Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thanks

Let's say you're a missionary in some foreign country. The natives are very hostile, and you are jailed for proclaiming the Gospel. It's quite possible that they'll even kill you, and maybe even brutally. You get the chance to write a letter to some of your Christian friends. What would you say? I know where I'd start; "Pray for me! Oh my goodness, they might kill me and I'm so scared..." But here's a quote from somebody who actually did go through this, and words about his imprisonment are far different.

"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."

Now, this guy had his head on straight. He wasn't nuts. He was totally sincere in this letter. He is seriously rejoicing that "Christ is proclaimed." Notice that not once does he gripe about being in a cell, or his rights being tossed aside, or even moaning about the people who distort the gospel for their own purposes. He was grateful! Totally grateful that, as a result of being jailed, the gospel was going forth. He has literally cast his rights aside and is rejoicing in the glory of Christ.

Who was this guy? Who could possibly be happy about being chucked into a cell? Take a guess. If you know the passage, you already know that this was the letter from the apostle Paul to the church in Phillipi.
Does his identity make his attitude any less amazing? It's so easy to say, "Oh, sure. But that was Paul. You know, blinding light on the way to Damascus, went blind, is one of the most famous people in history? A spiritual elite. Of course he'd be grateful in any circumstances." But Paul wasn't superhuman. He was a man. No halo floating around his head, no shiny silhouettes... just a guy, saved by the grace of God. This same man, in another letter, wrote, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (I Thess. 5:18)

So, what's the point?

Well, like Paul says, we are to give thanks in all circumstances. All. That means the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright brutal. I'm convicted when I read this passage. Here's a man who exemplifies what it means to glorify Christ in all situations. He's praising God that the Gospel goes forth, when it's possible he could be executed. And I gripe that people didn't put their plates in the dishwasher, someone moved my math book, and oh great, the dog just escaped the house again. How selfish! I'm making myself God in that moment. I think that the world revolves around one single axis: me.

So, as Paul says in Ephesians, let us put off the old self, and put on the new self. Leaning on God's strength, and not our own, let us strive to have the same sort of mindset that Paul had. No matter how bad our circumstances appear to be, God can still be glorified through them.

5 comments:

Elizabeth K. said...

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, that Phillipians quote is from chapter 2.

one way up cast said...

Good post!

Samuel said...

thanks for reminding us of where our focus should be. we should also remember that we cannot avoid complaining in all circumstances but that God empowers us to not just avoid complianing but even to give thanks for our circumstances
thank you for posting

daniel said...

kool

Kt said...

Wow great post! Thanks!