Finding God in the Unexpected
- Introduction...Good morning, welcome to our online service, I am so glad you’ve joined us this morning. We are starting our Zoom Community group at 10:30 morning… you have just enough time to grab a snack and join us…I recently heard a news commentator describe the covid 19 virus as the unexpected punch…He said that it is not the Expected punches that knock us out, but the one you didn't see coming…When Covid hit China in January, most of us didn’t realize the full impact of the virus…Maybe we thought it would be like the Swine flu … or even the Ebola that came and then disappeared… but this has been different and has impacted every single person on the planet...…But here is the thing...Even when we are caught off guard by the surprises of life.. … we need to remember that there is nothing that can surprise God..From his perspective, God can see our past, our present, and our future all at once.He not only knows about the future, he’s also there in the future. He not only walks with us day by day, he can also walk in our future.In other words God is already prepared for everything you and I are going to face .... today, tomorrow, next week, and next month.We are in this new sermon series entitled ReFrame… and we are in the book of Philippians…Paul is writing from prison… he is in a holding pattern and he has a death sentence hanging over his head… and His future is uncertain and he is literally living his life moment by moment.Things have not been easy for Paul .... Paul has endured multiple floggings, stonings and at one point he had been left for dead. Paul has survived shipwrecks, danger in his travels and various imprisionment…And now once again he faces a new threat....But in-spite of all these trials and difficulties… Paul writes this amazing letter of Joy.. filled with Enthusiasm, thanksgiving and encouragement .Paul is writing to this young congregation in Philippi who are concerned about the future....They are struggling to see how the church would advance with out Paul’s ministry and encouragement…So, In this letter Paul is eager to help by addressing their questions, fears and uncertainties...Some of the concerns would have been.... How will they survive?What does it mean for the future of these young churches that have being planted?Who was going to lead the church in Paul’s absence?Who are they going to goto with there concerns..THERE WERE A LOT OF UNKNOWNS.. NOT UNLIKE THIS SEASON THAT WE ARE IN now…So… The purpose of Paul’s letter is to help the church navigate through A new set of circumstances… and give them a new perspective… AND GIVE THEM HOPE.Paul deals with a very human struggle and that is how we process life when thing are on flux and change..Have you noticed that... Life is not a straight line… sometimes we map out the shortest distance as A-B… We think that is the path that we are going to take.. You that “Plan”… it might be our pathway to better health… our pathway to a certain career… a pathway to a better life… we set out all these maps… But what we often forget is that life is not straight line ....there are many twists and turns along the way..…and some of them… are just because of circumstances..What would your life look like if your plan had gone from A-B?It is interesting was a special report on This American Life.... Where they followed several people who were living what they unequivocally called "Plan B." During the show....the Host Ira Glass did an informal poll.He asked a room of hundred people to think back to the beginning of adulthood when they were first formulating a plan for their lives.He called it "Plan A," "the fate you were sure fate had in store." He then asked those who were still following this plan to raise their hands. Only one person confessed she was still living Plan A; she was 23 years old.In other words most of us are living on plan B...This is what the book of Philippians is all about looking at your life … and reframing our Circumstances…Paul is about to drop a theological bomb …on the Philippian perspective… it is going to destroy this notion that their circumstances were hopeless…Paul is going to tell us them that the very thing that they were concerned about…is not working out against them but actually working out for their good..Pauls imprisonment is going to be the Catalyst for growth and expansion of the church…..... What has happened to Paul has turned out for his deliverance.Toby McKeehan said that..“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our greatest direction.” Toby McKeehanSomething that may have never happen is Paul had continued on his regular intermarry of evangelism.Paul has has a new perspective,..Paul is going give us two words that are a tool for reframing our Circumstances…lets read our text..12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.…Paul reports that his circumstances that seem desperate are actually turning out for the good…Paul is in prison FOR CHRIST...If you break u this phrase --- the word “FOR” . is a marker --- it is the reason… If everything is framed with the Reason being FOR CHRIST… Christos…which is the Hebrew word Messiah… Everything for the Savior.. then anointed one..T/s When we frame our lives and circumstances words ---For Christ… or For Christ’s plan of Rescue..1. It changes our behavior while still maintaining our valuesWe all have a code of values… even if they are not written out .... we all live our lives according to according a set of values… We discriminate between what is important and what is unimportant...Values are good thing… Because our values is what keeps us moving in the right direction.What did you value before Covid19 that you have had a perspective change with?Is there something you value now more than you did before?In an organization… it is our values that Drive the mission and vision… What happens sometimes is our values are not aligned properly with our mission… we drift off course… and experience mission drift…The same thing happens in our personal life… What we find is that Paul’s Circumstances doesn’t change his values … Pauls value was evangelism...Gospel proclaimation to make Jesus known… But his circumstances changed and it looked like He couldn’t live out those values..Paul’s value never changed… but his behavior had to adjust to his new set of circumstances… Paul learned to adapt...The problem occurs when hold on to a behavior that is no longer relevant to our context…for example ...When Paul started out as a missionary… He would go to the synagogue first and find a platform to either debate or start the conversation about Jesus.. But.. when Paul’s situation have changed… this approach…had to change.... His behavior had to change…He had to let go of some of his methodology — because he was living in a new environment…He is looking at how he can reach those around… He is no longer free to travel… His method has changed — He is now reaching out through writing and speaking to those who were around him.Paul was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours a day! It was during these time that he saw as opportunities to talk about his faith. The soldiers shifts changed every six hours, which meant Paul could witness to at least four men each day!Imagine yourself as one of those soldiers, chained to a man who prayed “without ceasing,” who was constantly interviewing people about their spiritual condition, and who was repeatedly writing letters to Christians and churches throughout the Empire!It was not long before some of these soldiers put their faith in Christ.Paul makes this interesting distinction between the imperial guard and the rest of the soldiers..13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for ChristInstead of simply saying that all had heard about Christ, he refers to the imperial guard “and all the rest.”Paul wanted the Church to know that Gospel had gone up the chain of command.. from the prison all the way to the palace… to the Pretorium --- the residence of the Emperor…How do we explain this… It seems that God often uses the suffering of his people for exponential purposes…God used Moses rod to part the Red Sea,God used Davids sling to kill GoliathGod used Gideons lamps to defeat the Midianites.And here God who uses Paul’s chains to advance the Gospel..Warren Wiersbe says it like this....“Sometimes God has to put “chains” on His people to get them to accomplish a “pioneer advance” that could never happen any other way” Warren WeirsbeAs we think about what is happening in our world today… There are many testimonies of how God is moving and more people are attending online services around the world… The first first two weeks that the church went online it basically crashed the internet....Paul tells us that not only is the Gospel advancing into the world… But God is doing something new in the church…There is some reformation happening right now in the church and I think that things are going to be different.. it is kind of a new reformation… Where we are going to see new boldness… Paul gives this report that not only is God working through palace guard…God is working in the church.. He tells us that ..2. the Church has a new boldness…14 ..... most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.Paul tells us that there has been a shift in the church… They have become confident in the Lord… the word confident speaks of leaning one’s weight on… or to hang upon...The text imply’s first of all that the churches initial response to Paul’s imprisonment was fear...… before they were didn’t speak because of fear...Maybe we don’t talk about this much… but.. sometimes there is a fear of proclaiming Christ.. the fear of rejection… Well these early christians had fear…not only because of rejection it could literally cost them their lives.. … But Paul’s tells us of a new boldness for Christ..A few years ago we went to Bear Mountain in NC and they have one of those rope bridges and it was a windy day… the bridge was swaying… before you step on the bridge..… You want to make sure that it is going to be hold you..… What builds courage is when someone go before you… they pave the way for confidence..When the Church saw Paul’s confidence in prison... it embolden the church… they took courage…The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that we can have confidence in our faith… Firstly because when God says to us we are heirs of his promise… we can take that to the bank because it is impossible to lie… and secondly because Jesus is the forerunner of our faith..19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.I love the way Paul phrases … “most believer”Not everyone… but most of the believers… If you have most people being bold in their faith that is a win….Paul is not only leading the way by his example but he is giving us the tools how to Reshape our Circumstances...What makes the difference is FOR CHRIST… All that he went for was not for Paul… but for the greater purpose of the advancement of the Gospel....T/s What happens where we Add the words ---For Christ…1. It changes our Behavior...2. It changes our perspectiveOur worldview or our perspective... the way that we see and interpret life makes all the difference…The couple of times that I have been to Gatwick airport in London... it seems it is always on one of those typical English overcast a days…We’ve lived in both in warm and cold climates and know how that weather can impact your life.... A cold gloomy morning can impact your mood for the whole...When you sitting on the runway and you look up at the clouds it not all that bad… because you know that about 30 000 feet those clouds are going to disappear… and instead of being under the Clouds you will be soaring above the clouds.. Paul tell us in Colossians how identifying to Christ changes our perspective.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Perspective Matters…We have all had a number of “dark nights of the soul” that pushed us to question our calling. Doubts creep in, especially when people are critical or circumstances look bleak. When we lose sight of the big picture, it’s easy to get discouraged… Here is the thing...2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.What are the struggles Paul mentions?2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.How does Paul view these hardships?Does this give you a change of perspective on your current hardships/strugglesWe can either live with our thoughts above…or our thoughts below the clouds..When we identify with Christ … that’s where we fix our hopes… Our lives are hidden in Christ… It changes everything..We see how this “‘hidden in Christ,” perspective played out in the life of Paul..Not only is he in prison but he had those on the outside wishing him harm...…while he and others are proclaiming Christ with pure motives there others preaching Christ out of the wrong and destructive motives...Paul tells us…that..15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,It is hard to believe that anyone would oppose Paul, but there were believers in Rome doing just that. The divide was probably over Paul’s treatment of the gentiles…Paul’s ministry was primarily to the Gentiles and his emphasis on the grace of God as opposed to obedience to the Jewish Law.So it would stand to reason that this upset Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentile Christians should keep the Jewish law…but it was more than that because they wanted to see Paul harmed… so they were trying to persuade people to join their movement.... Instead of asking, “Have you trusted Christ?” they asked, “Whose side are you on—ours or Paul’s?”We don’t see Paul building his own support base… and using his apostleship… to rally people around the cause…Rather.... Paul seeks to change their view by helping the church in Philippi to consider the outcome.No matter what the means or motive, Christ is being proclaimed.18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,There was no envy in Paul’s heart. It didn’t matter that some were for him and some were against him. All that mattered was the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!Instead of focusing on his own hurt.. Paul chooses to rejoice… I will rejoice…To rejoice you have to do more than just accept your circumstances. You have to trust and be thankful.The trust is based on the character6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Too often our trust in the Lord is based on our own understanding, or only engages part of our heartWhen the storms of life come, faulty foundations are destroyed. What we need to do is what Proverbs says… trust the Lord with all of our heart and not lean on our own understandingT/s What happens where we Add the words ---For Christ…1. It changes our Behavior.....while still maintaining our Values.2. It changes our perspective… while maintaining our Vision.3. It changes our priorities and raises our expectationsWhen we preference our lives with the words “For Christ..” it changes our Priorities and it Raises our Expectations.. .We see Paul saw this chains or imprisionment as a tool that God was using it.... raised His expectations... …19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.The reason he is not worried about those who are seeking to harm him… is because He has this expectation that God who started the work is going to be faithful to complete it.. What is needed is that our expectations need to be raised.. Paul has this confidence...FIRST OF ALL Because the church in Philippi are his partners in sharing this joyful gospel of grace..… It is because of our collective prayers… That God is going to move…When… we join together with God’s purposes in the world… we can anticipate answered prayer and that the Holy Spirit will do his work in and through his people...Faith Raises Our ExpectationWhat do you find joy in?What kind of things do you do to focus on the good in your life?The teaches us this in number of places.In Mark chapter 2 we have the story of Jesus preaching in Capernum and house is packed with people…Jesus is preaching and these four men bring the paralytic to the meeting.. When the could get in they went on the roof and lowered the man on his mat into the house.... When Jesus saw their faith… when Jesus saw the faith of the 4 men… He marvelled…Can you imagine what it would take to make someone like Michael Jordan....say wow… Here Jesus… sees their faith and says wow…and said to the man your sins are forgiven and he was healed..When Jesus saw their faith… it Got his attention…Jesus said.22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”James tells us..5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.Hebrews tells us that when we pray we need to pray in Faith… We need to be praying prays in faith believing being confident that God answers prayers to pray with confidence.. because with out faith impossible .6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.b. Expectation that God will not put him to shamePaul says that he will be ashamed because he knows that He has honored God… and he is prepared for what ever lies ahead wether it is life.. or whether the death sentence that is hanging over head…That’s what it means for our lives to be hidden in Christ...Paul has made peace with the outcomes… because regardless He will not loose..c. It is no lose proposition..21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.Talk about a change in perspective! If seeing Christ exalted really was the most important thing in our lives, how would that change our priorities and perspectiveConclusion:When we preference our lives with the phrase“For Christ” — it changes everything…The apostle Paul said, ‘FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST and DIE IS GAIN” —We can say things for me to live… is to work… for me to live is to travel… for me to live is to watch tv… for me to live is to play video games.... for me to live.. is to shop until I drop...WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN WE SAY — I CHOOSE TO LIVE FULLY DEVOTED TO CHRIST… The preacher D.L. Moody used to say ..“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”lets Pray..
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