your own life. It’s not the power of a sermon, but rather the consistency of living for Jesus. Paul says in Second Corinthians chapter three, you are a letter written in our hearts, known and read by all men. This word of striving together that comes in verse 27, is the same place where we get the Greek word for athlete today. It’s this picture. As Paul is writing in verse 27, he says, it’s not. It’s not an individual, but it’s us working and striving together and encouraging each other, exerting towards the goal that we may have victory in Christ. As long as you live for Jesus, nothing will keep you from walking where God has called you. We have confidence. It says in verse 28. Not alarmed by our opponents. We’re alarmed by our opponents. Paul’s using another military word here, where a horse is prepared for battle. They take the horse in the battle, and as a horse approaches the battle, it gets scared, tucks tail and runs. But Paul says in this passage in no way alarmed by your opponents, which is a sign of destruction for them. When your lions and tigers and bears come, you look back at your circumstance and just profess to it that it’s already been defeated in Christ, and you desire to walk with him through it. Here’s why.

Because verse 30 says. Experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now here to be in me. The reason I stand in Christ becomes so powerful is because we’re not doing it alone. If Satan could get you to believe one thing this morning. I think it would be that you were alone in your battles. You want you to think the fight isn’t worth it. That it would be best if he just take a seat on the sideline and just settle for good. You know, one of the dangers, I think, that we have in American Christianity today is this thought of apathy. We just look around at things physically and things look okay physically. And so we just assume they’re okay spiritually. And I believe the reason that we do that is as people is because in our culture, we’ve trained us, not ourselves, not to think spiritually, academically, we’re trained and and and athletically we’re trained and artistically we’re trained. But when it comes to the spiritual life, we’re just left wanting because there’s separation between church and state. Talking about religion is taboo. Why? Why express such interest in things? It’s a personal thing. Leave people to themselves to figure it out when in when. In fact, what you believe is the most important thing about you. Because what you believe determines why you do what you do. And Paul’s looking at this circumstance and he’s saying, don’t be apathetic.

For to say the the nice thing about apathy is that you don’t have to exert yourself to show that you’re sincere about it. That was a joke. Guys, laugh. Laugh. I’m just kidding. And what Jesus wants to do through you, in you is by far more important. There’s progress. There is a place that he has you, that he has no other. And there is a way that he desires to move in those moments by your trust in him. And he’s already defeated lions and tigers and bears. Or we’re waiting for a return to just celebrate with him in it. You’re not alone. And the fight battles alone are different than what the Apostle Paul calls us to, because in verse 27 he says, we are athletes in this together in Christ. That God, just as God used his story. God would use your story to encourage the body of Christ to continue to do what he has called us to do that when we walk the yellow brick road, we don’t stop at the van by the river, but we keep on going. Don’t never not be afraid. But know that regardless of the circumstance, Jesus is already declared victory over it and you belong to him. As you trusted in Christ and what he’s accomplished for you on the cross. Rather than look at your adversity and giving it the power over you. The encouragement is to stare down your adversity and let it see Christ through you. Because Jesus has made us all his telescopes.

A Messy Grace