Trials & Tribulations

Philippians 4:13

9Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

As we read this scripture, we may easily jump to our own conclusion about what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us, that through Christ’s strength and presence in our lives, we can do all things.  Really?  All things?  Can I jump off a bridge and fly because Christ lives in me?  Can I deliberately, and foolishly put myself in danger because of this verse?

As we study the Bible, what we must learn to do is to read all verses in context.  We must challenge our understanding with a series of questions.  What is contained within the scripture both before and after the verse in question?  What is the theme of the chapter as a whole, and the book it is contained in?  Who was the author writing to?  What was their situation?  All of these questions are a starting point to ensure that we do not take scripture out of context to make it mean something it does not, or to make it mean something we want it to.

As we look at the preceding verses of this chapter in the Letter to the Philippians, we will see what the Apostle Paul is describing.  He is describing what our attitude and our thoughts must be as we journey through life with Christ.  We must understand first that this letter was written during a time of extreme persecution to the church.  There were attacks from the local culture and from the Jews as they saw their proselytes moving towards Jesus and away from their faith.  When this letter was written, Paul was actually in a Roman prison suffering in a way that cannot be understood in our current circumstances.

So Paul starts this chapter by describing some challenging life situations for the early church in these verses of scripture.    Although we may not encounter these same set of circumstances, Paul gives us a foundation on how to handle trials in our life in these first thirteen verses of Philippians chapter 4.  Life situations that we, as Christians, must decide what our attitude and thoughts must be before we journey through them. Below, we will look at the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the face of these challenges that may come our way.

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

As we think about life challenges, it is not always easy to rejoice. Life has a way of loading us up with burdens, our hands being so full of our own thoughts and troubles, that we cannot lift them up to God.  The psalmist in Psalms 32:11 calls us to “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  We should rejoice in The Lord no matter what our current situation may be, because we are righteous.  We are known by God.  We are saved from eternal separation from Him by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We are upright before God.  We have right standing before Him.  This is cause for celebration, no matter what our life situation may be.  This is cause for rejoicing!

It was important for Paul to start with this admonition because too often we forget.  We get so caught up in our current drama that we forget where we stand with Christ as believers.  We forget the price that has been paid for us, the blood spilled on our behalf.  We forget what that single act of Christ ensures us, and that is eternity in Heaven.  We forget that our life is short in suffering compared to the eternity of joy waiting for us in the presence of God.  The psalmist writes, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4 ESV).”

What our salvation does not promise us is a life without complications or challenges.  As Paul describes these challenges, some of us may have or be facing them now.  We may know someone who has faced them.  We may not be facing any of them, but may be afraid that someday we will.  Wherever you may find yourself in this list, Paul it telling us, in spite of these, rejoice.  Paul is calling us to rejoice in the face of:

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

  • Anxiety

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Doubt and fear

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

  • Negative thoughts about ourselves and others

Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

  • Discontent or unhappiness

Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

  • When mistreated by others
  • When facing hunger or thirst
  • When daunted by financial concerns
  • When facing lack or loss

Why is Paul instructing us to rejoice in the midst of these challenges?  How is it possible that he is suffering from hunger and neglect while in prison, but he can write for us to rejoice?  How can he be content in this circumstance? Because of what he states in verse 13 “ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  No matter what we will face, we can choose to rejoice and ask Jesus for the strength to persevere.  We can know that He will be with us at all times. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We can stand upon His word in these areas and know that through Him we will come through.

Why can Paul write these things?  Because he lived them.  Paul faced hunger and thirst, he faced lack, he was mistreated and cast down.  I can only suggest that he faced the opportunities to have anxiety, bad thoughts and fears.  However, Paul knew who God is.  He knew who Christ is.  Further, Paul knew that he was in God’s will and purpose for his life.  In that, Paul could stand and rejoice. As he wrote in this letter, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). No matter the external circumstances Paul found himself facing, He knew that Christ lived in Him.  He knew that in all things, Christ would strengthen him.

So as we journey through life, we can choose each day the approach we take.  We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to each situation.  Will we stand and rejoice, or will we lower our head and walk with a heavy burden.  I encourage you, rejoice!  For, you are a child of God Almighty.  The very presence of God lives within you.  Face the situation, seek comfort in prayer and God’s Holy Word, lift your hands and praise Him, for He will strengthen you to face this day, and every day thereafter.

A Call to Holy Living

Ephesians 5:18-20

Adam DrummThe Apostle Paul in this fifth chapter of Ephesians is giving an exhortation to the believers in the Church at Ephesus, calling them to Holy living. He is leading them through a series of scripture and teaching them how to walk as a Christian. As we come to this eighteenth verse in Chapter Five, Paul gives a command that is based upon the previous verses, and is the foundation for the verses to follow. This is a verse that I would call a hinge point. It is the verse that instructs believers on how Holy living is even possible.

Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

At first glance, it may appear that Paul is giving us a command not to drink wine or alcohol. However, what we are going to look at is the greater meaning behind this verse. What Paul is giving us in this verse is a comparison. As stated, in the previous verses, Paul has outlined some guidelines for the Christian walk, and in verse 18 he is telling us how living them will be possible. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Why did Paul include the comparison with wine? It’s not so much the comparison to wine, but the effect that wine has on an individual. To be drunk on something means to have consumed such a quantity that it has overtaken you. It gives the sense of being led by, controlled by and carried by something out of your control. You have made the conscience decision to let this substance take over and influence you actions and behavior, your decisions and possibly their outcome. In that sense, wine is representative as a type of the world, or even as our own flesh. Do we want to be led by this world or by our own flesh?

Paul is telling believers to choose carefully what we let control us. To choose what we decide to consume to the point of giving up control to it. Paul is pleading with them “Do not let the world and your flesh overtake you, but be so consumed by The Holy Spirit that you are led by Him. That it is He that carries you and control you. It is through His influence that your actions and behaviors are decided.”

It is a constant choice to choose what controls us and leads us. Each day we must make this choice. As we give ourselves daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit, our life will begin to be controlled by His will and controlled by Him. It is a constant filling by His Holy Spirit. It is allowing yourself to be overcome by the Spirit, so that your actions are overwhelmed, just as when you are intoxicated. Paul then writes in verses 19-20 what it looks like when we are filled with His Spirit and led by Him.

Ephesians 5:19 (ESV)
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

It’s joy. Joy unspeakable. Joy overwhelming. Contagious Joy. Joy because we are filled with His presence. Joy in spite of our circumstances or trials. Joy that many people may not be able to understand. It is easy to let life and troubles overcome you. It is easy to let life determine your attitude and steal your joy. However, it is the desire of Jesus for us to live in joy. In His own words “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11. As we are filled with His Holy Spirit, His joy will remain in us. His joy will overtake us and manifest itself through us in songs, hymns and singing in the face of trials.

Ephesians 5:20 (ESV)
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Have you ever met somebody that is able to give thanks to God in the middle of loss? It is not easily understandable. It is contrary to what we usually expect from people. It just doesn’t make sense. How can they be happy and thankful after a bad doctor’s report? After losing a job, losing a loved one or losing a spouse. Really? Thankful? But it is possible.

When we live our life consumed by His Holy Spirit, we begin to understand God’s will and purpose in a great way. We begin to read His Word with clarity and pray with intention. We begin to draw closer to Him and our relationship blossoms. Our faith grows. Although we may not understand, or even agree with what has happened, we begin to trust God. As Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Our faith become unshakable because we are consumed by Him, led by Him and walk with Him at all moments of our life.

Ephesians 5:21 (ESV)
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Finally, being overcome by the Holy Spirit allows you to submit or surrender to one another.  Submission is a tough subject to talk about. At first, most people will easily say they have submitted. Whether we are talking about submission to God, or to others above us. Submission is easy when we are all in agreement. Doing what is easy, what we agree with and what we actually wanted to do in the first place is not hard. However, that is not real submission.

Real submission is evidenced when it is difficult. When we are challenged with the difficulty of the task, a differing opinion, or when what we have been asked to do is not what we want to do at all. When it is not “your way.” That is when real submission is seen. Paul is telling us that without the presence of the Holy Spirit, that real submission is not possible apart from the strength and influence of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus knelt in the garden the night of His arrest, He prayed that we would be “one” John 17:21-22. Jesus prayed that we as His Church would be in unity. To do that, we must be willing to submit to one another. We must believe as Paul writes in Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

We must believe and trust in God that whatever authority has been placed over us has been placed there by Him. We must be willing to submit in spite of what we may feel or think, to the point that it does not go against God’s Word. As we live controlled by His Spirit, we learn to fear God more than man. Our ability to submit comes more from our desire to please God and live according to His word, then to please those above us.

Being joyful in the face of trials. Thanksgiving in the face of loss. Submission in spite of feelings.  This is what Holy Living looks like, and it’s a tough order to fill.  However, this is the outcome of a life overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit.  These commands are not possible on our own. These directives are not possible if we are led by ourselves, our flesh, or this world. These are only possible with God. We must choose this day what we will give ourselves over to. “But be filled with the Holy Spirit” Paul’s desire for the believers then, and God’s desire for us now.

Why Did Christ Come?

Hebrews 2: 9-12

1A common question asked today is “Why did Christ have to come as a man?”  Most would argue that God could have just decided to forgive sin, or that God could just decide to let all people into Heaven.  Why did Christ have to come and suffer if God is good?  As we look at the passage of scripture from Hebrews 2:9-12, we see five reasons why Jesus came to Earth as a man, what these five reasons mean to us, and how they answer the questions posed above.

Reason #1) To Identify with us.
Hebrews 2:9 (ESV)
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels,

Christ came to Earth to identify with us.  Christ did not just “appear” one day as a fully grown man and go directly to the cross.  Christ came, lower than the angels, stripping Himself of all Heavenly privileges, becoming fully man while still being fully God.  Christ was born as we are born.  He grew as we grow.  Christ experienced life as we experience.  He experienced pain, suffering, happiness and hurt.  Christ lost loved ones, celebrated the births of brothers and sisters, and we believe, lost His earthly father, Joseph, at a young age.  Christ came as a man to identify with us, both in life here on Earth, and for eternity as our High Priest.  For as the writer of Hebrews will tell us in Chapter 4:15, we have a High Priest who can identify with us in our weaknesses, as He has been tempted and trialed as we have.  And in verse 16, it is because of this fact, that we may approach Him with confidence.  It is because we know He can identify with us that we can bring our prayers, petitions, hurts, weaknesses and any situation we may be going through, and He will understand.  Christ came to identify with us.

Reason #2) To die for us.
Hebrews 2:9 (ESV)
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Christ came to Earth to die for us.  What Christ would accomplish for us through His death, we could never accomplish on our own.  As the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah Chapter 64:6 “Our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”  No matter how clean or righteous we may try to be on our own, we could never accomplish through our entire life what Jesus accomplishes on our behalf at the Cross.  He came to “taste death for everyone” so that we would not have to.  There is not one person who is without need of salvation.  As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  For God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2Peter 3:9.  Through Christ, a perfect sacrifice, the sin of every man and woman on Earth has been paid for.  As Hebrews 2:9 states, it is by the “grace” of God that Christ should taste death for every man.  Christ endured the pain of the Cross so that by His grace, we would not have to.  Christ came to die for us.

Reason #3) To walk before us
Hebrews 2:10 (ESV)
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Christ came to walk before us.  In this passage of scripture, the word “captain” is a Greek word, archegos.  This word in the Greek means pioneer, originator or leader.  It denotes the impression of someone going before others, carving a path or finding a way.  This is exactly what Christ has done for us.  Through His death, burial and resurrection, Christ is the “captain” of our salvation.  Christ has walked before us.  Christ has shown us the way, and in His own words declares the same, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6.  Jesus has led the way by example, and we may follow Him on this journey to God the Father with certainty and trust.  We may follow Him through our own death, burial and resurrection.  Not physical death, although that will happen to all eventually, but by choosing to repent of our sins, we may die with Christ, bury the old man and sin nature, and rise again with Him as a new creation.  As The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Christ has come to lead us to new life.  Christ has come to lead us into relationship with God.  Christ has come to walk before us.

Reason #4) To make us one
Hebrews 2:11 (ESV)
“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Christ came to make us “one” As the verse states, Jesus who is sanctified and we that are sanctified are one, and He is not ashamed to call us brethren, or brothers.  In this verse, Jesus is calling us “one.”  As Paul writes in Romans Chapter 6:8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For those who have repented, died and rose again with Christ, He calls us brothers.  We are now identified with Christ.  And, as His brothers, and High Priest, He lives to make intercession for us in Heaven, Romans 8:34.  For, to be confident in our identity in and with Christ is to know who we are, and whose we are.  It is to know the freedom we have been given through His blood and our relationship with Him.  It is to call His Father, our Father.  Christ also came to make us one with each other.  As Jesus prayed the night before His crucifixion, we read in John 17:21 Jesus prayed that we may be “one” as He and The Father are “one”  Christ prayed that we as believers would be in unity as He and The Father are in unity.  We, as believer in Christ must live in unity with one another.  We must learn to love one another, help one another and forgive one another.  Christ has not come so we may live in division, but in unity.  Our lives and our purpose must be united.  We must live for Christ, a united Church and a united people identified with Him.  Just as Christ was “one” with God, we must be “one” with Christ, and “one” with each other to fulfill His purpose on Earth, “that all should reach repentance” 2Peter 3:9.  Christ came to make us one.

Reason #5) To glorify God before us
Hebrews 2:12 (ESV)
“saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Christ came to glorify God before us.  In this verse Jesus is declaring that He will declare Gods name to His brothers, and He will sing God’s praises.  This is a quote from Psalms 22:22. Which is a Psalm that gives us both a picture of Christ’s death and His resurrection.  Through His death, burial and resurrection, Christ has declared God’s name and sang God’s praise to all man.  And, Christ will continue to sing praise to God forever more.  It is through Christ that God is glorified.  It is through Christ that God is made known and able to be known.  It is through Christ that we enter into relationship with God, that we are sanctified, set free and declared righteous.  It is through Christ that we are able to enter into praise of God and to God.  Just as Christ brought glory to God through His life here on Earth, His death, His burial, His resurrection, and now sits at Gods right hand in a place of honor, we too may bring glory to God through our death, our burial and our resurrection as a son of God and we also may bring God glory and sing His praise though our life here on Earth.

Why did Christ come?  Christ came to identify with us, to die for us, to walk before us, to call us “one” and to glorify God before us.  Now, we must choose to identify with Him, to die for Him, to walk with Him, to become with Him, and to glorify God because of Him.