Sunday, September 12, 2010

God's Gifts

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake..." (Philippians 1:29).

Our fellowship has spent the past three week studying the opening chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians, a book most noted for its instruction to rejoice, and yet insomuch as joy is related to the American Dream, the first chapter doesn't give a Christian much to rejoice over. Paul is in prison for proclaiming the gospel. Other preachers are attempting to afflict him while he's there. Death is knocking at his door. And yet, Paul is brimming with joy. Why?

In verse 12 Paul lets his readers know that his time in prison is no accident. Instead it is the avenue by which God is making Himself known among the imperial guard and strengthening other Christians to speak boldly. Paul says, "I am put here for the defense of the gospel" (Phil. 1:16). He was not sitting on his hands and waiting for deliverance or bemoaning the fact that life was hard and he was there without just cause. It wasn't a pit-stop on the way to God's plan; it was God's plan. For Paul, living, be it in prison or as a free man, was Christ.

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ..." (Philippians 1:27).

So many times we look at the hard things in life as God's "boot camp to a better me." I don't mean to be offensive, but as my pastor so bluntly put it, "We are not the point!" Our trials are not just about making us better, happier self-absorbed people. They are not about simply refining our marriage, parenting, or stewardship skills. God is into His own glory and has granted (or more poignantly, gifted) suffering to us that in it and through it we might bring glory to Him.

So what is your life about? Who are your trials for? Are you just waiting and praying for them to end, or are you pouring yourself out living a radical life of peace, joy, love, patience, and humility in the midst of your chaos, all for the gospel and glory of Christ? Or are you not suffering at all? Are you blissfully pursuing the American Dream with no thought to being poured out at all? Can you give more, go more, love more for the sake of the One who was broken and spilled out for you?

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