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Understanding the Power of Expectations, Part 2

From the series I Choose Joy

Chip wraps up this series by explaining how the power of expectations can transform ordinary people into people of great faith. He tells us that through the joy Christ offers, we have the supernatural ability to live far above our circumstances.

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Message Transcript

“Contending for the faith,” it’s about our beliefs. It’s about standing up for what we believe. It’s battling, but winsomely, lovingly. Not angry. But it’s saying that there are certain things that are true.

What’s the last word? Don’t give up. Second, don’t give in. Churches all across America, Bible churches all across America, whole denominations are giving in and changing their doctrine. “Well, it’s pretty unpopular to believe what Jesus actually said, so we’re just going to change it.” On the most controversial issues of our day. But we are not going to give up, we are not going to give in, and we are not going to shrink back. This is about being bold.

Here’s a question I would ask all of you: does everyone in a positive, winsome way know that you’re a follower of Christ? Do they know it? Are you bold? I don’t mean wearing it on your sleeve, please don’t put a “Praise the Lord!” sticker on the back of your car.

It’s not enough to say, “This is the truth.” It’s got to be the truth captured in love and demonstrated.

Here’s my question: how are you doing? This is normal Christianity. God expects us to not give up, not give in, not shrink back. You got it?

Would you be willing to say, Lord, would You speak to me about: is my belief and my behavior telling the same story? And not like I’m a terrible person at all, but just where the Lord would show you and it might be your behavior, it might be your belief or your thinking. I need to check that out. Or maybe it’s your boldness. And ask God to make you an agent of life and change, because the world, is anyone concerned about what’s going on, other than me?

There’s a missile could be coming our way, there’s division in this country, there’s hatred like never before. And here’s the deal: you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. There is no middle ground. Hiding in our cul-de-sacs, hoping that it won’t affect us and we just want to unconsciously be upwardly mobile and everything work out for us and our family and our little world is not an option. It’s just an illusion.

Second, what can we expect from God? He says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for him, since you’re going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Interestingly, again, you can circle the words, “granted to you,” it’s pretty easy, it’s in bold. It’s, literally, it means God has given you a privilege.

You know the word grace? Or some of you have named your daughter Karis? That’s the word grace. That’s the root word. God has given you a precious grace gift. And there is a privilege into it and there’s a responsibility to it. And Paul is playing with these Philippians and reminding them, Hey, citizen, right? Of Philippi. Privilege; responsibility. Now, here’s the grace gift God has given you. Privilege to believe. You can receive eternal life! He has changed your life. He has taken you out of the kingdom of darkness, placed you in the kingdom of light, sealed you with the Spirit, given you spiritual gifts, given you a purpose, given you a family of God, created a place forever and ever, looking forward. And He is going to transform your life and make you more and more like Jesus so the world can see how much God loves them. It’s an amazing grace gift to believe.

So why don’t you put a little box around “believe?” But he says, There’s another gift. You have been given the gift to get to suffer. How many of you, honestly, don’t raise your hands, because there wouldn’t many go up, how many of you ever thought suffering is a gift from God? That’s foreign to American Christians. Suffering is a gift from God? Yes.

He said, “He has given you a gift of suffering and you’re going through the same struggle, this conflict, this persecution.” Some of it is from within and some of it is from without.

Paul is going to leave Timothy at Ephesus. A young pastor. 2 Timothy 3:12, “Timothy, all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s a promise. What is Paul doing? Setting expectations.

Here’s a young guy, “I follow Jesus, I am now a young pastor, what I’m going to do, I have sacrificed everything, it’s going to be great, right?” “Well.” You really live for God, you’ll be persecuted.

Or how about Jesus? How did He set expectations? The very last night, what did He say? “Just think positive, guys. Just think positive. It’s all going to be super-duper. I’m going to heaven, I’ll be back, we’re going to mojo a little bit later together.”

What did He say? “In the world you will have tribulation, you’ll have troubles. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

In fact, I just read this morning, and I thought, In light of the current events, it was the very last time Jesus was hanging out with His disciples and He basically gave His sermon to the Pharisees and pretty unpopular: whitewashed tombs, snakes, vipers. I think I underlined the word hypocrite seven or eight times.

I’m a follower of Jesus and He just alienated the entire establishment and all the power. Jesus was perhaps the most politically incorrect person who has ever walked the face of the earth. And in the midst of that, you’re following Him thinking, Whoa. And He has been talking about leaving, dying, raising from the dead, and they don’t figure out what He’s saying.

And then He makes this crazy statement like, “You see that temple? Destroy it. I’ll rebuild it. I’m coming back.” And the disciples took Him aside privately and said, “When will all this take place? And will there be a sign ahead of time to signal Your return and the end of the world?”

Now, just listen to this. “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in My name saying I am the Messiah. They will lead many astray. Wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, things must come but the end won’t follow immediately. Nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, there will be famines, earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will only be the beginning or the birth pangs of the horrors to come. Then you’ll be arrested and persecuted and killed.”

How’s this for preparing the team for the next game? You’re going to be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You know what’s interesting? They were. But they didn’t give up, they didn’t give in, and they didn’t shrink back. Why? Because they knew it was true. They experienced God’s power. They leaned into the suffering.

He said, “Many, though, will turn away from Me and betray Me and hate each other. Many false prophets will appear and they will lead many people astray. Sin will be rampant everywhere and the love of many will grow cold.” Sound familiar? “But those who endure to the end will be saved and the good news about the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world so that all the nations will hear it and then finally the end will come.”

Now, I am in no way a: I think Jesus is coming back tomorrow! Ah! The end is coming! The sky is falling! But what kind of, what would have to be happening in the world to tell us that it’s close? Maybe more hurricanes? Bigger earthquakes? More wars?

See, I think it’s really interesting that we unconsciously think that some things that have happened in the past, they are going to happen probably someday, someway, but probably not in my lifetime. Really? Jesus goes on to say, “It will be the same as in the day of Noah, where people were doing business, having parties, marrying, going about their life, and,” whoo!

All I want to say is it seems like the birth pangs are more intense now and we should have an urgency at a level that we haven’t had. And we shouldn’t be afraid about our job, we shouldn’t be afraid about our money, we shouldn’t be afraid about our reputation, we shouldn’t be afraid. We should be bold.

Because here’s the deal: at some point in time, there’s going to be things that are true and things that are untrue. And the one thing Jesus said is there is no grey. “Anyone who is ashamed of Me, I will be ashamed of them when I come with the angels, with My Father.”

Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Now, the question is: are we willing to take that stand?

Before we wrap it up, I have talked about suffering and Peter in 1 Peter 2:20 and 21, you might jot that down, that’s one you might actually want to memorize. Because when Peter writes, Nero is burning Christians and throwing them into the lions.

And Peter is writing to the Church. And he says, “If you suffer for doing what is wrong, for being a crook, for doing evil things, what credit is that?” But then he says, “But if you suffer for doing what is right,” being righteous, walking with God, making a difference, “this finds favor with God.” Are you ready for this? “For you have been called to this purpose, to suffer, for Christ left you an example to follow.”

See, if we are trying to avoid suffering all the time, you will never become the man or a woman God designed you to be. You will never have the relationships and you’ll never have the impact. Jesus suffered. The apostles suffered.

Now, here’s the thing. Don’t automatically think every time you’re suffering that it’s because you’re such a wonderful, committed, amazing follower of Jesus.

Pretend we are on a highway together on this message. And I just parked a car and I say, “There’s a cul-de-sac, we are going to go over here just for a second, okay?” Are you ready for a quick cul-de-sac? Here’s the cul-de-sac.

When you read Scripture, there is at least six, there may be more, but I know of six specific reasons why we suffer. I’m not going to go through all these in detail, but here’s what I want you to do. Maybe put a little box and then write this question: When you’re going through a difficult time, ask God, Why am I suffering? Why is this marriage like this? Why is this health like this? Why is this situation at work like this? Why am I having this problem with my son or daughter like this? Why am I so depressed right now? Okay? Just ask God.

And what I’m going to say is: biblically, there are at least six possible reasons why you’re suffering. And I have given you the passages to that you can do your own Bible study. But the first one is my sin. When I am angry, when I say things I shouldn’t, when I do things that are wrong, when I’m rude to people, when I’m mean to one of my kids, when I lie, or when I steal – and, by the way, I’ve done all those things – there are consequences. Right? Galatians 6:7 and 8 says, “Sowing and reaping.” You sow things and you reap them. So sometimes I’m suffering because I was either stupid or evil. And we all do stupid things and we all do evil things.

Second is other’s sin. 49:1 in psalms, David says, “A friend betrayed me.” Drunk driver goes left of center, hits a car, someone you love. God didn’t make him do it. He got drunk. God didn’t create robots. Sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sins.

Third is spiritual attack. You get in God’s Word on a regular basis, you decide to be more bold, I’ll just warn you, stuff will start happening. Job was the most righteous man. He didn’t know what was going on. Ephesians 6 will describe what spiritual attack looks like and how to defend yourself.

Fourth, it’s a fallen world. People came to Jesus and said, “The Tower in Siloam, it fell, and these people died.” Hey, what’s going on? And Jesus said, “Do you think that those who died are more sinful or unrighteous than others? I say no.” In other words, concrete cracks – wood rots. In a fallen world, there’s just certain things, it’s a mystery. We can expect negative, difficult things. Weather! It’s not designed the way God wanted it. It’s a fallen world.

Fifth is spiritual discipline. God loves you so much there are times, the velvet vice. Hebrews 12, “He disciplines every son, He disciplines every daughter.” And He’ll get your attention in the way that makes sense to you. Some of us, apparently, it must be our health. I don’t know anybody particular. ACL, back, ankle rebuild. I could go on.

Some, it’s a relationship. But sometimes we are asking God, Take it away, take it away, take it away. And He is saying, Look, I am trying to get your attention because I love you, like we get our kids’ attention, so that you can look upward and we can address this issue, this arrogant issue, this pride issue, this lust issue. We all have those things, don’t we? And you have a Father who wants to help you.

And then, finally, spiritual development. There are times where Paul is living the life like never before, making a huge difference, and what happens? He gets this physical ailment that keeps him dependent so people could see the power isn’t Paul, but it’s God. And he says, “I have learned to be content.”

I want to give you a summary about suffering and then I want us to pray. Suffering is God’s gift to accomplish His ultimate good in a fallen world. Is that crazy? Suffering is God’s gift.
When I suffer, it draws me near. When I suffer, I look up. When I suffer, I have compassion for other people. When I suffer, life is not all about me. When I suffer, I’m not so judgmental. When I suffer, I am following in the footsteps of Jesus who suffered so you could live and I could live.

Joni Eareckson-Tada, quoting her coach said, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” What a truth.

Lord, You know the suffering in this room and You know the reasons. Lord, You know the world situation and the desperate, desperate need for regular, ordinary people like us to stand firm and to contend and to not shrink back.

And, yet, we tell You that, God, we can’t do that and we are afraid and we struggle. But, Lord, You have told us that Christ in us is the hope of glory and that we can do all things through Jesus who gives us strength.

Have a little moment with your heavenly Father and ask Him, Lord, help me see myself right now the way You do. Help me grasp how much You love me. Help me to be a person who stands firm, doesn’t give up, doesn’t give in, doesn’t shrink back. Help me lean into my suffering and discover some of the “whys.” Change me and then use me to change others.