AGCC sun. a.m. 4/13/1997
TEXT: Philipp. 1:12-30
INTRO: What is it that can cause one Christian to live so much in defeat and another Christian who goes through just as many trials comes out in victory?
Have you ever met a Christian whose life has been touched by pain and loss
and yet they are joyful and confident? WHY?
What one person sees as OPPOSITION, another sees as OPPORTUNITY.
A modern proverb says it well, "when suffering comes it will either make you
BITTER or BETTER".
It is not so much what happens to us in life that destroys us as much as it is
how we choose to respond to what happens to us!
It is possible to find JOY in the midst of struggles, to know JOY in the heat
of fiery trials. We must look for the OPPORTUNITY in trials and not just the
ILLUS: Charles Goodyear was given a prison sentence, resulting
from a contempt of court citation. While in prison, Goodyear didn't complain.
Instead, he became an assistant in the kitchen. While there, he continued to
work on an idea. In the process he discovered a method for vulcanizing rubber.
His lemon, a prison sentence, became our lemonade. We have better tires, which
means better travel and a better way of life.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that some of the greatest growth and joy
comes through the struggles we go through in life if we respond to them
I. STRUGGLE OF EXAMPLE 1:12-18
A. Benefits of Trials! 1:12-14
1. It is interesting to note that Paul is the one in prison, yet it is he who is
telling the Christians in Philippi how being in prison has been a good
a. Some people immediately see all the horrible things about trials,
b. Paul looked for the positive things that can come from trials!
2. While it was true that Paul's freedom to preach the Gospel in the cities
has been curtailed, he now had a unique opportunity to preach the Gospel
to the Royal palace guards in Rome
a. this was the elite group of soldiers called the "Praetorian Guards"
b. they numbered around 9,000
c. Paul may have been in prison for an extended period of time, thus
giving him opportunity to preach to many of these soldiers as they
took turns being "chained" to Paul the prisoner!
(1. each day a different soldier would be bound to Paul the prisoner by
(2. The real question here is: "Who was REALLY the prisoner in chains; Paul or them!!!?"
3. Paul was able through his trial to reach an audience with the Gospel that
might never have heard it!
a. Through the royal guards even the highest members of government
might be reached!
b. Rather than see where Paul couldn't preach, he found joy in where he
c. We would do well to learn this lesson in trials!
d. If we can't do what we thought we would like to have done, maybe we
can with God's help see something else we can do!
ILLUS: An athlete was blinded in a freak boxing accident. The
doctors told him, "You'll never see again." The social workers said, "Learn
braille, stay home, accept the fact that you will be dependent on others for the
rest of your life." But Morris Frank fought to regain his independence. The
result was the development of "The Seeing Eye," the organization that trains
Seeing-eye dogs for the blind. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 16.
4. Paul did not see every setback in his life as a loss, but looked for what
could be gained from what he could not control.
a. Not every painful event is always a setback
b. Some painful things help us find something positive!
ILLUS: When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the
covers smooth. Then it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up one
could get more distance out of it. So they started manufacturing them with
dimpled covers. So it is with life; it takes some rough spots in your life to
make you go your farthest. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 12.
5. Two positive things became immediately clear to Paul through his imprisonment:
a. A group of soldiers that might never have been reached were reached
b. Other Christians became bolder in their faith when they saw how Paul
handled the trial that came his way, thus many more people were preaching the good news boldly than Paul could have ever done alone!
6. Paul had to go looking for these positives, he could have sat and bemoaned
his own suffering but he looked for benefits outside of himself!
a. this is so important when we are suffering, get your eyes off your own
trial and pain!
b. look for ways to benefit others, instead of self!
c. This is where joy comes from anyway, from doing good to others and
B. Burdens of Trials 1:15-18
1. The one burden Paul particularly felt was the rejection that he felt from
other preachers who took advantage of his misfortune to puff themselves
up in the eyes of others.
a. These were not heretics! These were not apostates...these were real
born again preachers!
b. While some had been made BOLD by Paul's example to preach the Gospel for the right reasons, others had become BOLD to preach the
Gospel and mock Paul's lack of faith for being in prison or something
along this line.
c. While Paul was looking for the positive, he was not just a positive confessor that pretended there was nothing bad going on, he confesses here accurately the negative side of his situation as well as the positive, but his focus will stay on the positive!
2. No doubt there were some who saw an opportunity to promote their own
ministry now that the famous Paul was in prison...selfish ambition.
a. Though their motives were wrong, their message had remained correct
b. Paul chooses to ignore the faulty messengers and rejoice that the correct message at least was getting out!
3. Paul understood that we can spend a lot of time getting frustrated over
things and people we can't control and get sidetracked with our joy over
what God is doing....
a. Paul chose to stay focused: "What does it matter? The important thing
is that in every way, whether from false motives of true, Christ is preached. AND BECAUSE OF THIS I REJOICE. YES, I WILL CONTINUE
b. Paul understood that broken things are what God often uses to bring out
the fragrance of His Joy in our lives!
ILLUS: God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume--it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.
Vance Havner --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 15.
4. Notice Paul was not just tolerating the situation, he actually found JOY
and REJOICING in the situation, even when he was being taken advantage
a. this came as a choice, not naturally!
b. Paul had a greater focus on God than he did on himself or others!...this
is what made it possible to have joy in these trials!
c. those same choices are still available to us today!
d. Does this mean it is easy? NO; necessary? YES!
II. STRUGGLE OF EXPECTATIONS 1:19-30
A. Basis of Triumph! 1:19-21
1. Paul realizes that none of the things taking place in his life were happening
without having been bathed in prayers and with the Holy Spirit's guidance.
a. this alone gave him confidence in the midst of suffering!
b. Paul did not see only darkness, he also saw light!
ILLUS: Never fear shadows. That just means a light's shining
somewhere nearby. --James
S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc,
1988) p. 21.
2. Paul saw "deliverance" in every trial...but not necessarily "deliverance" like some of those preachers who were taking advantage of him might have
a. For Paul, either end of imprisonment brought deliverance: LIFE
b. Paul did not see death as a loss, but as a gain...so he couldn't lose!
3. What the world defines as deliverance (or what some "faith" teachers define as "deliverance") isn't always God's idea of deliverance...Paul was
ready for whatever.
a. As God's people we can't lose!
b. God WILL deliver us!
4. Paul had a hard time seeing "loss" in any situation....but that doesn't mean
he didn't see "pain"!
a. Trials can be painful...and we can and should be honest about that,
b. but trials don't have to destroy us or rob us of our Joy in Christ, God
can and often uses trials to do a mighty work in our lives or
B. Baffled Over Tomorrow 1:22-27
1. Paul begins to evaluate both possibilities: death or freedom from jail
a. both would bring gain for him
b. but he also realizes that freedom from jail would allow him to do more
ministry to others, so in this way he sees this as the better of the two
2. Paul's tension here shows us the harmony that he has with God, for either
result is satisfactory for him!
ILLUS: Theodore E. Steinway, president of Steinway and Sons, once
noted, "In one of our concert grand pianos, 243 taut strings exert a pull of
40,000 pounds on an iron frame. It is proof that out of great tension may come
great harmony." --James S.
Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)
3. Even as spiritual as Paul was, he didn't always know what God had for him the next day!
a. notice Paul's statement here: "Whatever happens..." (1:27)
b. Paul's not sure what will happen, but he is sure of his JOY!
4. Paul's concern for them is simple since he doesn't know what will happen to him: "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ."
a. How do you act when a trial strikes your life?
b. Do we pine around feeling sorry for ourselves and act bitter, or do we
demonstrate our faith in God so that those who witness our life see a
life worthy of the Gospel of Christ?
c. We do not have the luxury to react any way we want, we must consider
the Gospel of Christ in our reactions!
C. Bravery Over Tribulation 1:28-30
1. Paul realizes that it is easy to get frightened by all the possible things that
can come in life, but he wants them to understand that even though there
are times when evil doers seem to prevail, that these evildoers are being
judged by our witness...we don't have to be afraid of them!
ILLUS: In the days of Julian the apostate, a scoffer inquired;
"What is your Carpenter doing now?!" The answer of the unperturbed Christian
was: "Making a coffin for your Emperor!".
2. We must realize that Christ suffered, though perfect.....this being so we
can and should expect that suffering may come our way too in life!
3. Believing in God here is linked to also joining Him in suffering...the world
is a fallen place in sin, as we live here we too can expect the confrontation
of a fallen world...but all this is simply confirming the final lot for the
rebellious and assuring us of our ultimate victory!
4. Why does God allow evil to still try His saints?
a. Because He knows that it both confirms our faith and condemns the
wicked by showing their wickedness!
b. He also knows that we are more than conquerors in Christ and that
even though we feel weak at the moment of the trial, we are really
getting stronger in Him because of it!
ILLUS: In the northeastern United States codfish are a big commercial business. Note the following facts: There is a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, the cod still lost its flavor and, in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected.
Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy--the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. And, you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.
Each one of us is in a tank of particular and inescapable circumstances. It is painful enough to stay in the tank. But in addition to our situation, there are God-appointed "catfish" to bring sufficient tension that keeps us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It's all part of God's project to shape our character so we will be more like his Son. Understand why the catfish are in your tank. Understand they are part of God's method of producing character in your life and mine.
Charles Swindoll --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 14.
5. The last thing Paul says to them in this section is that he realizes that
not only is he still struggling, but he knows they are too!
a. They are partners in Joy...and in Trials!
b. This gave them a bond of love as they worked together through their
trials and encouraged each other to "REJOICE"...and "AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!" (Philip. 4:4)
6. The bottom line: We can have joy in Struggles!!!
CONCLUSION: Some of the best things happen during the worst moments of our lives! Pain and suffering has done more to promote the Gospel than has prosperity and peace. Yet, hard times don't mean doom and gloom, in fact, they set the stage for joy many times. There can be joy in the struggles, this is God's miracle!