Monday, September 12, 2011

Turning Adversity Into Advantage (Phil.1:12-26)

Joy is missing in many lives. One pastor said, “Many Christians look like they’ve been baptized in vinegar.” Why? Circumstances have worn them down. Their joy is dependent upon a “perfect life”, and there is no such thing. God has designed life to throw grit in the gears to move you toward himself and growing up. Joy is an internal, constant reality, but happiness is external, a fluctuating happening.
Paul’s life, for example, was no piece of cake. He didn’t live luxury and wear silk robes. He spent four years in Jail (two in Caesarea, two in Rome), all because of trumped-up charges. He was shipwrecked on the way to Rome, snake-bitten, chained to bodyguards 24 hours a day in 4-hour shifts with no privacy. Yet he said, “I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” What was his secret for staying positive in prison?

Paul said, “I am in chains for Christ.” What did he prefer? To go to Rome and hold an evangelistic crusade in the Coliseum with 50,000 people. What was reality? Prison, but with Roman Emperor Nero footing the bill- fed and housed  at government expense. Emperor Nero’s guards also protected him. Paul used the time to write much of the New Testament, and he had two years to convert many of the up-and-coming military men, who were chained to him on a rotating basis every four hours.
Remember this example. FEIKE exercise machines promoted on television try to convince you that machine allows you to lose weight, get in shape, and never break a sweat. How preposterous! Muscles only develop when they are stressed, and fat is burned only when strenuous exercise puts demands on the body’s fuel supply. Genuine conditioning always includes exertion, pain, and suffering. You have to push yourself to grow. Football and wrestling coaches often say, as they push their athletes in conditioning, “It’s not doing any good until it hurts.”
The lesson? God develops a purpose behind every one of my problems. Phil.1:12, “What has happened to me….served to advance the gospel,” 1:13, it spoke to unbelievers (whole guard), and 1:14, it encouraged believers to evangelize. When we accept that problems are not meaningless, and when we see that God develops a purpose behind each, we can have joy in the middle of it all. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom.8:28). What is Paul’s next secret to turn adversity to advantage?  
3.   KNOW WHAT IS IMPORTANT (Phil.1:18): 
What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Paul could have been angry, “All my life they’ve ripped on me.” He could have been jealous, “Someone else will become famous.”  He could have been vindictive, “Just wait till I get out of here!”  Rather, knowing what was important – the gospel, Paul had joy!
 With godly priorities, circumstances didn’t steal his joy. Proverbs 3:6 gives us a clue, “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success” (TLB). Let that simmer in you. You see that much of what we fight over is not worth it. Pick your battles. Don’t go to war over none-essentials. Learn what is trivial or significant. How does God help us put life in the right order? Verse 19 says, “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Jesus helped Paul keep hope alive. You’ve got to have hope to cope!
When daily “grit in the gears” wears you out, or daily crises almost put you down, and you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, put God first. Focus on what really counts, and nothing can devastate you. Wound you? Yes, but it will not devastate you. Get God first.
Read this story. Kathleen was a lively 13-year-old. One night, she asked to buy a leather miniskirt, one like “all the other girls” in her class were wearing. Even as she described the benefits, she was expecting a negative response. Her mom say, “No.” Kathleen then launched into a diatribe about how she would be the only one without a leather miniskirt. Hearing “No” again, Kathleen stomped off but quickly turned to explain, “If I don’t have this miniskirt, my friends won’t like me.” Mom still said, “No.” The daughter got huffy and played her trump card, “I thought you loved me” she wailed. “I do” Mom smiled, “so the answer is no.” Kathleen mom says, “Even though I had won the battle, I felt I was losing the war. Then one of those unexplainable things happened. An inner voice said to me, “Hold fast!” It dawned on me that Kathleen and I were not skirmishing over a miniskirt but, were having a battle of wills.”
Soon, Kathleen, her nose and eyes red from crying, walked down the stairs in pajamas. “Mom, I’m sorry. I was scared that you were going to let me win!” she sniffed. Mom was perplexed, but then realized that Kathleen had wanted her to win! She was convinced Mom had done what a mother needed to do (Ref. Focus on the Family, October 1993).  You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives. Bankruptcy? Yes. Poor health? Yes. Divorce? Rebellious child? Loss of job? Yes. With God’s power at work, and you focusing on what really counts, you do not need to be devastated. Rather, you can have joy.
4.   DO THE MOST NECESSARY (Phil.1:24-25):  
But it is more necessary for you that I remain…I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” Ready to die and wanting to go to heaven, Paul chose to do what was best for others. Paul had a purpose for which to live, the good news of grace. That purpose directed his decisions.
Take heed to this story. A woman wanted to get married in her early 20s, but her sense of duty to aging parents made that impossible. She committed herself to caring for them in their illness. Nursing them years made courtship impossible. But the right man was willing to wait. He in his upper 30s and she in her lower 30s, they finally married. They were blessed with two children. God honors those who do the necessary things.
If you had to fill in this sentence, “For me to live is _____,”  how would you? (Career? sex? kids? marriage? nice house, sports, food, divorce, wealth, possessions, pleasure, power, prestige, position?) Examining the trends in society today, you’d find that the three most common answers are:-

4.1. Possessions:-
We are a consumer-driven society. We believe that fulfillment comes via things. We strive to keep up with the Joneses, but as soon as we catch up to them, they refinance and shoot out ahead of us again. We buy things that we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like. Consumer debts continue to rise through economic ups and downs. Credit card companies now pitch their cards to college students, some of whom run up bills of $ 10-20,000, even though they do not have jobs. Why? We buy the lie that things make us happy. And we highly value happiness.

 4.2. Pleasure:-
Monday through Friday are endured so that we can party or enjoy on weekends. The 21st Century motto is, “If it feels good, do it.” We tie into the latest thing and fred if we are not going to see, taste, or enjoy what others do. Yielding to peer pressure doesn’t end when you leave your teen years.

4.3. Power or Position:-
The Tennis star Andre Aggasi’s advertisements say it all, “Image is everything!” So, buying from the name stores is crucial. Owning the right car or truck is essential. Having a gold card to flash at lunch is vital. Having titles is seen as significant, and working for the right company is helpful. All these things are seen as bringing fulfillment, but these don’t last. Only investing our lives in things that last really satisfy. “Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
As Paul wrestled with his own desires to get out from under the burden of house arrest and his coming execution, he decided that he needed to hang around, First, for the benefit of others, Second, to bring the good news of forgiveness, and Third, to encourage believers by his presence and faith. What is the lesson here? Joy is found in putting Jesus first, others second, and yourself third. Simple? Yes! Simplistic? No! Doing the most necessary thing is the third secret for turning adversity to advantage.

Billionaire Donald Trump, once worth $ 5 billion and nearly bankrupt, has rebounded financially. He also divorced and re-married. Starting over seems to be something he likes. He told a television interviewer in 1994, “I like to make stars of my wives, but once they are, the challenge is gone. I need to look for something else to satisfy.”
Why is there so much unhappiness in society? It is solely because of our pre-occupation withMe, Myself, and I”!  When self is number one, eventually unhappiness will abound. God has made human for relationships. Relationships work best when you put Jesus first, others second, and self third. That is the foundational principle upon which God designed human beings.



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