We are all faced with different situations and circumstances in this life. We all have a different story to tell about how God is working in our lives, and how He is using or lives today. We can also look back and see how God has used that situation in our lives to bring Him glory......One of the most certain measures of Christian’s spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob him or her of a Spirit Directed JOY! Paul’s maturity is evident as he makes it clear in his life as he goes through!
• Even life threatening situations
All these things did not rob him of joy, but rather it caused his joy to increase. No other New Testament writer understood that truth better than Paul did. Paul was a prime example of a man of God whose joy never stumbled. Paul resisted anything that threatened to come between him and his intimate fellowship with the LORD. Paul was a man who once was an angry Pharisee seeking to stop Christianity, but was transformed with a ministry of joy because Christ is where he found his greatest joy..........Samuel Chadwick said "Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God." THINK ABOUT THIS FOR A MINUTE! Has your life ever had that effect on other Christian’s or lost people? Do you take every situation that the Lord gives you to display His sovereign work in your life? Do people see the hope or the joy that is in you as we continue in a world of despair? Did Joseph abandon his love for God in a Egyptian prison cell? Did suffering drive Job further away from God? Did David hate God after losing his first son? Did Hosea lose heart after being told to marry a prostitute? Did life circumstances cause Paul to throw in the towel when times got tough? Has suffering or circumstances of life ever brought you closer to God? The answer is Yes! Our present circumstance or suffering always seems to draw us closer to Him, with a deeper love for His Son Jesus Christ. True joy is only found in the Son of God who gave Himself on our behalf!But we need to understand that God has different purposes in permitting suffering to come into our lives......1. ITS PART OF GOD’S PLAN FOR YOU AND ME. 1 Peter 4:19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
2. SOME SUFFERING IS CORRECTIVE WHICH IS INTENDED TO GET US ON THE RIGHT PATH WHEN WE HAVE GONE ASTRAY. Solomon refers to this kind of suffering “My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a Father the son in whom He delights.” Prov 3:11-12
3. SUFFERING SHOULD BE EXPECTED IN THE BELIEVERS LIFE 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
4. SOME SUFFERING IS INTENDED TO AWAKEN US TO THE NEEDS AND FEELINGS OF OTHER PEOPLE. James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
5. SOME IS INSTRUCTIVE, INTENDED TO MOLD US INTO THE IMAGE OF JESUS CHRIST, BECAUSE WE LEARN THROUGH THE THINGS THAT WE SUFFER. 1Peter 1:6-7 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
See Paul’s suffering was neither corrective nor instructive, it was simply a suffering permitted by God. Why? So that the wonderful Gospel might be spread throughout the palace guard. (Look verse 12-13) I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. As Ravi Zacharias said "The single most important thread in working through your disappointments is that your heart and mind ponder and grasp what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about. There is no pattern without the cross. There is no Good News without it. That is what the gospel is all about." Paul could find joy even in a time that seems impossible to get through or hopeless.....
1. TRUE JOY IS FOUND IN OUR PRESENT SUFFERING (v12-13)
What do I mean by that? The message of the Gospel was reaching a group that was almost impossible at times to reach. For the first time there was no escaping the message Paul was proclaiming. God took a situation that to us seems wrong and cruel...which it is, but God used Paul’s circumstance for the furtherance of the Gospel that saves to the uttermost. While Paul was preaching at Rome bound with chains to an imperial guard. It served to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The Gospel was advancing throughout the imperial guard (men who were body guards to the Emperor, High ranking military officer’s. Men who were in charge of every prisoner). That’s why we can find joy even in our times of suffering! See we have to realize that God can use you and me in every situation
• Whether it be through a dying loved one
• Loss of a child
• Lose of a leg
• Broken families
Your story and situation in life is very important!! He is using your life to display and share the wonderful joy found only in Christ!! The question you need to ask yourself is.........Am I using this time, this situation in my life to display that Christ is everything to me despite what the world thinks about that same situation that they are in? This is why Paul could say with confidence that the reason I’m imprisoned is for the? Answer “furtherance of the Gospel (v12). Furtherance means: a progress, to advance.....for example it’s like a explorer who hacks a path through dense trees and underbrush. It’s moving ahead with considerable effort to make a way for others..... Prime example is found in John the Baptist! It’s not that Paul was advancing, but the Gospel was going forth. It reminds of what Paul said in 1 Cor 16:9 “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” There are many stumbling blocks and opposition but the door is wide open for me to bring His message. Not to say that we are never going to be faced with opposition, but with joy we embrace it! Because the Lord is the one who opens doors. John wrote “'I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” Rev 3:8. This is the same door that the Lord opens for you and me when we are faced with our present circumstances of life. How can a person find joy in a fallen and broken world? By displaying Christ as extremely valuable, even in our present sufferings and circumstances of life.
2. TRUE JOY BIRTHS CONFIDENCE IN THE BELIEVER (v14)
Joy in Christ births boldness like no other......a boldness to proclaim the most controversial message throughout all generations.........the Gospel (v14) A boldness that permeates courage....a passion for Christ...that radical Christian life that I spoke about last year as we looked at Acts chapter 4. A boldness that gives you a sense of protection to proclaim His message. “without fear” See Paul’s strength became their strength! Again look back to (v5). Paul's imprisonment gave the Christians around him (those who were not imprisoned) a greater confidence and boldness. They saw that Paul had joy in the midst of such a trial. They saw that God would take care of Paul in such circumstances. They saw that God could still use Paul even when he was imprisoned. This was a growing boldness for the gospel....because they knew where there joy begins and ends...............Jesus Christ. As Luke said at the beginning of His Gospel “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,” Luke 1:74
3. TRUE JOY COMES FROM THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL (V18)
Nothing brings the Heaven joy then to see people saved by His marvellous grace. But nothing pleases Him more than to see and hear the Gospel proclaimed throughout the generations. Like Jesus! Paul had his fair share of detractors, hecklers....which most of them being Jewish and pagan religionists. Paul’s joy was found only Christ and His message............the Gospel.....Paul lived and breathed the Gospel.....Paul bleed the Gospel.....Paul would die for the Gospel! But some were doing it for other reasons! (Look at v15-v17) Some were preaching out of Strife and Envy! We need to understand first is that:
• They were not heretics like the Judaizers
• They preached and taught the true Gospel of Jesus Christ
• They were not heralding “a Different Gospel”
• They were not false apostles
• They were not deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ
See the Problem wasn’t there theology, but their MOTIVES. It wasn’t what they were preaching, but why they preached it! Out of envy and strife! Envy (means) A deprive others of what is rightfully theirs. To wish that they did not have it or had it to a lesser degree....someone who is jealous. Like what Peter said “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:2-4. These men Paul is speaking about in his letter where men who envied?
• Paul’s giftedness
• Paul’s intellect
• Paul’s effectiveness in ministry
• Paul being highly respected and beloved in the church
They wanted that!! They wanted what Paul had......... It would be like me wanting to be John MacArthur.....John Piper.......Charles Spurgeon......Richard Baxter!! God created each and every one of us as an original copy.......be you, so that He can get the glory in your life. Remember what Paul said to the Corinthian church? 1Cor 1:12-17 “What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? He answers the question in (v17) “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Some were also preaching with contention or strife.......Strife (means) contention dispute, quarrelsome, controversy, a spirit of hostility associated with envy and jealousy. They didn’t preach with a sincere love of the gospel, but with a spirit to divide. While preaching, they sought to undermine Paul's influence......This was the result! These men were preaching out of dissension and conflict trying to discredit Paul. (v17) Plain and simply they were jealous of Paul and his boldness and joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but that’s not what God has called us too! “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” 2 Cor 4:5. But all things aside! Whether by winning people to Christ for personal or to exalt themselves or a love for Paul and his boldness......nothing brought more joy to Paul then what he says in (v18) The Gospel was being proclaimed....declared...and people were being transformed by unmeriting grace of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. True joy can be found in our circumstances and sufferings when Christ is exalted through it!! John Piper says "The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people." Paul’s joy in his chains is far greater and more satisfying than any earthy happiness. Can you say the same? This pure joy comes not because of circumstances, but in spite of them and through them........listen to D.L. Moody when he said "If He laid down His life for us, is it not the least we can do to lay down ours for Him? If He bore the cross and died on it for me, ought I not to be willing to take it up for Him?" Are you still wearing Paul’s shoes?____________!!