This morning I had a tough time setting my mind on a study. I prayed and asked for guidance and I opened my electronic bible and my notes from my electronic journal and when I looked at the list of notes February 3, 2016, was at the top and I looked it over. In it, I found my encouragement. I was not sure where to start, but as I read it I saw the example of Paul and his faith, joy, and contentment.
These notes set my sites on Philippians 3 and 4 as well as Acts 28 and in addition to the notes I had John 3:16 on my mind since that was the date yesterday. I began with John 3:16
I looked at John 3:16 but could not stop there. I read John 3:16-21 (ESV). It is such a powerful passage.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
How amazing this is. All of us remember verse 16… some may also know 17 by heart. But what got me this morning was 18-20 and what is in the hearts of those that do not believe.
18 … but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
How sad this is… but not just sad… angry. For those that hate the light, it is not enough to ignore it. They are compelled to try and destroy it… Why? “lest his works should be exposed” (verse 20b).
When I look at that explanation of how people have and will respond to Jesus and His plan for salvation and I am filled with a mix of emotions… First I am saddened that so many refuse to hear it. So many are angered to the point of hatred. But then I am filled with joy at the thought for those who believed enough to face all that and not share a message of doom and gloom nor threat or fear, but a message of Love and Joy. This, despite their circumstances.
I went to Acts 28 when Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Basically, he hits the town and he reaches out to the Jews there and tells them of his plight and they agree that they would like to hear “with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” Acts 28:22 (ESV). So, they arrange a time to meet with Paul.
Paul conveys his experience in Acts 28: 24-28
24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
It had to be heartbreaking for him to see the responses… Certainly, he was thankful for the ones that received it. But so many did not.
We get bummed out when one person does not like what we must say. Paul stood on the Word regardless… strength by his faith and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I then went to Philippians 4. Now I love this book as well as all the prison epistles that Paul wrote. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written while Paul was in prison. All the letters are filled with guidance and encouragement, love and concern for the churches. I love this transition from chapter 3 to 4
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
It is a plea to those who believe but struggle against all who hate the light. Paul is saddened to tears for the lost but he holds fast to Jesus and encourages those who believe not to give up. I love how Paul does not dwell on the challenges but pushes through to his foundation in Christ.
Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)
Verses 4-7 in Philippians 4 remind me of what my focus should be.
Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV) 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul reminds me that I am not alone. God answers my prayers and with his answers comes peace that surpasses understanding and that will guard my heart and mind in Jesus…
Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)
He goes on to offer more encouragement and directs our focus to those things that will keep us focused on Christ and bring us peace.
Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV) 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
It requires focus and attention… especially in difficult times. Paul then speaks of contentment and peace.
Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
He speaks of how many had helped him. But he wants us to know that he is not in need… but contentment.
Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV) 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I pray that I might always hold onto this secret of contentment. I am not ever alone but always with Christ Jesus, my strength.
I look at all these passages and reflect on Paul’s stand on the Word of God and I pray that I too might follow his example. My circumstances are different than his, but none the less they sometimes can be difficult… But If I keep these words in my heart and remember all that God reveals in His Word, I too can stand.
It is like Paul said in Philippians 4:9
“9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
What Joy there is in that knowledge.
Heavenly Father strengthen me through Your Word, Guided by the Holy Spirit.
Help me to follow the example of Paul, who faced all circumstances trusting in Jesus.
Let me not lose hope and patience.
Let me not forget…
“9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me(Paul)—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Thank you, Lord,
In Jesus name, I pray, Amen