As a Result

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.  Philippians 1:12-14.

When someone uses the word “really” they are trying to persuade those who are either listening or reading.  The people in Philippi probably were saddened and even horrified that Paul ended up in chains and he sent this to assure them that God was using even this to bring glory to Himself.  The fact that the whole palace guard along with the anyone connected to them knew the “why” of his incarceration stands out as a not so subtle reminder of just how powerful our Savior is.  We limit Him to certain methods and what we consider to be “tried and true” but He uses the seemingly innocuous, mundane, out of character and broken to bring glory to Himself.  The very thing the enemy causes in order to destroy the image of God in His creation is what our Master uses to bring even more glory to Himself.

It isn’t strange to me to read Paul’s words anymore.  I mean, it used to seem like a man out of touch with reality talking when I read how he gloried in his suffering, but now it seems strange to me that those who claim to follow Christ develop any other attitude.  For one thing, it’s so clear in Jesus’ teachings that those who follow Him will have tribulation that anyone who believes suffering to be evidence of God’s disfavor must be avoiding the gospels.  But there are whole denominations or sects of Christianity that teach reward in monetary and possession terms as a sign of holiness.

If it sounds like I have a problem with riches let me assure you:  I don’t think God has a problem with us being wealthy, we do.

We all know those people who touch a product and just seem to generate money from it.  They have a gift, it’s not by accident.  I must admit, I don’t have that particular gift because I’m not any kind of salesman, but when I see these people operate, I definitely admire their skill.  At the same time, those to whom making money comes easily forget they have a gift for it rather than it being something just anyone can do.

Let me give you another analogy to clarify where I’m coming from with this.

My sister-in-law, Theresa, has a green thumb.  I think she could grow flowers out of rock if she wanted to, she’s just that good with them.  Part of it is that she loves it, part of it is doing gardening just comes natural.  I never grew anything in my life but potatoes out of a cup when I attended grade school, and these got moldy before we planted them.  I’m sure I could learn, because Dad did it all the time and I helped him, but it doesn’t come natural to me to think about plants except when I’m ready to eat.  Now take this idea and apply it to farming in general.   Why are some farmers more successful than others?  Do they have better soil or seed?  Sometimes that’s true.  Yet, why does one person succeed over another?

The truth is, in my grasp of such things, we are subject to the luck of the draw—who gets the the short or long straw.  I grew up in a his-hers-and-ours kind of family.  Three of my older brothers and all of my sisters were abused terribly by Dad’s second wife, while my younger brother and I prospered under a mother who loved the living daylights out of us.  She hugged us everyday, told us how much we mattered to her and generally celebrated us being hers to raise for a time, complaining we grew up too fast.  Two of my sisters were molested from babyhood till they were adolescents or older by their mother’s husband; while I never knew what it was like to treated as anything but a kid.

Now I could grow arrogant about my good fortune and scorn those who have it less so, but that wouldn’t be honest.  My life as a child was a gift having nothing to do with me.  Some people grow wealthy though they don’t deserve to gain it.  I’ve known incredibly bad people who made money just by being in a room it seemed; others who tripped and just made a success out of something ordinary.  The tides of human interest grow hot then wane with the course of the wind, yet some believe these things are guided in detail by God’s hand.

The Word says differently.  Proverbs All hard work brings profit… And, You see a man skilled in his work?  He will work before kings, he will not work before obscure men.  Yet Ecclesiastes speaks the opposite side of the coin:  Like a fowl caught in a snare or a fish in a cruel net, so men are caught by disastrous times.  Just as no one can predict the day of his or her death, so no one can predict the outcome of their efforts or lives.  I’ve witnessed people who have lived their whole lives on credit and handled their money very badly never fall down into poverty or lose their income.  At the same time, I’ve known those who were incredibly frugal live on the edge of poverty without relief.

I lived in San Francisco for a time years ago.  One day a musician friend of mine who played backup sax for Kenny G gave me this advice,  “You are a good musician, Jon, but it doesn’t matter.  There are a million guitarists out there on the streets better than you at everything—songwriting, playing, singing—and they will never make it, though they try their whole lives.”

Being good at something doesn’t make us successful, does it.  While hard work might bring profit, it can also bring on a heart attack, there’s no way to know or guarantee the outcome here.  Out of the billions of people on this planet, only 1-2% out of roughly 2% of the population make any kind of big splash in society.  This is the outcome of the kingdom of darkness not God.  In a dog eat dog world, sometimes the diseased dog rules the pack.  Look around the world and ask yourself if the dictators who rule their countries with selfish ambition and for their own profit do so out of good political will or evil?

In a perfect world, one side would always win.  In a world agonizing over a broken relationship with their Creator, both sides of the coin are true.  In other words, evil times will hurt good people who serve God faithfully.  Daniel was a prince in the palace of Jerusalem who ended up being taken into captivity and was made into a eunuch—something a good Jew would find awful even to contemplate, since Daniel’s name would be lost in posterity (no children to carry on the family).  Again, Ecclesiastes 7:13-18 explains that we are made of two natures and to deny the one exists in the favor of the other is insanity.  Both exist in us, if you don’t believe me, read Paul’s lament in Romans 7 & 8 where he cries out for deliverance from his own nature.  Fortunately for him as well as us, Jesus came to rescue us from this condition.  Humanity has a split personality so both realities will work out true.  Our deliverance from the results of sin only finds its ultimate expression in glorification and never this side of the new earth.

Back to Paul.

Paul languished in chains for defense of the gospel, yet some among the Christian brothers used his circumstances to advance their own agenda instead of Christ’s.  Instead of looking at the results of his imprisonment (the whole palace guard being aware of the reason he was standing trial—Jesus), they began to teach those they could influence to denounce Paul’s teaching as heretical and that he was under God’s judgment as a result.  Of course, from Paul’s point of view these people were deceived and missed the reason why he was in chains, but that didn’t deter them one iota.  By their words they demonstrated their hatred of Paul’s ministry and contempt for the grace of God.

If our reward for a life lived for Christ is in the new creation, whether we win or lose in the carnal man’s mind becomes immaterial.  Judging our circumstances by anything but God’s Word will bring worry, distress and discouragement.  Unless we know we have been disobedient to His Word in a direct way, most of the consequences we experience as a result of living here have nothing to do with our own actions or choices.  A drunk driver makes a choice and we choose to cross the street or drive at the same time he or she does and die or become crippled as a result.  We are not allowed to know the future except as headlines so beating ourselves up over a choice we couldn’t know the consequences of is foolishness.

A bad doctrine will blind us to God’s reality and as a result we will suffer more for the mistake.  May be not in loss of life or persecution, but if we cling to bad theology our understanding of what is happening around us will be skewed.  We need to take everything in life on this planet in the context of Scripture.

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2 Responses to “As a Result”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    There used to a man in church when I was a new believer. If anyone caught a cold or sprained an ankle it was because of sin. Bad hair day? Sin. Allergies? Sin. Car accident? Sin. Every good thing was a blessing for righteous living. Raise at work? Righteous. Won 5 bucks on a scratch-off? Righteous. Got a good tan? Righteous. At first, I beat myself up. Late for work due to an early morning traffic accident which blocked traffic? Sin. Didn’t get the sale? Sin. Then I realized I didn’t serve a punitive God who worked against himself. I simply lived life here on earth and each day brought good things and bad. It would become my attitude about how to handle those things which proved me in the end.

    Interestingly though, this person got into a terrible car accident. It however was not due to sin but rather to further his revelation into the character of God. It is interesting the justification that goes on in the body of Christ and no wonder the confusion of both believers and non-believers alike.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Satan is the author of confusion and, boy!, has he done a number on us.

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