March 14, 2011: Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Bryan Song, Gracepoint Austin

List all the things that made Apostle Paul joyful.

  • The Philippians partnership in the gospel with Apostle Paul from the first days till now.  Apostle Paul found joy when praying for the Philippians, knowing that they continued to remain faithful to the gospel work.
  • That Christ was being preached, regardless of false motives or true. It didn’t matter that some were preaching Christ out of envy, rivalry, selfish ambition or any other form of insincerity.  The main issue was that Christ was being preached to those who needed to hear.
  • He had a confidence that all that happened to him would all result in his deliverance.   He didn’t just mean his freedom from prison, but as he stated in vs.20-21, he seemed to also imply the deliverance that came from dying for Christ.

What is the secret to Apostle Paul’s ability to be undaunted by difficulties and setbacks?

Apostle Paul’s ability to be undaunted by difficulties and setbacks was due to him being a Gospel-centered person.  So central to his life was the Gospel, that when he faced difficulties and setbacks, he was able to rejoice that through them, the Gospel advanced. This just goes to show Apostle Paul’s level of selflessness, and Gospel-centeredness.  His life really wasn’t about the drama of his own life, but about how God was using him to advance the Gospel, even through hardships.
When he was in prison, he was able to rejoice that his testimony of being in chains for Christ had spread throughout the entire palace.  This kind of mindset is entirely different than the typical person’s mindset.   A person in jail would normally be filled with worry, grief, anxiety and/or anger.  But we don’t see these attitudes present in Apostle Paul’s life at all.  For him, being in prison was an opportunity to spread the Gospel in that place where God had placed him.

Another reason why Apostle Paul was undaunted by difficulties and setbacks is simply because he expected them.  In v.29, he tells the Philippians that it has been granted unto them to not just believe in Christ, but to also suffer for him.  In Apostle Paul’s mind, suffering was simply a part of the calling to servanthood.  So many Christians today are burdened when things don’t go their way and when certain hardships arise, because they didn’t expect such things to happen.  When a person asks for help, when there are roadblocks in ministry, when there are personal difficulties…these all have a way of burdening believers.  The reason for this is because following Christ has taken on this flowery notion of niceness and ease that was never meant to be.  The call to serve Christ is as Apostle Paul says a call to suffer.

As I look at Apostle Paul’s life, I am challenged and inspired to become like him – a person who is totally selfless and focused on the Gospel.  I don’t face anything near the hardships that he faced, such as imprisonments from enemies and threats on his life.  But the posture of being centered on the Gospel is the same posture to which God calls me to.  I must expect it. It’s so difficult to get out of myself because that has been an engrained part of my character for so many years.  Yet there is hope to change, and the hope is in God’s transforming power to change this heart as I become consumed with channeling God’s love to all those around me, in the way that Apostle Paul was.  One of the privileges God has given me has been to teach course 101 to the students here in Austin.  There are over 30 students regularly attending the lectures, and the fact that each of these students have the need to hear about the basic Gospel really compels me to do my best to communicate this good news to each and every one of them.  Spending the time to prepare for the lectures and even staying up late to do so can hardly be called suffering in light of Apostle Paul’s suffering, but it is through these small steps of letting go of my agenda and my time for the sake of the Gospel advancing in others, that I can be hopeful that God would change my heart more and more.

Submitted by David Lee, Gracepoint Austin

List all the things that made Apostle Paul joyful.

  1. Partnership in the gospel with all the saints at Philippi (vv. 4-5)
  2. Christ being preached (v. 18)
  3. Receiving prayers from the Philippian church and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ (vv. 18-19)

What is the secret to Apostle Paul’s ability to be undaunted by difficulties and setbacks? The secret to Apostle Paul’s ability to be undaunted by difficulties and setbacks is the strength of his conviction in the gospel and also the love he has for many of the churches.

Reflect on vss. 20-25.  What does this passage show about the strength and beauty of a Christ-centered life? The passage shows that a Christ-centered life is full of strength and beauty because as evidenced through Apostle Paul, love is the motivating factor that drives such a life to “die to self” so that others may live.  Apostle Paul is a clear example of a life that was completely devoid of self, and sold out for Christ.  In vv. 20-21 he indicates his desire to exalt Christ in his body “whether by life or by death” and that “to live is Christ and to die is gain”.  With this kind of clear purpose and motivation for his life, Apostle Paul was on an unstoppable mission to spread the good news of the gospel despite the many setbacks he faced.

A Christ-centered life also gives such person courage to stand for what they believe in, even in the face of persecution, suffering, and death.  Additionally, a Christ-centered life provides purpose, meaning, and “fruitful labor” (v.22) in fulfilling God’s work of salvation in the lives of those He places within our sphere of concern.  Apostle Paul was ultimately not afraid of death because he lived for his eternal reward, which was secure in heaven.

I am personally challenged once again to live a Christ-centered life that Apostle Paul lived out so fervently and courageously until the very end of his life.  Paul’s life in the world’s eyes could be labeled as reckless, irrational, unbalanced, foolish, or as a waste.  However, for believers, his life is upheld as beautiful life that was poured out and sacrificed like a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31-32) so that others could live.

Living in American I find it hard to use the same word “suffering” as Apostle Apostle, given the kind of luxury and comfort I live in today.  However, I know that there are ways for me to “die to myself” and live a surrendered life for the benefit of others by being generous with my time, my money, and possessions.  Also, another way is to really invest in my relationships by trying to love people as Paul so passionately demonstrated; getting into their lives, noticing and meeting needs, praying for them, anguishing over the sins that plague them, and rejoicing when they are growing in their faith and love for God.  I can also welcome more interruptions to my schedule, even if it means allowing things to get backed up, so that I can help others who may be in need of assistance or just being there to lend a listening ear to someone going through some personal struggles.

Personally, as I am about to hit the ripe age of 30, I know that many people around my age start to assess their worth in the world’s eyes through their career achievements.  However, when I look at Apostle Paul’s life and how in the world’s eyes all he has to show for is being a tent-maker, I would consider it an honor to imitate his life of making an eternal impact in the lives of many people who are in need of the gospel.

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