Michael and I are committed to a reading plan from Bible Gateway. Today’s reading was Esther Chapters 9 and 10 and Acts 7:1-21, which contains Stephen’s speech before being martyred. What stood out for me was the Lord’s preservation of the Jewish people, and never forgetting there was a purpose—a mission—TO GLORIFY HIM.
Lately I’ve been pondering how to encourage a few Christian friends who are consumed with their trials. How do I help them when I have not conquered my trials consuming me? Today I realized we must change how we view our circumstances. We lose all perspective and become self-pitying instead of understanding it is always for His glory. Isn’t this why Paul could say, “I’ve learned to be content” no matter what situation he has found himself in?
Most of us are familiar with the writings of Paul and turn to many of his promises to receive encouragement: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “. . . we know that all things work together for good. . . [and conveniently leave off the rest of this verse];”
Now imagine if Paul had the mindset many of us today in America have. The words of Paul would sound something like this: “Why did God let this happen to me?” and “Is this how He repays me for all I did for Him?” yada yada yada.
With these thoughts this morning, I turned to the first chapter of Philippians:
In verse 5 I read about “your fellowship in the Gospel…”
For true fellowship, to have a right relationship with each other, I realized it is found in the message of the Good News of our grace (recognizing our unworthiness for His gift of salvation and His love). Walking in the realization of this would provide the much-needed antidote to envy, backbiting, putting others down so we can lift ourselves up, etc.
Verse 6&7 reads “being confident of this very thing, that He would who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Paul could not have written these words of encouragement if he was feeling sorry for himself or questioning God’s goodness since he wrote this while in chains.
Can I undergo such trials and not whine, but rather still be grateful for His grace and, therefore, be in a position to encourage others—and even draw unbelievers?
Verse 9 reads “…and this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.”
Our cup can overflow if we grow in the knowledge of the Sovereign and loving God—if He is indeed sovereign and loving, I must reconcile myself with the fact that He is allowing whatever situation I am in, never for a moment something He cannot control and never for a moment not loving me.
Verse 10: “that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. “
SO INSTEAD OF THOSE STERLING WORDS ABOVE, OUR MODERN-DAY PAUL COULD CHOOSE TO FEEL AND/OR THINK LIKE A VICTIM. I CAN IMAGINE HIM WRITING SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
I question my so-called faith. How could God be good? Look, I’m sorry if I preached Him to you —maybe it was a mistake. I mean look at all I did for Him, and now I’m in chains. That’s the thanks I get? All of you are living good lives while I’m in this dark, dank place chained to the wall. Did I mention it smells horrendous in here? I can’t take this anymore. I know I told you He never gives us more than we can handle, but this is more than I can bear—my back is killing me, I’m starving, I’m all alone here—this is more than I can endure and I know I said He would provide a means of escape, but there’s no such luck for me. Peter, that lousy ignorant fisherman, some angels provide an escape for him—but me? What? Am I not as good as Peter? No, I’m better. I deserve better.
At church last night we were told to think of someone who inspired us—someone we would want to emulate. I quickly thought of a dear friend named Joan. I’ve never seen her complain, but only praise God and thank Him for His goodness. If she can do it in our modern world of entitlement, then not only do I have Paul as a role model, but I can thank God for you, Joan—sweet humble Joan.
The photo at the top of this post is one of my radiant mother–even before she knew the Lord, my mother always showed gratitude for all she had. I loved the way she reverently referred to God as The Almighty–she knew He was all mighty.