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Living Above Your Circumstances
The Power of Perspective
Happiness depends on the "happenings in our lives;" joy depends on our perspective. Join Chip Ingram as he opens God's Word to Philippians 1 and explains how we all can enhance and enrich our relationship with God through living above our daily circumstances. New series title is "I Choose Joy."More from this series
Key number three is going to be our hope. And regarding our hope, the question is, “What is our hope based on, or what is it rooted in?” Now, I’ve got a little illustration here, and I want you to examine this with me, okay? This is a ladder. This is a wall. And on the other side of that wall is a stool, and it has a pitcher of water. And the pitcher of water represents the normal thirst and normal needs that we have.
And it also represents issues in our life that we have to deal with. And what the apostle Paul told us, in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, and what he’s going to teach us, by way of example, in Philippians, is that there are two places that you can look at life from.
Place number one is from a temporal vantage point called “time.” And I’m looking at what my needs are and what the issues are, and I can’t see through this wall. And if what I really need is on the other side of this wall, and I look at it from here, I can look and look and pray and pray, but you know something? I just keep hitting the wall. There are things over there that give me hope, but I can’t see them. And if I can’t see them, if there’s no hope in my marriage, you know what you do? You quit. If there’s no hope of walking with God, and you keep struggling with the same sin, and you fail, fail, fail, sooner or later, what do you do? You quit.
And what the apostle Paul is going to say is, there are two vantage points from which to look at life. In fact, on the front of your notes, I actually put the definition, from Webster’s, of vantage. The first definition is, “A position or situation more advantageous than your opponent’s.” And there’s some application here. But the second one is “a position that allows a clear, broad view or understanding.”
And what I’m going suggest is, the apostle Paul is going to teach you, and teach me, that there’s another place to look at life. And you can look at life from this vantage point, on top of this ladder. This is an eternal perspective. I can see time, but I can also see eternity. From here, I can see that which is seen through physical eyes, but from here, I can see not only that which is seen through physical eyes, but that which is seen through spiritual eyes. And that is real. I see what’s on the other side. And I can keep on going, because if the only thing I see is down below the ladder, through a temporal perspective, I don’t have any hope. I don’t have any hope.
When you get an issue in your life, you need to ask, “Where is my hope? What is my hope based on?” Is my hope based on, this marriage is going to look a lot better in six months? Is my hope based on, I’m making “X” amount of dollars, but I need to make “X” amount of dollars to be happy? Is my hope based on, I’ve been with this company so long, and I still have this rotten position, and I should be promoted by now? Is my hope based on, You know something? I saw a guy here, and I know how he feels. He’s got a rotator cuff, and he tore a bicep muscle? And you know, there are a lot of us that a lot of our hope and joy is based on being able to hit a tennis ball or hit a golf ball or something to do with our lives and our athleticism. And if your hope is based on a temporal, what you can do in your physical body, and whether it’s healthy all the time, where are you at? I mean, you’re bummed out.
See, you can either choose to look at life through a temporal perspective, or you can choose to say, “Now, do I like this arm messed up? No. Do I like the struggle in my marriage? No. Am I excited about where I’m at financially? No. But here’s where my hope is: My hope and satisfaction is not rooted in what is happening in my life today and what I can see. My hope and my perspective is derived from looking realistically and honestly at what is occurring temporally, but it allows me to see, from an eternal perspective, that is not just pie in the sky. It is real, it is available, it is promised.”
By the way, here’s what you need to understand about the word hope, because I’m going to keep using it, and it’s never going to click until you get it. When we use the word hope, in English, we often think of things like, I hope it doesn’t rain. And we use it for wishful thinking. Or most of us in this town say, “I hope the Falcons win,” or, “I hope I get a raise.” And so, when you use the word in that fashion, what you’re really saying is, “I am wishfully thinking that something good will happen in the future.” And there’s nothing wrong with that usage.
That is not the biblical usage of the word. The word for hope means “The absolute certainty.” In fact, the word for hope in the New Testament, says that our hope is the anchor of our soul. Our hope, for example, is in the return of Christ. I’m not wishfully thinking or hoping He might come back someday if what He said is true. My hope is in, He promised, “I will come back.” My hope is not that I might get enough strength, on certain days, some day, some way, and God might help me. My hope is, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I don’t hope that, some way, somehow, God is going to provide for the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs of my heart. My hope is Philippians 4:19: “[But] my God will supply all [my] needs according to His riches and His glory in Christ Jesus.”
So, what I want you to see is, temporally, everything we hope in can vanish. What you have is a car wreck away, a down economy away, and a shift of circumstances away if your hope is in the present. If it’s in a person, if it’s in a thing, if it’s in a business, if it’s in a body, if it’s in a gift, if it’s in a relationship, it’s a millisecond away from being here today, gone tomorrow. And if your life revolves around that hope, no matter how noble – it can be your wife, it can be one of your kids, it can be your ability, it can even be a ministry. And what do we all know? It’s an earthquake, tornado, or heart attack away from being here today, gone tomorrow.
And what the apostle Paul is teaching us is, we hold those things loosely, and we learn to look with double vision, a vision to temporal reality. It’s not pie in the sky; we don’t act like these problems aren’t real.
But we look at our temporal reality, viewed through the dual lens of, this is my life, my body, my circumstances that I’m facing, by the strength and power of God, that I look at them through the lens of what is readily available through the eyes of eternity.
So, in other words, you get a choice, every single day, and I get a choice. You can put it a different way, imagine, if you will, a platform that is built, with a television camera. Another platform that is built, with another television camera. That platform is the lens of eternity. This platform is the lens of time. Every single day, every situation, you get to make a choice: Do I climb up and look at my life through the lens and the camera of all eternity, or do I get up on this platform and only look at my life through the lens of time?
One will produce some things that will astound others, because you always have hope. The other will make you like a little cork on the wave of the sea, that, as circumstances go up and down and change, you will be tossed here and tossed there, and be up one moment and sinking the next, because your hope is in a person, a place, a thing, or a something that is simply unable to fulfill the deepest desires. And, by the way, when you lose hope, you lose it all. Someone has rightfully said, “Hope is the oxygen of the soul.” You can live without air – not very long. Your soul cannot live very long at all without hope.
Now, let’s open, together, and find out the third lesson on perspective from the apostle Paul. His view of the future. You know his circumstances; he’s in prison. He has every reason in the world to be discouraged, depressed, it’s not working. Whatever our circumstances are today, they pale compared to his. And look at verse 18(b). Notice his perspective. He says, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” Paul’s view of the future – Paul’s view, sitting in a cell, sitting in chains, examining what’s happening. As he’s sitting here, he has people – Christians – this is what really gets you, isn’t it? Other Christians filling the leadership vacuum, saying, “You know, if Paul really had a lot of faith, he’d be out here with us. He’s the old leader, and I’m the new leader.” He’s chained to people. He’s got a life agenda.
Temporally thinking, when Paul would look through the eyes of what is temporal, here is where his life is right now. But the apostle Paul is going to teach us, “No, I want you to know that I rejoice because I’m looking at life through a different perspective.” And let’s find out what it is. He has two reasons how he can have joy in the midst of this unbelievable, difficult circumstance.
Reason number one: His deliverance is certain. His deliverance is certain.
Picking it up in verse 19, he says, “For 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. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Now, put a little circle around the word for I know. And here’s what he’s saying, “I’m in prison, and what I know for certain is that, through two things, your prayers – you guys are praying for me –” And, by the way, this is one of those quick asides on the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man, the apostle Paul, he believes in both of them. Okay? He says, “I’m going to be delivered.”
And the word for delivered there, it’s the word salvation, but the root concept of salvation used in the Old Testament is deliverance. Salvation doesn’t always mean being saved from your sin to go to heaven. It means that there’s a barrier, and the barrier, you make it through the barrier. So, they were delivered through the Red Sea. They were delivered out of the hand of the enemy. And he’s using this as, “What I know is, I’m going to be delivered. I’m going to come through this somehow.”
And he says, “Number one is the human responsibility. You are praying for me, and it really makes a difference. And the power, or empowerment, of the Holy Spirit of God – the Spirit of God is supernaturally, sovereignly doing something in this situation.” And he says, “I’m certain.”
You put the circle around the word I know. Two different words in the Greek New Testament for know. One is a knowledge that comes by way of experience: I know that my wife is going to order strawberry truffle ice cream when we go to Bruster’s. How do I know that? I know that by experience, because every time we go to Bruster’s she gets chocolate strawberry truffle ice cream.
Okay, that is not this word. I know that if I take this pen out of my pocket, that it will drop to the ground. I know that because there is a certainty called “gravity” that does not change. I know that as an empirical fact. It’s true whether I believe it or don’t believe it. Paul is saying, on the basis of empirical fact – that’s the word – and the facts are, “God uses prayers, and this help given by the Spirit, it’s going to turn out for my deliverance.”
And, by the way, put a little squiggly line under “help given.” It’s a very interesting word. The root word came from the original word, in Greece, for the word chorus, an actual singing group.
And they would have these singing groups come, and they had big theaters, and if you were a very rich, wealthy person, it would be your job to bring the chorus, the singing group, and the theatrical production to your city.
And so, this word chorus came to mean “Everything that is necessary” – the money, the provision, the stadium – “everything necessary to put on the whole production.” And then, later, the word evolved to mean, basically, “Everything that is needed to take care of an issue, that’s what you get.” And what he’s saying is, “The help given – I know that through your prayers and the Spirit of God, everything I need to make it through this situation is going to be provided for my deliverance.”
And then, he goes on to say, “And I eagerly expect” – put a box around that – “and hope” – because those are two key issues – “that I will in no way be ashamed, but [God will give sufficient grace]” – literally, “all boldness, the ability to speak boldly” – “[to do what He wants me to do, for this purpose], that now, as always, Christ is going to be exalted in my body whether by life or by death.”
Now, you need to understand, his hope, he says, “I eagerly expect.” Literally, it’s, “According to my eager expectation and hope.” It’s an unusual word. It’s the eager, intense look, which turns away from everything and everyone, to fix on an object of one’s desire. In other words, the word picture is this: It’s the picture of a runner in his lane, and the apostle Paul, all this stuff has happened to him – difficult circumstances, physical pain, guy locked onto him. His life is in the balance, and they’re thinking, Am I going to be executed or not executed?
The problems out there of relationships in the church. He says, “In the midst of all that, my eager expectation and my focus” – or hope – it’s the picture of a runner in his lane, and as he runs down the lane, he focuses on the tape. And every other runner and the stadium is a blur. He hears nothing. And when he gets close and reaches the tape, it’s a picture of someone who reaches out their chest, and their entire focus is to break through that tape. And he says, “My eager expectation and my certain hope is that God is going to deliver me. I know I’m going to come through this. I don’t know how.”
And then, it raises the question, what does he mean by “God’s going to deliver him”? Well, we have three options. One, He’s going to deliver him out of a situation, right? The emperor is going to have a thought come to him, and he’s going to say, “Hmm, the apostle Paul, hey, let’s take him out of prison. Let’s not kill him.” That’s option one. Option two would be, he’s going to be delivered unto God. Psalm 116 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.”
Now, we think the worst thing that can ever happen to a person is that they die. I got news for you. Around the world, in the third world, they think when you die, you’re going to go to heaven, and it’s actually a plus. They actually think that. Now, no one is looking to die, but they endure amazing suffering and amazing persecution, with amazing fidelity, because they actually believe heaven is a real place, that Jesus is really there, and it is forever and ever and ever. And that’s their hope, and it’s certain. They’re not hoping wishfully. They know for sure that’s going to happen.
So, you can get delivered out of your difficult circumstance. You can get delivered, worst-case scenario, from a temporal perspective, unto the Lord. Or option three is, you can be delivered through the circumstance. And that means that the circumstances don’t change, but God gives you something, in the midst of the circumstance, to have the kind of attitude and perspective that everyone is shaking their head, “How do you do that?”
I mean, I have friend right now that I’m asking, “How do you do that?” He has been married about 56 years. He has had a wonderful marriage. His wife recently had surgery. And heart surgery, apparently, I learned from a cardiac specialist, at times, mild strokes occur, and she is beginning to lose her memory. She can’t carry on much of a conversation anymore. She can’t cook the meals anymore. The only thing that she can remember very, very, very clearly is all the old memories.
And now, for the last year or so, I have a friend who goes home, after 56 years of marriage, and talks to someone who the only thing she wants to do is watch old black and white movies and cannot share any of the deep issues of her heart. He can go into this room and say, “Now, tomorrow, I need to go to the city on a business trip, and I’ll be back.” And then, he can come back in, after getting dressed, and he can say, “Well, I’ll be seeing you, because I need to take off,” and she can burst into tears and say, “Why are you leaving me?” “Well, I just told you I need to . . .” And she didn’t remember.
And I watch him treat her in ways that astound me, with a level of tenderness and a level of concern and a love. And I’m thinking, I mean, for a few months is one thing. For years? And I remember, we’re pretty good friends, I said, “How do you deal with that?” And with a shrug of his shoulders, he’s a man in his early to mid seventies, has walked with God for many years – and with a shrug of his shoulders, as though, “What don’t you understand, young man?” He said, “We’ve had 54 wonderful years together. She’s been a loving, faithful wife. I’m wired for eternity, and is it too much to ask that, in our later years, that I have the privilege of serving, maybe, a part of the shell of my wife’s body, of what she used to be, and get to begin to give back to her some of what she gave to me, in light of all of eternity?”
You see what he was doing? I was saying, “Whoa, present circumstance, temporally, your wife is not very responsive. You can’t have big talks anymore. You can’t share your heart. It must not be very fulfilling. I bet there are a lot of issues.” And he says, “Well, candidly, young man, that’s not exactly how I look at it. In light of eternity and in light of the temporal, what we’ve done, in light of what God is doing and what He has promised, it seems to me a very small thing, in the last few years of my life . . .”
And so, God is delivering him through it. Now, is he praying that his wife’s memory will come back? Of course. Is he praying her health will get better? Of course. But God delivers unto Himself, God delivers out of things, but what He always promises, He’ll deliver you through whatever you’re in.
The apostle Paul says, “I’m confident – I know for sure – that He is going to deliver me through it.”
And in this case, a context will tell us that’s what is going to happen. He says, “I will in no way be ashamed, but [I] will have sufficient courage” – or grace – the word means “all boldness, the ability to speak boldly in public” – “so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or [whether] by death.”
So, what he’s saying is, “You know what? The issue, for me, is not whether I die or not. That’s temporal. I’m not wringing my hands, going, I wonder if I’m going to die? I wonder if I’m going to die? I wonder if I’m going to die? I wonder if I’m going to die? I don’t know what to do. I wonder if I’m going to die? And what are those people saying about me out there? Oh, gosh! That’s so terrible! After all these years, Lord, and I’ve written, let’s see, by now, I’ve probably written about 10 of those 13 books You want me to write, but I don’t know about the other three, because, you know, I haven’t died yet, and You’re going to let this happen and . . .” There’s none of that.
He said, “I am absolutely convinced that everything that will be necessary for me to go through this in a way that honors God and gives me what I need is 100 percent available to me at this moment. That’s my eager focus and expectation. My hope is not based on temporal circumstances changing. My hope is based on a hope that can’t change. And my hope and certainty is, a sovereign, good God, using the prayers of people and the power of His Spirit, will give me all that I need, so that in the window of time when I’m at the spiritual free-throw line, and the entire stadium of eternity is filled, I will have sufficient courage to do exactly what you want me to do. You brought me to Rome, because what’s my purpose? My purpose is not to grow old, have a great retirement, and everything work out my way. My purpose is to be an ambassador for Christ, to share Christ, and to live a pure life.” He says, “I’m confident God will give me what I need to do that.
And notice the very last line here. And he says that “Christ will be exalted,” and he said, “Plan A could be life. Plan B could be death.” And he says, “I am confident.” But do you see? Because his deliverance is certain, and because his hope is in that which is eternal, he asks the right questions. And the power of perspective is always asking the right questions, so you start looking at life through focus, purpose, and hope.
The second reason is that his source of joy is unshakeable. His source of joy is unshakeable. And you say, “Well, where do you get that?” Pick it up at verse 21 with me. He says, “Okay, whether by life or by death.” And then, notice the first word is for. For is almost always an explanation or a reason. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
And then, he goes through a little reasoning: “If I am to go on living in the body” – in other words, “If I don’t get executed,” – “this will mean fruitful labor for me.” So, in other words, “I’m going to keep on ministering, and God is going to reward me, both in this life, in the joy of seeing what happens, and also in the next life, by spiritual reward.” “[Yet]” he apparently has a little dilemma here – “[Yet] I do not know which to choose. [I’m] torn between the two: I [have a] desire to depart and be with Christ, which is [far] better, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” And he’s just sharing the mental process that he’s going through. “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you” –why? – “for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” And so, he says, “I have an eternal perspective.”
And that eternal perspective, listen carefully, does this: It tells you that the answer to your problem is not a solution. The answer to your problem is a Person. Think of that. I always think the answer to my problem is my wife’s attitude change. The answer to my problem is my kids getting in line and doing what I tell them. It’s always a solution. The answer to my problem is the economy shifting, and if those stocks would just get up a little bit more, then I could sell off and do what I wanted to do. The answer is a new supervisor. The answer is some employees that would do what I tell them. The answer is, you know what? If this physical issue would heal up, and I could go back to doing what I want to do again.
See, unconsciously, whenever you’re looking at life through this lens of temporality, we’re asking, the answer to my problem is a solution – “God, give me a solution. God, give me a solution.” And the more we ask, and the more we bump, and the more we bump – and we know that that’s what we need – and we don’t get it, we get frustrated, and we get discouraged.
And if you hit it long enough, and you keep asking the wrong question, what do you do? You lose hope. You lose hope. This’ll never change. She’ll never change. This job is a dead end. These kids, after all that I’ve invested . . . You know what? I’m a has-been. I can’t even lift my arm anymore. I can’t even jog anymore. My body doesn’t work. And when you ask the question and always expect, The answer to my problem is a solution, then you’re looking through the lens of that which is temporal.
But when I say to myself, “The answer to my problem is a Person,” I know the Person from up here. So, to me, to live, presently, is Christ. He’s the answer. My relationship with Him. There is no circumstance in my life that can rob me of my relationship with Christ. Right? What did Jesus say? “No one can take you out of My hand.” Neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come – nothing can separate you from the love of God. Is that true or not true? If it’s true, I have, and you have, all we need in our relationship with Christ. So, to me, my life revolves around Him.
Now, as it revolves around Him, there are very real issues, with children and jobs and parenting and frustration, that I need to filter through this all-powerful, all-loving God, who says, “I am your hope.” But you know something? Do you know how freeing it is, when you realize to live is Christ; to die is gain? Because, see, the living water that I’m seeking and tasting in a temporal way is the Spirit of God manifesting the presence and the power of Jesus.
And there will come a day when, by the grace of God – we don’t think of it that way – I’m going to die, and you’re going to die, and if you know Christ personally, then here’s what happens: The barrier gets removed, and you don’t just taste of the living water, you drink. Forever and ever and ever and ever. There are no tears. There is no sorrow. There is no pain. There is no conflict.
And what Paul is saying is, is that everyone’s life revolves around something. God has put it in nature. Those of you with biology backgrounds, get out your microscopes. What do you know about a cell? There’s a nucleus. What goes around the nucleus? Electrons, right? And now, they have these super powerful ones, and they say inside even the nucleus – what? There’s stuff going around stuff. “Well, forget it. I don’t like microscopes.” Okay, let’s look up. The Earth goes around – what? The Sun. The Sun is in a solar system. They tell us our solar system goes around an axle star. Every single thing, in all the world, is going around something. There is always a reference point for every person, every object, everything, whether it’s minuscule, or as grand as the galaxies in the universe.
And the fundamental question I have to ask, and you have to ask, is, what is your life going around? Because whatever your life is going around, that’s your hope. And if it is going around your job, and your job goes south, you’re one depressed, down, discouraged dude that we don’t want to be around. And if your life is circling around your hope to be married one day, then when it looks good, and when it doesn’t look good, well, you go up and you go down. And if it’s around how athletic or how sharp or how fit or how smart or how gifted or how successful you are, or if it’s around one of your kids or one of your wives, I’ll tell you what – the apostle Paul said, “That which is seen is temporal. That which is unseen is eternal.”
He says, “I don’t lose hope. My joy” – because joy is not happiness. Happiness comes from the root word of happenings. Happiness is based on the happenings, or circumstances, in my life. Joy is a spiritual fruit. It is always a byproduct of a relationship. He says, “My joy is unshakeable, because nothing can separate me from my relationship. In fact, what some people fear so much – they’re afraid they’re going to die – all that does is open the barrier for me. It’s better.”
Now, I got news for you. We have so bought into a materialistic world and a temporal view, that I think if the average believer was given a little, “Check box A, check box B: Would you like to live longer and longer here, and have this kind of home, this happen, this happen, this happen, this happen, or immediately go and be with Jesus?” American Christians, we’re all checking Box A.
Now, I don’t think God wants us to be sadistic and say, “Wow, how soon can I get to heaven?” But the reason is not because it’s a bad thing. The reason is, there’s more for you to do here. You’ve got a purpose here. And it’s not to play golf. It’s not to get a second or a third home. And it’s not so that everything can turn out right, and you can vicariously live through the success of your kids. You have a purpose here. You have a purpose: That lost people can hear that they’re loved and get found. You have a purpose: That found people who know Him can be matured and loved by you investing in their life. And you have a purpose to become more and more and more the man – or, if you’re a lady, a woman – who reflects the person of Christ in the midst of a topsy-turvy world.
And the apostle Paul said it really boils down to this: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. You can either get up on the platform,” he says, “and look through this lens of this camera of time” – and, wow, his circumstances look bad. Or, what he does is, he gets on this platform and looks through the lens of eternity, and when he does, he says, “Wow, my life is revolving around an eternal Person, Jesus. If I’m here, they can’t rob my joy. If they kill me, they can’t rob my joy.”
Very interesting. Obviously, I’ve been influenced by my last trip to Asia. Church pastors in China and Indonesia right now, I mean, people are burning their churches. And if you’re not willing to die for your faith, I’ll tell you what, you don’t walk with God in some countries.
And I had the opportunity to go and pray for a group, it’s called the Back to Jerusalem Movement. And the book I told you about is a guy that put this on his heart, but I found out, about 90 years later, a group of Chinese leaders, they had this dream to get 100,000 Chinese evangelists and walk from China, all the way down to Jerusalem. Literally walk.
And if you go through that, you’ll see every major world religion, the huge pockets are Hinduism, Buddhism, Muslim. And as you walk, you go through all those countries. And they’re recruiting, training, and equipping those people to do that. A hundred thousand. Two requirements to be on the team.
Requirement number one: If you join the 100,000 Group, you must commit to understanding you’ll never see your family again. If you ever happen to, great, but no one starts and says, “Oh, my dad’s dying; I go back,” or, “You know, I’m really homesick.” You accept that, as you sign up for this purpose for God in your life, and don’t do it lightly, you put your family behind you.
Number two is, you must be willing to die. They are absolutely certain that tens of thousands of them, as they share their faith, will die. They’ll be persecuted. And so, you think, Well, this sounds wild. It’s actually happening.
So, I’m in the Philippines, and I’m with a guy named Andrew, and we’re in this multi-story place, and we’re having church. And he gives me this smile, “Come here, I want to show you something.” And I walk up these stairs, these stairs, and all these cement buildings, and we go through these long hallways, and he says, “They just came in two days ago.” And there were probably 60 bunks. And then, “Here’s where we’re doing the food.” This church in the Philippines is training about 80 or a hundred of the Back to Jerusalem walkers.
And so, I come into a room of all these Chinese people, and I bet the average age is about 22 to about 33. And he says, “Would you pray for them?” I’m thinking, You know what? I’m the pastor, from America, of this Christian organization and, “Why don’t you pray for these people?”
And I’m thinking, Now, let’s see. There are 80 or a hundred people in the room that have said, “I’ll never see my family again, and I’m getting trained, and I’m going to walk down to Jerusalem, and I’ll probably die. But my purpose is to honor and exalt Christ. I think that’s good, because eternity is real,” and I’m supposed to pray some prayer. And I’m going, Oh, Lord. Spiritual giants, spiritual pygmy. And so, I prayed the best prayer I could come up with. “Lord, help them and bless them and encourage them.”
But you know something? You know what they had? They had hope. And what I learned from those people is, until you have come to the full conclusion that dying is not a bad thing – once you have died in your heart, they can’t touch you. The fear goes out. “What if I go bankrupt?” So, you lose a lot of money. “What if my arm doesn’t work?” So, it doesn’t work. “What if my wife walks out on me?” Well, she walks out. They can’t take Jesus from you, and if they kill you, great.
The apostle Paul used a term. We already have the sentence of Christ within us. When you get where you embrace death as, It’s gain, I’m telling you, the emotional things that occur in your heart and your perspective – they can’t touch you. I mean, what are they going to do?
Think of the worst thing that is in your life, and think, Oh, what if this happens? Or what if this, or what if this . . .? Well, keep playing it out. This happened and this happens and this happens, and then, on top of this, and then, on top of this, on top of this . . . and then, I die. Oh. Or think of all the difficulty and the people you’re dealing with, and just add, Well, in 10 years, will it be that way? Well, maybe. In 20 years? We’ll all be dead. Okay. Do you have in Christ what you need today?
And this is what he says. He says, “To me, if I’m going to go on living in the body, it means faithful labor for me. That’s a win. What shall I choose? I don’t know.” He says, “If I go to heaven, it’s a win.” And so, he goes on and tells us that we’re really untouchable when our hope is in Christ. When you ask yourself, “What or who is my hope in?” when you begin to answer, “Jesus,” then you look at life from up there, instead of through here.
I’ve got four summary points I want to give you, so that you can begin to ponder these for yourself. The summary of Paul’s source of hope: Paul is joyful because he is certain that he will be delivered through this time of personal testing and be found a faithful witness. You can be certain. God will not let you down. And there certainly is a word for us to pray for one another.
Second, Paul’s confidence – key word – confidence rests in the supernatural enabling God will provide through the prayers of the Philippians and the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit. You’ve got it. I’ve got it. Everything you need, the Spirit of God will give you.
Third, Paul’s major concern during this time of testing is how his failure might reflect negatively on the Person of Christ. Did you see that toward the end, here? He says, “I know that I’ll remain, and continue for your progress and joy in [your] faith. [It’s better by far.]” His one concern was, Wow, when I step up to the plate, I don’t want to dishonor God.
And fourth, Paul’s primary motivation and goal in his testing is that Christ’s reputation would be greatly enhanced, regardless of what means God would choose to accomplish His goal: Life or death.
I’ve got a really good friend right now who is on our board, and he is going through a horrendous time. He has an ulcer on his colon. He has bleeding, and has had bleeding now for about a year. And as I talked with Jack, and he said, “Man, really pray for me.” And he said, “What I know is eternity.” And he said, “What I want to do is finish well. I want to finish well.” And he said, “I want to finish well for my family. I want to finish well for my kids. I want to finish well for my grandkids. I want to finish well for those people who knew me in business. I want to finish well for those people.” And he said, “I want to finish well.” And I thought, What a picture of this final point. The primary goal is that Christ’s reputation be enhanced. Isn’t that different from the consumer mindset of, Does it really work for me? and, Am I happy?
On the back, I’ve put a little space that says, “Personal Application.” And all I’d like you to do – and you can use your pencil, if you like, or you can do it mentally – what personal circumstance in your life, right now, is eating you up? What relationship, what financial issue, what physical issue, what work-related issue, what emotional issue?
What is it, in your life, that, when you walk out of here, you have to say, “I am sick and tired of over and over and over unconsciously thinking, My hope is this, my hope is this, my hope is this, my hope is this, and you find yourself sinking, and you say to yourself, I’m going to learn – because it’ll be a journey; it’ll be a process – I am going to learn to get up here, from this vantage point, and I’m going to look at that circumstance that is eating my lunch. Realistically? Yes. But through the lens of eternity. And I’m going to believe with all my heart and begin to act and speak like I – it is a certain thing that God will give me all that I need. Not tomorrow. By the way, there is no hypothetical grace. What happens next week? I don’t know. I don’t know if you’ll be here next week. I don’t know if I will be.
“Well, if this happens at the same rate, I’ve done the chart, and two years from now, this is where I’ll be.” Two years from now, you might be in heaven, with me and a bunch of the rest of us. Who knows?
What you get is grace for today. What I get is grace for today. And you get a choice. I get a choice. Focus, purpose, hope. Lens of time, lens of eternity. What do you need, in your life, to look at through the lens of eternity?
What if we started looking at America through the lens of eternity? What if we started looking at the economy through the lens of eternity? What if we looked at terrorism through the lens of eternity? Realistic, it’s happening, but wouldn’t it begin to start to shift our fears and our anxieties and, “What might happen to me, or what might happen to my family?” and move us from a protectionistic, hold mine, save mine, protect mine, not care, to a, these are volatile times?
It would certainly seem that God would need an army of men and an army of women who had such an eternal perspective. Because once you know that death can’t hurt you, you’re invincible. God needs some invincible men in the marketplace, and some invincible men in homes, leading kids, saying, “As for me and my house, we are going to serve the Lord.”