Helping you grow closer to God
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About this series
There are three ways in Scripture that God delivers us and we tend to only think of one. So, get your pencil out, this will be helpful one day in your life.
I’m going to give it God’s plan A, God’s plan B, God’s plan C. Or, actually, it’s more probably accurate to say our plan A, our plan B, and our plan C.
Plan A, when God uses the word deliverance, He delivers you out of something. He does a miracle. I have had times where we had no money, we couldn’t pay the rent, there’s no way, I have no resources, and I get a check in the mail from someone that I have met once years ago, for a thousand dollars and I pay the rent and I go, “That’s a miracle! God delivered me out of it.” It happened again. A missionary from India, actually, sent me money during seminary to pay my bills.
I have had times where we have anointed people with oil, prayed for them, and seen a brain tumor miraculously go. Delivered them out of it. Praise God. He still does miracles.
Deliverance number one: He delivers us out of the adversity or the difficulty.
Number two is He delivers us through them. Jot down: 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 9 and 10. This is what Paul is experiencing. He tells us that he had this amazing experience and so that he wouldn’t get proud, he was given a thorn in his flesh. Everyone postulates and guesses: is it malaria, is it an eye disease? We don’t know what it is. But all we know is that there was a bad back situation that he was struggling with and he was in pain all the time.
And God did not, and he prayed, Paul has got a pretty effective prayer life, wouldn’t you agree? And he asked God, in faith, believing, “Take it away! Take it away! Take it away!” And God said, “No, no, no. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” And then Paul’s attitude changed and realized sometimes God wants to do a deeper thing in us and He doesn’t deliver us out of it, He delivers us through it, and as He delivers us through it, He refines us and our faith grows, and our character changes, and it’s very difficult and He gives us a joy and a contentment and a peace that is unexplainable externally apart from a living God doing something inside of you.
The third way that God delivers us is unto Himself. We were talking about this as pastors, we were going over the study earlier this week. And one of the guys in the group said, “You know what’s kind of odd is that in our day, we think the worst thing that could ever happen to a person is they die. And that doesn’t seem to be Paul’s perspective.” “Christ gets exalted whether I live or whether I die,” and a little bit later we are going to read that he’s not sure whether he’s going to stick around or die but the dilemma, he thinks it’s far better to be with Christ.
I have had both my parents die of debilitating, painful, long diseases. When my parents died, by the time they got to where they died, it was, Lord, thank You. To watch them live through what they were living through at that level was really, really painful. Psalm 116 says, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord are the death of His godly ones.
You see, if all there is is now, temporal, and someone you love dies, I got news, you got nothing. You got nothing! But, if in fact, there is an eternity, if there really is a heaven, if what Jesus told the disciples the very last night that allowed them to hang tough and hang on no matter what, there’s an eternity, there’s a heaven, that it’s real. Then it’s pretty interesting. It sustains you. And it’s sad and it’s hard and we lose those that we love, and that’s why sharing Christ is so important.
That’s why if you’re here or you’re watching or you’re listening and you have never put your faith in Christ, you need to know that you’re going to be in heaven and that’s not something from trying to be a nice, little, good person or being a bit moral. Your sins have got to be completely covered. You have to receive the gift of Christ dying on the cross for you, in your place, and turn from your sin – repent – and ask Christ to forgive you and come into your life, and He will! And you can know for sure.
The first reason Paul has joy in the midst of these horrendous circumstances, his deliverance is certain. And he is certain that, by the grace of God, he is going to be faithful. He is certain that he is going to be bold in his faith right until the end. And he is certain that whether he lives and gets to go on and minister more, or whether he dies and is immediately ushered into the presence of Christ that he knows that’s his hope.
But the next reason is equally powerful. The second reason that he has this joy is his source of joy is unshakable. It’s unshakable. Circumstances go up, they go down; incomes go up, incomes go down; hurricanes come, hurricanes go; earthquakes come, earthquakes go; economies go up, economies go down; marriages are good, marriages aren’t so good; kids do great things that make you proud, kids do some terrible things that make you sad. You’re healthy and working out and doing a triathlon this year and next year they’ve got a biopsy report and they’ve got tubes running in you. Circumstances up; circumstances down.
You either live your life like a little cork on the waves of circumstances of the sea of life or you live your life with that leaning eagerly expectation and anchor of your soul – hope – that there is a heaven and there is a God and there are promises and He will sustain me, and as I trust Him, and that’s what Paul does.
His joy, the source of it, is unshakable. He says, “For me, to live is Christ,” temporal. Eternal, “…to die is gain. If I am to live on in the body this will mean fruitful labor for me; yet what shall I choose?” I don’t know! I’m torn between the two. “I’m hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
And then he comes to this moment, “And convinced of this,” as the Spirit of God is speaking to me, as I am writing this letter, as I am processing, he says, “I know that this will turn out, that I will remain and continue with you all” – why? “for your progress and,” is this guy crazy? Who is he concerned about? “…your joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me can abound in Christ through my coming to you again.” “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Paul lives, there’s two platforms in life. You look at life from this platform of time or you look at life at this platform from eternity. And he says in time, it’s Christ and if it’s Christ, I am going to continue to serve, because unlike American Christianity, he thinks the goal of life is to love God and to serve Him and to know Him and to enjoy Him and to share that with as many people as you can before you die and to model the kind of life for you and your friends, or if you’re married, you children.
So that the most important thing is not what school you go to, not how much money you make, not what you look like, what other people think. But the most important thing is that Christ is the center of your heart and life and you are actually reflecting what He’s like. It’s called: His glory.
Everybody and everything revolves around something. It’s interesting, take a microscope and – right? You’ve got the center, the nucleus, and those electrons are going around it and now they’ve got super-powerful ones and there’s stuff inside of that, things going around.
Or all the planets go around the sun. They have found, now, that our solar system and our sun actually goes around an axle star. Everything in life goes around something. The question is: what does your life go around? Paul said, My life goes around the living Christ. He is my anchor. And so if I live, it’s for Him. And if I die, it’s gain. I am immediately translated into the presence of Christ. No soul sleep, no purgatory, no waiting. I die, instantaneously, I’m in the presence of Christ.
And then he begins to think and ponder about, Wow, what should I do? “I’m hard-pressed from both directions,” he desires to depart and be with Christ. I don’t think many of us would say that, if we’re just honest, right?
See, I don’t think Christianity was a religion for Paul. I don’t think it was a moral statement. I don’t think it was, “I want to do really good in this life and it has a lot of good byproducts and produces good things and it’s important.”
I think Christianity for Paul was a life-transforming moment of a relationship connected to God. And he loved God and he got to know, even though he never met – we have some visions that he has, but he didn’t meet Him face-to-face, as far as we know.
But the Spirit of God living in him, just like he lives in us who are followers, he cultivated that and he cultivated it by he took that Old Testament and God revealed to him and those early, this is His Word. And he cultivated a tenderness to hear the Spirit of God and follow it.
And he was always living in community. In other words, it was his relationship and he thought, I’ve got this barrier still. I still have this barrier. I have tasted and I have seen and He has changed me and He has revealed things. But I have this barrier. It would be better to be face-to-face. But his heart is one of: “I want to do whatever You want me to do.”
And these Philippians, they could use some good teachings still. They are still messed up. These two ladies are arguing with each other and under pressure they are not doing so well. In fact, I’m going to write them pretty soon about humility and loving each other because they are at each other’s throats. So, Lord, plan A, I’ll be with you. Awesome. Plan B, I’ll stay here as long as You want. I think God must want me to stay. Notice the secret is his vantage point. I looked this up in the dictionary and I loved it. A vantage is a position or situation more advantageous than opponent’s. That’s one definition. But I think the second one has much more application for us.
A position that allows a clear, broad view, understanding – a vantage point. In other words, what you need to understand, it’s not just: where is your hope? But it’s: from where are you looking for your hope? Paul had been beaten at least three times, left for dead once, overnight in the ocean. Been in prison. Deeply discouraged. I’m not reading into the text, if you read 2 Corinthians pretty carefully and look at Acts, he’s probably clinically depressed at one point. Just is almost at the end of his rope. In his words, “Knocked down but not out.”
And then he says this in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, because I think this is the greatest thing that we need out of this passage and in our life is not to lose heart. “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we,” notice, perspective words now: look and see, “…while we look not at the things which are seen, but we look at things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
But there’s a couple questions we need to answer as we close. Where is your hope?
See, ask yourself: what really gets you discouraged? Ask yourself, when you’re frustrated and when you’re angry and when you’re mad: is your hope in a perfect marriage? Is your hope in upward mobility? Is your hope in what school your kids get in or how they are doing in their grades? Is your hope in your body and how you look?
Come on! This is just in here. Don’t look at me like that. Come on, now. We all, here’s the thing, God loves us so much He is saying, Don’t be stupid! “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,” America! The uncertainty of riches! “…but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
It’s not that money is bad, it’s not that success is bad, but they make really bad gods. They make great idols. And what idols do is destroy idol worshippers. So the question for every believer in this room is: What is my life really going around? Not what I say it’s going around or not what I think it’s going around.
And if you want to know, just go home and check your finances and then go check where you go on the Internet and then go check where your time goes and check who are your closest friends and what do you talk about? And you’ll know exactly what your life is going around.
You can sing, “I love Jesus,” and come to church and try and be a good person and your life really go around a married person, your kids, your work, your money, your future, and your stuff. And we all do it. So God brought us here together on this day to repent of that.
For some of you, He brought you today to give you the biggest gift you’ll ever receive in your life: eternal life. You don’t have an eternal hope. You’ve got temporal stuff and you might be successful, you might even be moral. But I’ll tell you what, add cancer and a week to live, you better have what’s on the other side of this wall. And so He just brought you here to say, It’s really not that complicated. Yes, you lose control to an all-knowing, all-powerful, good God who so demonstrated His love He died in your place, rose from the dead, and for two thousand years has been transforming the world and now He wants to transform you.
Father, thank You for how good and how kind, thank You that You love us. God, I thank You that as hard as life has been and as many mistakes as I have made, I have just seen thousands upon thousands upon thousands and myself included experience a hope that no difficulty or tragedy or challenge can change.
And so I want to pray now for those that would say, “I’m not sure whether I have eternal life.” And if that’s you, I would like you to bow your heart, your eyes are already closed, but bow your heart and be as honest as you can be and say, Almighty God, I am the god of my life and I am running my life. And I repent. I ask You now to forgive me of all of my sins – past, present, and future – I believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He died for my sins and rose from the dead. I accept that gift and ask You to come into my life right now. And then give me the courage to tell someone this very day. Lord, help me to understand Your Word as You start to speak to me. And, God, would You please provide a community of friends to help me grow?
And if you’re a follower and you realize some of those idols have crept in, would you just tell God, No more. I need a hope that won’t change. I need a future that’s secure. And then would you covenant with God to tell at least one person before the sun goes down on this day, “This is a baby step I am taking to make Jesus the center of what my whole life goes around”? And you probably need some help to get there.