Living a Joy-Full Life (Reflections from Philippians)
Living a Joy-Full Life – Be Who You Are
Day 1 – Special
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…” (Philippians 1:1)
Whitney Houston was the most-awarded female recording artist of all time. She seemed to have it all. Yet her friend and costar Kevin Costner shared that she struggled with a common problem—insecurity and anxiety about measuring up. “The Whitney I knew, despite her success and worldwide fame, still wondered ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.’”[i] Whitney, you may recall, died in a hotel bathtub, her body ultimately destroyed through decades of drug abuse.
The apostle Paul had a different perspective. He said to remember that you are a special person. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…” (Philippians 1:1 RSV) Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and accepted Him as Lord of your life, you are a saint. True sainthood is an assigned designation not an achieved status. It is given, not earned. It is a status for the living not an honor for the dead. When you come to believe in Jesus Christ, you are given the destiny and dignity of being a saint.
It means you are assigned, designated, set apart to glorify Jesus. In the Old Testament God designated certain things and places as ‘holy’, meaning they were to be used only in sacred ways and for sacred purposes. In the New Testament God designates people as ‘holy’, to live in a sacred way and to be used for sacred purposes. Paul says your permanent address is in Christ Jesus.[ii] Your zip code may be Philippi, Corinth, New York City, South Haven, Kalamazoo, or Chicago…it may not be next year what it is today. But your permanent address is in Christ Jesus – it never changes. No matter where you live or how popular you are or are not, you are rooted in Jesus Christ and your dignity comes from Him. You don’t need to be good enough or pretty enough. And, more than liking you, Jesus loves you! You are special!
Be Who You Are – Day 2 – Shine
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…” (Philippians 1:1)
The apostle Paul had issues. It’s been said he was weak in his physical stature, his voice was poor, and his confidence shaky. And now He was in prison awaiting a life or death verdict from his trial. Yet he wrote this marvelous, scintillating joy-filled letter. How could he be so joyful? He knew who and whose he was. He was a saint in Jesus Christ. And from the get go he encourages you to be the special person and saint you are.
What does it mean to be a saint? It means God has chosen to have his Son Jesus shine through you. It’s said pictorially in a poem entitled What Is A Saint?
“What is a saint?” the youngster asked; So his parents set out to explain.
By describing Saint Francis, and Bernadette They attempted to make it plain.
They told of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and ended with John and Paul;
But the boy just couldn’t relate to this and didn’t grasp it at all.
Then the parents went to their church and showed him The stained glass windows there; The faces of the elect shone out As they preached or knelt in prayer.
The boy was asked if he understood, And he said, “I think I do;
From what I’ve seen, I’d say a saint Is a person the light shines through.”[iii]
No matter what others say or think, you are holy, you belong to Jesus Christ and He is shining His light through you. He even said, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16). So be the special person you are.
It’s been noted that when Robert Louis Stevenson was six or seven years old, he was watching the lamplighter at work one evening. As he stood silently at his window, he saw the man move down the street lighting street lamps one by one. Thinking his silence was evidence of mischief, his nanny called out to ask Robert what he was doing. Young Stevenson replied, “I’m watching a man punch holes in the darkness.” How will you punch holes in the darkness today so that people might see Jesus and find their way to Him? Embrace your position and identity as a saint. Let His light shine.
Be Who You Are – Day 3 – Partners
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:5)
Saints have a special partnership. “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me” (v. 7). We share in the grace of Christ. As I look back over my life I am overwhelmed with all the people who shared grace with me in my spiritual journey. Without them I would not be who I am or where I am today. No wonder Paul says “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” (v. 3).
In Toy Story 3, Andy is preparing to leave for college. He decides to give his toys to a young girl named Bonnie. He shows her the box of toys and tells her, “I’m Andy. Someone told me you’re really good with toys. These are mine, but I’m going away now, so I need someone really special to play with them.” He proceeds to hand the toys to Bonnie and says something special about each one. “This is Jessie—the roughest, toughest cowgirl in the whole West. She loves critters, but none more’n her best pal, Bullseye.” Tyrannosaurus, Rex, is “the meanest, most terrifying dinosaur who ever lived.” “The Potato Heads—Mister and Missus. You gotta keep em together cause they’re madly in love.” Slinky the Dog “is as loyal as any dog you could want.” Andy blesses Hamm, the Pig, by saying, “He’ll keep your money safe, but he’s also one of the most dastardly villains of all time, Evil Dr. Pork Chop!” Buzz Lightyear is “the coolest toy ever. Look, he can fly, and shoot lasers. He’s sworn to protect the galaxy from the evil Emperor Zurg!” Finally, for his pal Woody, Andy says, “He’s been my pal as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special? Is he’ll never give up on you—never. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.“[iv] That’s the partnership we have with one another. We are God’s special gifts to each other- for life. Let’s be who we are. Let’s engage in the partnership of grace. Share in grace with someone today – and thank someone who’s shared in grace with you.
Be Who You Are – Day 4 – Process
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
We have established that you are a special person, in a special partnership. You are also undergoing a special process. “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” You are God’s construction zone! You are in process of becoming like Jesus. As Paul wrote “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Robert Smith said if God can start off with nothing in nature, He can do the same with our lives. “Some of us were rejects. Some of us were voted the most likely to fail in high school. God has taken some of us from the basement of being discarded and made something beautiful out of our lives. Don’t sit there like you’ve always dressed that way. Don’t sit there like you’ve always been on top. God has taken your miserable existence. God has taken your wrecked marriage. God has taken your diseased body. God has taken your nothingness and made something out of it… We believe in a God who can make the impossible possible.”[v]
Why are we “confident of this?” Because it’s guaranteed. It’s guaranteed because God has promised and God is faithful. Because of Jesus we have a faithfulness that will never be removed (Psalm 89:33; 138:8), a life that will never end (John 3:16), a spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within the one who drinks of it (John 4:14), a gift that will never be lost (John 6:37, 39), a hand out of which the Good Shepherd’s sheep will never be snatched (John 10:28), a chain that will never be broken (Romans 8:29, 30), a love from which we shall never be separated (Romans 8:39), a calling that will never be revoked (Romans 11:29), a foundation that will never be destroyed (2 Timothy 2:19), and an inheritance that will never fade out (1 Peter 1:4, 5).[vi]
Spend time today thanking God for who you are and who you are becoming.
Be Who You Are – Day 5 – A Testimony
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding… May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NLT)
Paul wants you to understand that Jesus is working on your life so you will be filled with His righteous character. And He’s in charge of the process – and He’s finished it. Jesus’ last word from the cross was “It is finished.” He had completed the work of redemption, had paid the price for you. He had sealed the deal. You are saved now and forever – no matter what. You are holy and becoming like Jesus.
Never say you cannot change. Do not judge your life by how far you have to go but by how far you’ve come! If you think of how far you have to go, it is devastating; if you think of how far you’ve come, it’s gratifying. Besides, God is more concerned with testimonies than with titles.[vii] Pharaoh had a title, but Moses had a testimony. King Ahab had a title, Elijah had a testimony. Herodias had a title, Mary Magdalene had a testimony. The Roman rulers had titles; Paul had a testimony! Your titles or names do not matter – you have a testimony. Jesus chose you to be holy and blameless. (Eph. 1:3-8) “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…In him we have redemption through his blood…in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
John of Kronstadt was a nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox priest at a time when alcohol abuse was rampant. Other priests didn’t venture out of their churches to help people. They waited for the people to come to them. John, compelled by love, went out into the streets. He would lift the hungover, foul-smelling people from the gutter, cradle them in his arms, and say to them, “This is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.” [viii] Remember: Your brokenness does not define you. Nor does what others think of you, your failures, or your successes. You are one in whom Jesus Christ, the Son of God dwells. You house the fullness of God. Be who you are: a testimony to Jesus!
Use Your Assets – Day 6 – Perspective
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually 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.” (Philippians 1:12-13)
Our perspective determines our viewpoint which determines our attitude. What we look for we tend to find. A divine perspective was one of Paul’s great assets. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me…” (v.12) Paul was on trial for his life awaiting the verdict. Until it comes, he’s under house arrest, chained to guards 24 hours a day. His perspective? “… what has happened to me has actually 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.” For Paul chains can be pulpits. He looks not what he is suffering but to what is being accomplished for Jesus. His chains were pointing others to Jesus.
Paul is like the eagle. Put an Eagle in a cage and he will make his way to the highest perch and there will spend his enforced leisure looking out toward the sun. Paul was chained and caged but he climbed the heights for a different perspective. His imprisonment advanced the Gospel. Not only was Paul chained to guards – they were chained to him! So as he dictated letters, prayed, preached, and sang they were captive to it all. Soon they became chained to Jesus! And the word spread! Talk about a chain reaction! When our chains become pulpits, people will be chained to Jesus.
Paul’s chains also encouraged and strengthened others to witness to Jesus. “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” (Philippians 1:14). Because Paul used his assets, others began using theirs! Jesus Christ was changing lives! Paul knew that God has a purpose behind every problem, a reason for every chain. Our problems become pulpits, and our chains become messengers that point to Jesus.
To what are you chained or bound? Your job (or lack of one)? An important relationship has broken apart? You’ve suffered a big financial loss? Your peers are pressuring you to do what you know is wrong? Illness has changed your entire life? Your marriage is in the tank and it’s future uncertain? Death has struck a blow in your family circle? You’ve taken a stand for Christ and been shot down? Whatever your chains, how will used them to point others to Jesus?
Use Your Assets – Day 7 – Priorities
“The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)
One of Paul’s assets was a priority by which to live. “The important thing is that…Christ is preached.” Priorities control our ‘to do lists’, activities, and expenditures. Priorities are important because they determine what we strive for in life. Consider this 1978 ad from the Quay County Sun: “Farmer with 160 irrigated acres wants marriage-minded woman with tractor. When replying, please show picture of tractor.”[ix] Is there any doubt about this farmer’s priority?
Denzell Washington gave a commencement address at Dillard University. “Number one: Put God first. Put God first in everything you do. Everything you think you see in me. Everything I’ve accomplished, everything you think I have – and I have a few things. Everything that I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It’s a gift.” Towards the end of his speech, he repeated some of the comments he’s made over the years about reliance on God. He reminded that crowd that no matter how much you attain in material goods, “you will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” He also told the graduates “I pray that you put your slippers under your bed tonight, so that when you wake up in the morning you have to get on your knees to reach them. And while you’re down there, say thank you,” he said. “Thank you for grace, thank you for mercy, thank you for understanding, thank you for wisdom, thank you for parents. … True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you, sent beforehand, to indicate that it’s yours already.”[x] Priorities determine what we strive for in life.
So what is your priority? Jesus said “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). What would it mean for you to seek first His kingdom?
Use Your Assets – Day 8 – Preaching
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” (Philippians 1:15-17)
Paul was not the only one preaching in Philippi. Paul’s response? “But what does it matter?” “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18-19). Because Paul’s priority was preaching Christ, the important thing was not who got the credit but that Jesus Christ was the subject of the preaching.
Two great English evangelists, John Wesley and George Whitefield, widely disagreed on some doctrinal matters. Yet both were very successful, preaching to thousands of people and seeing multitudes come to Christ. Whitefield was asked if he expected to see Wesley in heaven and he replied, “No, I do not.” “Then you do not think Wesley is a converted man?” “Of course he is a converted man! But I do not expect to see him in heaven – because he will be so close to the throne of God and I so far away that I will not be able to see him!” As long as Jesus Christ is being preached…
At age 19, Kylie Bisutti beat out 10,000 contestants in the 2009 Victoria’s Secret Model Search contest. But later, getting married and growing in her Christian faith led her to see her career in a different light. She said, “[The modeling world] is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don’t want to do …. It’s a very tempting industry …. Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise …. [But] I’m a Christian, and reading the Bible more, I was becoming more convicted about it …. My body should only be for my husband, and it’s just a sacred thing. I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was OK for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys. It was pretty crazy because I finally achieved my biggest dream, the dream that I always wanted, but when I finally got it, it wasn’t all that I thought it would be.”[xi] Now her priority is preaching Jesus Christ.
How will you preach Jesus Christ today?
Use Your Assets – Day 9 – Power
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage…” (Philippians 1:20)
Why was Paul so expectant? Because one of his assets was a power on which to live. He found the inner power to be courageous through two activities. First, it flowed from his praising. “I will continue to rejoice…” (v. 18) Since the Romans had given Paul a pulpit of chains, he rejoiced. The reality is that the same emotional channels which transmit discouragement and despair are used for praise – so why not praise? When we surrender our situations to the Lord, convinced that He will use them for His good, we move from problems to possibilities. The transition from discouragement to encouragement comes through rejoicing!
It is not our business to make ourselves happy, but to rejoice. Happiness is an emotion, and joy is an attitude. Emotions come and go, but attitudes come and grow.[xii] “For W. H. Auden, it is the praise of God that irrigates ‘the deserts of the heart’ and brings healing: “In the deserts of the heart, Let the healing fountain start. In the prison of his days, Teach the free man how to praise.”[xiii] That’s why Nehemiah told the Israelites, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Paul’s power also flowed from praying – specifically from the praying of the Philippians for him: “…for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (v. 19). Notice the connection: their prayers prompted the Holy Spirit to empower Paul. Prayer cuts the channel for the river of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated ‘turn out’ is the root of our word choreography. Paul is claiming that the prayers of the Philippians will, through the Holy Spirit, choreograph his deliverance. Never underestimate the power that flows from the prayers we offer for others while they are in chains. They usher in a power on which to live.
Use your assets. How can you offer praise today? For whom can you pray? Whom, and for what, should you ask for prayer?
Use Your Assets – Day 10 – A Living Purpose
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)
An asset of Paul was a purpose for which to live. Paul desired to die and be with Christ. And given what he had endured as an Apostle, it’s understandable. Death would be a gain for him. But he could just as readily accept being set free because his purpose was to ‘exalt’ Jesus. The word exalt means to magnify Jesus – in life or death Paul wanted to magnify Jesus, make Jesus bigger, larger, greater. When we have a purpose for which to live there is never a circumstance in which there is nothing to do. Paul says we can always magnify Jesus.
Remaining alive would give more opportunity to exalt Jesus. Paul’s love for Jesus was so great He wanted what Jesus desired more than what he desired. His love for the Philippians was so great he wanted what was best for them, not best for himself; the need of the Philippians outweighed the desire of his own soul.
Just before I wrote this devotional, I received word that a fellow local pastor died. He was younger than me, still ministering full-time, and was active and influential in our community. The incident, coupled with this writing, has again led me to consider why God has left me here. It leads me to ask you, “Why – in all the trials, crises, and close calls in your life – has God left you here? Are you ready and willing to more powerfully and clearly magnify Jesus? Does your love for, and the needs of others outweigh the desires of your soul?” Yet, there are two deeper questions: “How deeply do you love Jesus? How committed are you to Jesus?”
I learned at a young age that JOY means: Jesus first, Others next, and Yourself last. But in a sermon, Pastor Phil Toole, put it differently.
Jesus – O – You
He said, “The ‘J’ stands for Jesus.” The ‘Y’ stands for you. Do you know what the ‘O’ stands for? It stands for zero. Just what it says—nothing. What I am saying here is the way to stay close to Jesus and keep joy in your heart is let nothing between Jesus and you.”[xiv] Nothing between Jesus and you. No thing between Jesus and you. That’s where the assets are stored. That’s where joy-full living begins.
Strengthening Your Union – Day 11- Union
“… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2)
There’s a For Better or For Worse cartoon. Frame 1 – Husband says, “Should I put on some tea, honey?” “Sure.” Frame 2 – “But not in that pot!!” Frame 3 – she’s leaning over the dishwasher – “John, when you’re putting the plates into the dishwasher…they should be turned this way around!” Frame 4 – She says, “When you’re done with the dishes, you could at least wipe off the counter.” Frame 5 – He’s wiping the counter. She says, “But not with that cloth!” Frame 6 – “You wrapped the leftovers in saran wrap. I always put them in these plastic containers.” Frame 7 – He says, “Uh…I think I’d better let you do all this.” Frame 8 – She’s having coffee with a friend, sighs, and states, “You know, Anne, John is the sweetest man on earth…But for some reason, he just hates to help with anything around the house.” We tend to believe that conflict is always the fault of someone else; we are not to blame.
The Christians in Philippi were much like us. Paul said threats to unity came from inside the church through preachers with wrong motives (1:15-18), from outside the church through false teachers (3:1-3), and from a powerful disagreement between two people (4:1-3). The Philippians tended to focus on what divided rather than on what united. So Paul states the need to recognize our unity. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” (2:1) Paul is not asking them ‘if’ they had experienced these qualities; he is saying ‘If you have – and you know you have – experienced these things…; if your union with Christ has given you any benefit – and you know it has…”
He then exhorts us to work together and serve one another. “… (be) like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (v.3). We must be focused on someone or something other than ourselves and our preferences. Think and act with the same mind, the same motives, following the same example. Focus on Jesus. Concentrate on being Jesus to one another, on sharing Jesus’s love and concern with one another.
Reflect on times you experienced union, comfort, love, tenderness or compassion. Consider how you can extend the same to others.
Strengthening Your Union – Day 12 – Competition
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition…” (Philippians 2:3)
The first step in developing unity is to relinquish competition. A major cause of conflict is competing desires, which cause a divisive spirit. Competition is a root cause of church strife – and, by the way, of marital discord. J. B. Phillips translates these words, “Never act from motives of rivalry.” The Jerusalem Bible says, “There must be no competition among you.”
Sharon Osberg, a two-time world bridge champion, tells the nature of competition. Her partners include high-powered executives Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. She describes the playing styles of the two men as aggressive. Gates approaches bridge scientifically, reasoning through problems. Buffett is more intuitive and computes probabilities on the fly. Osberg says, “Neither of these guys likes to lose. Warren and I were playing against his sister and brother-in-law and we were losing. Warren’s sister wanted to frame the score sheet. So Warren ate it.”[xv] We chuckle at the picture. Yet when that same spirit of ‘win at all costs’ enters the church arena, it’s divisive and devastating.
The apostle Paul even lists competition/selfish ambition among the works of the flesh: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions…” (Galatians 5:19-20). Competition is an enemy of unity as it splits people into groups, each of which is out to win. The “Me First” mentality guarantees destruction. But when we let go of our own will Jesus wins. The cause of the Kingdom must always come first. James offers a way out of competition: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:1-2 underlining mine).
When have you felt competitive? For what should you be asking God today?
Strengthening Your Union – Day 13 – Conceit
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” (Philippians 2:3)
Personal pride causes conflict in the church. C. S. Lewis connected pride and competition: “Pride is essentially competitive…by its very nature … Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”[xvi] Pride is an enemy of unity.
It’s easy to refuse to listen because of our pride. Consider NASA. January 28, 1986, NASA planned to launch the Challenger shuttle from Florida. The mission included schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. The launch was delayed a few times so on January 27, NASA held a conference call with engineers from Morton-Thiokol, the contractor that built the Challenger’s solid-rocket motors. Allan McDonald was one of their engineers. The 28th was predicted to be unusually cold which concerned him. He feared the o-ring seals in the Challenger’s big joints wouldn’t operate properly at that temperature. Since the boosters had never been tested below 53 degrees he recommended the launch be postponed again. But NASA officials overruled him requesting that the “responsible Morton-Thiokol official” sign off on the decision to launch. McDonald refused to sign the request, but his boss signed. On the 28th McDonald—and millions of people—watched as 73 seconds into the flight the shuttle burst into flames. A review showed the cause of the explosion to be what McDonald had feared: the o-rings failed to hold their seal in the cold temperature. So why, even with that warning, did NASA push on? McDonald claimed that NASA fell prey to pride. “NASA [had become] too successful. They had gotten by for a quarter of a century and had never lost a single person going into space … And they had rescued the Apollo 13 halfway to the moon when part of the vehicle blew up. Seemed like it was an impossible task, but they did it. So how could this cold o-ring cause a problem when they had done so much over the past years to be successful? [All of this success] gives you a little bit of arrogance you shouldn’t have … But they hadn’t stumbled yet and they just pressed on.”[xvii]
Pride destroys everyone in its wake. So Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Where might pride be holding sway in your life?
Strengthening Your Union – Day 14 – Criticism
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 3:3)
Paul’s third step to unity is to reduce criticism. We tend to criticize others because we fail to value others. “Imagine this scenario: A man invites a friend into his home for dinner. They enjoy a delicious meal that the man’s wife has graciously offered to make. The man and his friend casually catch up on life, but then halfway through the meal, the invited guest…starts listing things that his friend’s wife could have done better. “The chicken was way too tough. You should have marinated it longer. And the broccoli is overcooked, mushy and bland. My 12-year-old daughter could cook a better meal. And you should really do something else with your hair.” Then he starts to criticize her character, even ridicule her. I’m guessing his visit would be cut short. And the guest would probably get sent away with a few choice words. Even if he was right about certain things, the typical husband simply wouldn’t tolerate someone openly and caustically criticizing his wife. He loves her, and for a husband that leads to accepting and honoring his wife despite her quirks and shortcomings. Unfortunately we tolerate this mean-spirited criticism all the time when it’s directed at the church. If we’re not careful, it’s easy for us to look at the church and her leaders, and say, “The church should have done ____.” Or, “I wish they hadn’t ____.” You fill in the blanks.”[xviii] “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
The Bible is clear. “Do not criticize one another, my friends. If you criticize or judge another Christian, you criticize and judge the Law…God is the only lawgiver and judge…Who do you think you are, to judge someone else?” (James 4:11-12 GNT)? Jesus’ said “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
There will be harmony in the church when there is humility in the members of the church. Where do you need to reduce criticism? How can you help lessen criticism in your church?
Strengthening Your Union – Day 15 – One Another
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Conflict results from being insensitive to the needs of others, so Paul says we are to relish consideration of others. Our aim is always ministering and serving. How considerate are you? Could you name the five greatest needs of your spouse, children, parents, coworkers? Paul’s words in The Message are “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Our pattern is Jesus Christ. The great preacher Harry Ironside put it poignantly. “The last word of this section is the keynote—“others.” This was the overpowering, dominating note in the life of our Lord on earth, and because of this He died. “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for”—others! He lived for others; He died for others. Selfishness He knew not… What wonder then that, if we would follow His steps, we find ourselves called upon to live for others, and even to lay down our lives for the brethren.”[xix]
What would your church, family and community be like if you did for others what Jesus did for you? The Bible is very clear as it lists a multitude of “One Another’s.” LOVE one another. ACCEPT one another. SERVE one another in love. PRAY FOR one another. ENCOURAGE one another. FORGIVE one another. HONOR one another above yourself. AGREE WITH one another. BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE TO one another. BE DEVOTED TO one another in brotherly love. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH one another. BEAR WITH one another in love. CONFESS YOUR SINS TO one another. CARRY one another’s burdens. SUBMIT TO one another out of reverence for Christ. SPUR one another on towards love and good deeds. OFFER HOSPITALITY TO one another without grumbling. CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH HUMILITY TOWARD one another. BE COMPETENT TO INSTRUCT one another. USE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO SERVE one another. SPEAK TO one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. GREET one another with a holy kiss.
What would your church, family and community be like if you did for others what Jesus did for you? Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Develop A Healthy Attitude – Day 16 – Mindset
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5)
Norman Vincent Peale walked by a tattoo parlor in Hong Kong. In the window were decorations that could be imprinted on one’s skin. One caught his eye. It was the phrase: “Born to Lose.” He went into the shop and asked if people really had that message permanently imprinted on themselves. The answer was yes, and that the last customer who wanted it had it emblazoned across his chest. Dr. Peale asked, “Why on earth would anyone want to be branded with a gloomy slogan like that?” The old man replied, “Before tattoo on chest, tattoo already on mind.”[xx]
Since our attitudes flow from our minds our mindset is critically important. So Paul says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (v.5) Jesus’ mind is to be our mind. John Henry Jowett explained, “When we have the mind of anybody we share the very springs of their being…(we) have their way of feeling, their way of doing things. It is to be like them in the pattern-chamber of the life, where conduct is originally fashioned, and where all the outside issues are finally determined.” To think like Jesus we must put Jesus into the pattern chamber of our lives.
A Kansas farmer’s two sons joined the Navy. His brother, a psychologist, came to visit. The farmer said, “You’re a psychologist. Tell me how a farmer living in the middle of Kansas, where there’s almost no water, can raise two sons who join the Navy and love it?” His brother said, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it.” He spent the night in the boys’ room. The next morning he said, “l think l have an answer. Come up to their room with me.” As they entered the boys’ room the first thing they saw was a picture on the wall of a ship in the middle of the sea. The brother said, “l want you to lay down on the bed and tell me what you see when you get up.” The farmer said, “l see the picture.” The brother said, “The first thing you see when you walk into this room is this picture. The last thing you see at night is the picture. And the first thing you see in the morning when you get up is the picture of this ship on the sea. Did the boys have this picture for a long time?” The farmer said, “Yes, since they were about 3 years old.” The brother said, “If you think about a picture like that long enough, you might become a sailor.”[xxi]
If we think about Jesus long enough He will always be on our minds. What will help you think about Jesus ‘long enough’?
Develop A Healthy Attitude – Day 17 – Selflessness
“Jesus…who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing…” (Philippians 2:6)
A healthy attitude begins with selflessness. Jesus was co-equal with God. He was the Creator of the world: “For by him all things were created…All things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). As co-equal and creator Jesus was all powerful, full of divine glory. But He didn’t cling to this equality. He set aside his position of glory and power and “…made himself nothing…being made in human likeness…” (v.7) He emptied Himself and took on our humanness. He was born in human flesh, not as a king in a palace to royalty but as a baby in a manger to a virgin.
Think about it – “The only person in the world who had the right to assert his rights waived them.”[xxii] Jesus gave up glory, riches, authority, status, and power for your sake because He loves you! Love sacrifices self for the sake of the beloved. Jesus said, “The Son of man came…to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Paul later reminded the Corinthians “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Mother Theresa travelled to Washington DC – not to the Capitol building or White House but to the Anacostia section – a ghetto of hunger, war, crime, rugs, and hopelessness. She didn’t speak to a joint session of Congress, hold a press conference, or speak at one of the great cathedrals. She went to a troubled and neglected corner of the city to establish an outpost for nine of her Sisters of Charity. The media crowd came to her. “What do you hope to accomplish here?” one shouted. She replied, “The joy of loving and being loved.” Another pressed her, “That takes a lot of money, doesn’t it?” Mother Theresa shook her head. “No, it takes a lot of sacrifice.”[xxiii]
How willing are you to selflessly empty yourself: to let go of glory, riches, authority, status, or power – to become poor so others can become rich – to stoop down so others can step up? To have Jesus’ mindset is to be selfless.
Develop A Healthy Attitude – Day 18 – Servanthood
“Jesus… made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7
Jesus did not come to earth as a stock broker, investment guru, or millionaire land owner – He voluntarily became a servant of that which He created. “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). There’s another great story about Mother Theresa. Shane Claiborne spent a summer in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa. He wrote “People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery—like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget—her feet. Her feet were deformed. Each morning in Mass, I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. But I wasn’t going to ask, of course. “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet?” One day a sister said to us, “Have you noticed her feet?” We nodded, curious. She said: “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet.”[xxiv]
So we see Jesus, the Lord of glory with a towel around his waist, pouring water into a basin, washing the feet of his disciples, and then saying to them: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say (this) correctly, for (that is what) I am. If therefore, I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash each other’s feet, for I have given you an example, in order that just as I did to you, so also you should do” (John 13:12–15). And that is exactly Paul’s point. He is saying to the Philippians and to us, “Follow the example of your Lord.”
We tend to be ‘service oriented’, preferring to choose when, where, and how we will serve. Jesus calls us to be ‘servant oriented’, meaning we give up control to Him. We let Him determine when, where, and how we will serve – and often it’s a call to be a servant right where we are in the here and now. How, and to whom, can you be a servant today?
Develop A Healthy Attitude – Day 19 – Submission
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)
Jesus became submissive unto death – even a death on a cross. John’s Gospel explains this clearly. “Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’” (John 12:23). Jesus’ “moment” had finally arrived; it was time to head for the cross. After Palm Sunday, some Greeks went to see Jesus. It was His signal that time had come to refocus his sights towards His saving death. That’s why he agonizes, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28) The issue for Jesus was His Father’s will.
Jesus had come to a fork in the road – a fork not unfamiliar to us. He could either opt for “Save me” or for “Glorify your name.” It was this ferocious struggle in His soul that sent Him to Gethsemane where He sweat drops of blood as He prayed to His Father, “ “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He did what Scripture prophesied! He did what He came to do. Jesus submitted to His Father’s will.
And sandwiched in between His announcement of His death and His admission of struggle, Jesus taught about submission: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:24-26). So Philippians chapter 2 looks back and proclaims, “He did the Father’s will! He died!”
A large golden eagle flew upward in the sky, a picture of beauty and grace. But the eagle began to fly around in circles, unable to fly higher. Soon its’ wing beats weakened; he fell to the ground, dead. The eagle had caught a little weasel and had held it in its talons rather close to its body while flying. But the weasel had grabbed the neck of the eagle and had sucked out its blood until it was too weak to fly. As we cling to our desires, we choke ourselves and die. If we love our life, we lose it. But if we lose our life, we find it.
What would losing your life look like? In what do you need to submit to the Father’s will?
Develop A Healthy Attitude – Day 20 – Supremacy
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…” (Philippians 2:9)
Our selflessness, servanthood, and submissiveness will lead to a supreme position. Jesus was promoted to the highest place, and given the highest name. The word ‘highest’ is used in only this one instance and is applied only to Jesus. It means “super-exalted.” God the Father elevated the Son to the loftiest heights. Paul elsewhere wrote Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens” (Ephesians 4:10) and He is “seated at the right hand of God’s throne” (Romans 8:34), “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20–22).
Jesus is so exalted that we are not the only ones who will praise Him: “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Everyone, everywhere, in heaven – on the earth – in hell, will confess that Jesus is Lord. Even those who denied or rejected Him will, in their misery, admit that He is Lord. It will not save them; it’s too late for that – it will only serve to glorify Jesus as the living, reigning Lord.
And we, too, through having the mind of Christ, will be lifted up; we, too, will be exalted to a supreme position. Jesus promised “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Carl Jung told of a man who asked a rabbi, “How come in the olden days God would show Himself to people, but today nobody ever sees God?” The rabbi said, “Because nowadays nobody can bow low enough.”[xxv] Let us have the mind of Christ: bow low, step down, empty ourselves, and be servants submitting to God’s will.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face – and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”[xxvi] Look at Jesus long enough, and you will become like Him. Think about Jesus long enough, and you will think like Him. Worship Jesus long enough and you will be exalted like Him.
How will you turn your eyes upon Jesus today?
Shoot for Stardom – Day 21 – The Process
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling… (Philippians 2:12)
Most people enter their chosen field envisioning high success. They’re encouraged to shoot for stardom. Did you know that Christians are to shoot for stardom as well? Paul states we will “…shine among them like stars in the sky …” (v.15).
Paul says there is a process to conceive – we “…continue to work out…” We do not work to earn something but to bring it to completion. It’s working with all the pieces of a puzzle until the picture is complete and whole.
This is not a fast process; it takes time. “Work out” means a slow, ongoing process. And that’s where we have difficulty. We desire instant gratification – we like and prefer things to happen quickly. We don’t like waiting. We tire if the work goes on too long. Yet consider physical workouts. At what point does your body arrive at permanent perfection, where you don’t need to work out anymore? It doesn’t. If you stop you’re soon out of shape. It’s an ongoing process that takes a lifetime to complete.
What we work out is our salvation. If we’re saved we’ll go to heaven when we die. But salvation is also a present experience. The theological term is sanctification –we are on the path to becoming like Christ. It’s God’s will for our lives. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians. 4:3). Physically we don’t work out to get a body but, rather, having a body we work out to develop it. So we don’t work to get sanctification – we work to develop sanctification. We reach completion when we see Jesus face to face – then we shall be fully like Him (1 John 3:2).
And we work out with fear and trembling – not frightened or scared but with awe. Like a team in a championship game, we are not to be overwhelmed but to soak in the moment and give it all we have. That’s what we do on the road to stardom.
How’s your conditioning going? How’s your work progressing? Are you further along the path towards Christ-likeness than you were last year, last month, last week, than yesterday? Or are you like the little boy who fell out of bed one night. When his mother asked him what happened he replied, “I fell asleep too close to where I got in.” Having been saved by grace, how have you moved forward from that moment? Or have you fallen asleep too close to where you got in?
Shoot for Stardom – Day 22 – The Power
“…for it is God who works in you… ” (Philippians 2:13)
God supplies the power for stardom, the energy to work out our salvation. “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (2 Cor. 3:18 LB).
Count Leo Tolstoy told how he turned from evil to good: “Five years ago faith came to me: I believed in the doctrine of Jesus, and all my life was suddenly changed. I cease to desire that which previously I had desired, and on the other hand, I took to desiring what I had never desired before. That which formerly used to appear good in my eyes appeared evil, and that which used to appear evil appeared good.”[xxvii] “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did…For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, 21 TLB)
God supplies the power so we can satisfy Him. “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (v. 13). God doesn’t work in us to make us happy or successful or rich or popular. God gives us the power to will and work for His good purpose. God helps us satisfy Him because He wants us to be like Him. It is true – God’s not finished with you yet! As someone aptly said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be; but, by the grace of God, I am not what I was.”[xxviii] I pray with Paul: “For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father… I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19 GNT).
Shoot for Stardom” – Day 23 – The Perspective
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” (Philippians 2: 14-15a)
Paul may have been referring to the Israelites in the wilderness. God was miraculously leading them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land, and they weren’t happy – they were upset that the way wasn’t easier. Israel needed to be reminded that God is sovereign over all things, even things and circumstances we find unpleasant and difficult. With that in mind Paul says when we complain and grumble we are communicating that God is not being fair, that God is not doing a good job, that we could do it better if He’d let us take control. So He warns us that such grumbling and dissatisfaction about the ways of God prevents us from being pure.
It is better, says Paul, to have a good perspective. The blameless and pure response to difficult times is addressed by James. “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence” (James 1:2-4 MSG).
This perspective is what enables us to witness in the midst of difficult times. A traveler in Japan was amazed to find the country in an arctic winter but yet having abundant tropical growth of oranges and bamboos. With the winds sweeping across the snowy, icy plains he was surprised to find all these tropical plants. He reasoned that the country had been volcanic, and that the hidden fire still burnt under the soil so that, even with the wintry climate, the summer reigned in the heart of the earth; therefore the plants could thrive and be a warm contrast to the snowy world. Similarly, with our good perspective of faith we can be the beauty and warmth in the midst of a cold, frigid and stormy world.
How have you been responding to your circumstances lately? Has God been your complaint department or the fire that burns in your soul?
Shoot for Stardom – Day 24 – The Position
“Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2L:15b-16)
Just what does it mean to “…shine among them like stars in the sky …” (v. 15-16)? N. T. Wright states: “You are, he says, to shine like lights in the world, in the middle of a twisted and depraved generation. You are to be the beacon of hope that they need, the sign of God’s beauty in a world that had all but defaced it.” (xxix)
A young girl consulted with her minister. “I cannot stick it out any longer. I am the only Christian in the factory where I work. I get nothing but taunts and sneers. It is more than I can stand. I am going to resign.” “Will you tell me,” asked the minister, “where lights are placed?” “What has that to do with it?” she asked him bluntly. “Never mind,” the minister replied. “Answer my question: ‘Where are lights placed?’ “I suppose in dark places,” she replied. “Yes, and that is why you have been put in that factory where there is such spiritual darkness and where there is no other Christian to shine for the Lord.” The young Christian realized for the first time the opportunity that was hers. She could not fail God by allowing her light to go out. She went back to the factory with renewed determination to let her light shine in that dark corner. Before long, she was the means of leading nine other girls to the Light. (xxx) “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
“Do not wait until some deed Of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties Ever near you now be true, Brighten the corner where you are.
Just above are clouded skies That you may help to clear, Let not narrow self your way debar; Though into one heart alone May fall your song of cheer, Brighten the corner where you are.
Here for all your talent you May surely find a need, Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand The Bread of Life may feed, Brighten the corner where you are.
Brighten the corner where you are! Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor You may guide across the bar; Brighten the corner where you are! (xxxi)
Shoot for Stardom – Day 25 – The Source
“Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:15-16)
The Word of God is the source of stardom, the fuel that enables us to shine. The Bible is very clear about it’s effect. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).
“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
An anthropologist was in the Fiji Islands and engaged in conversation with a tribal chief. An atheist, he expressed disappointment that the tribe had been influenced by foreign missionaries to become Christians. “It’s a pity you’ve allowed yourself to be taken in by these missionaries. No one in our world believes the Bible anymore. We all know it is foolishness.” The old chief paused for a few moments, then answered: “Foolish? Look at the rock over there – on that rock we used to smash the heads of our enemies. See the furnace next to it? In that furnace we roasted the bodies of our enemies. If not for those missionaries sharing the Word of God with us, you would never leave this place alive. You should thank the Lord for the Word of God; otherwise, you would be our meal tonight!” In the midst of the darkness, the stars shine!
So, says Paul, study, stay in, stand on the Word of God. Have you been faithfully studying the Word? Have you been staying in, obeying the Word? Where have you been hesitant to take a stand? Studying, staying and standing will launch you to shining stardom. May each of us increase our shine!
Cherish Friendship – Day 26 – The Investment
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel…. But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” (Philippians 2:19-22,25)
Developing good friendships is an important for a joy-full life. In Philippians we sense the joy such friendships brought to Paul. His friendship with Timothy and Epaphroditus sustained him and strengthened his relationship with his friends at the Philippi. But they were friends with each other because they were first friends with Jesus. In fact, as Michael W. Smith wrote and sang, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”
The next few days I want to share with you that Jesus is the best Friend I’ve ever had. And I want you to know that Jesus wants to be your best friend.
First, Jesus made an investment. He paid a tremendous price for our friendship. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). We’ve heard war stories of heroes who did just that in a moment of crisis. But Jesus planned on dying all along – it wasn’t a spur of the moment heroism. He intended to live and die for me. He totally spent himself for me. I didn’t earn this love, didn’t deserve it and still don’t; I’m not all that lovable. I’m an OK guy, but never could I be worthy of this. In fact, the older I grow and the longer I serve the more I realize how little I deserve such a love as Jesus’ love. Yet nothing I have done, or could do, will turn him away.
A hospital in San Antonio had a renowned burn unit. During the Viet Nam war two badly burned soldiers were next to each other in the unit. The wife of one man came in, took one look at her husband, took off her wedding rings, put them on his chest and walked out, never to return. Two hours later the other man’s wife came in, looked at her husband and leaned over him and said, “Darling, I am here. Let’s start getting well.”[xxxii] Jesus has come to me in the darkest, ugliest times of my life, and has always, without fail, stood by me and brought me back into the light.
That’s why I want you to meet my Friend – what’s true for me is true for you as well. I want you to be able to say today, with conviction, “Jesus laid out his life for me.” Because He did. He wants to be your best friend. How will you express your thanks to Jesus today for investing in you?
Cherish Friendship – Day 27 – Intimacy
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon…I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare… But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” (Philippians 2:19-22,25)
Timothy and Epaphroditus were true friends of Paul, but were first friends of Jesus. Jesus is our friend because of His intimacy. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Servants carry out orders because they are under obligation and authority. They don’t have to like with it – they just have to do it. But with a friend there’s deep intimacy. Friends are confidants of each other’s thoughts and plans, are in harmony with each other and seek each other’s good.
General Grant’s chief of staff, lawyer John A. Rawlins, was Grant’s faithful friend. So Grant made a pledge to Rawlins that he would abstain from intoxicating liquors. When Grant broke that pledge Rawlins went to him and pleaded with him for the sake of the nation to refrain from strong drink. Grant responded positively. Years later, in front of our nations’ capitol, a massive statue of Grant was built. But at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is Rawlins Park, where there stands a very ordinary statue of Rawlins. Though smaller in stature it was the faithfulness of Rawlins that kept Grant on his horse. [xxxiii]
Similarly Jesus has shared his heart and life with me. He has my good at heart. Through his Holy Spirit He walks with me, talks with me, encourages me, disciplines me, and strengthens me every moment of every day. He wants me to have oneness of mind and spirit with Him. He wants to keep me on my horse – in line with His purpose. He has always sent people to support me and surround me with love. He shared his dreams for my life with me. And his dreams became mine – and I’ve been living them ever since. And I wouldn’t, for anything, trade them for my original dreams.
So I want you to meet my Friend. What’s true for me is true for you. I’d like nothing more than for you to be able to say this morning, with conviction, “Jesus shares His heart with me.” He wants to so desperately that He’s given Himself and His Spirit to you – with only your good in mind. He wants to be your best friend. Reflect today on all the ways Jesus has impacted your life.
Cherish Friendship – Day 28 – Initiative
“I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News… Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need.” (Philippians 2:20-22,25)
We become special friends when we are both friends with Jesus. And Jesus takes the initiative in being our friend. He sought out a friendship with me before I ever sought one with Him. “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). It’s not like I was in my mother’s womb wondering where I could find Jesus; yet He was already seeking me out. Through family, church, and friends He came to me. At my Baptism, although I was not aware of it, Jesus promised to guide and direct my life because He had adopted me. He was determined to have me as His friend.
A. W. Tozer said it well. “God knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us; no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past to God. No unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us since He already knew us utterly before we knew Him. And He called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.” [xxxiv]
Imagine – knowing everything there is to know about me, still He wanted me as His friend. It’s not the quality of my life that makes our friendship – but the quality of His love. I don’t have to hide my flaws and my failures. Jesus has chosen me as I am and loves me enough to grow me into His likeness. It’s like the couple who was seeing a marriage counselor. Eventually the husband blurted out, “You know what it is? All these years I’ve been scared to death that someday she’ll break through my shell and realize what an idiot I really am!” Hey – Jesus already knows what an idiot Curry is – and still He loves me! So now I have a reason for living – to be His friend. Everything I do can revolve around that.
So I want you to meet my Friend. What’s true for me is true for you. Jesus knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, and accepts who you’ve become and wants to grow you into His likeness. He loves you to death – His and yours! He wants you to be His friend. I pray that today you can say, “Jesus gives me a reason for living.” Thank Him for taking the initiative to be your friend.
Cherish Friendship – Day 29 – Invitation
“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” (Philippians 2:25-30)
Paul gave the Philippians an invitation to deeper friendship. Jesus does the same with us. “Whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16). The door to his wealth is wide open. I don’t fully understand the promise, but I’ve had a lifetime of asking that proves it’s true! What I know is, if I’m thinking it, pray it! Jesus is waiting.
Ed Cunningham said, “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” For years one of the most powerful men in Washington D.C. was Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. He served with eight presidents. One day he heard that the teenage daughter of a newsman had died. Early the next morning there was a knock on the reporter’s door, and when he opened it he found Speaker Rayburn standing there. “I just came to see what I could do to help,” he said. The grieving father replied, “I don’t think there’s anything you can do, Mr. Speaker. We’re making all the arrangements.” “Well, have you all had your coffee this morning?” Rayburn asked. When the reporter said they had not, the Speaker quickly said that he would make coffee for them. While he was doing so the reporter said, “Mr. Speaker, I thought that you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House this morning.” “Well, I was,” said Rayburn, “but I have called the president and told him I had a friend who was in trouble, and I couldn’t come.” [xxxv]
It’s just like my Friend Jesus. And what’s true for me is true for you. “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a Friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer. In his arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.” [xxxvi] Jesus wants to be your BFF. He will be there when everyone else walks away, will ask you over and over how you are and then wait to hear the answer. He will be with you when you walk through that final valley so you will fear no evil. So what have you been hesitating to ask from your Friend? He’s waiting right now.
Cherish Friendship – Day 30 – Imperative
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” (Philippians 2:19-24)
Paul knew friendship with Jesus is the foundation of friendship with others. And Jesus gives us an imperative for our friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:14 & 17). Not that Jesus won’t be our friend if we don’t love, but we love Jesus by loving others. Jesus’ love and friendship models the pattern for and gives substance to our human friendships.
It was Wednesday Talent Night at Jr. High church camp. Campers displayed their talent, where most anything goes, from accordions and pianos to pie-in-the-face skits to songs about ‘greasy, grimy gopher guts.’ The last act was Jonathan. He was a nice kid but being mentally challenged he had basically been by himself during the week and not been much help in team competitions. But he took the microphone to sing a solo, turned on the tape, and started to sing. Halfway through the first verse he forgot the words. A few of the staff looked at each other wondering what to do but he pulled out of his pocket a crumpled piece of paper, on which he’d written down the words. He tried desperately to unfold that paper with his free hand, but it was shaking so badly he couldn’t. The tape went on without him. Some boys in the front row started to snicker. Jessica, a typical red-haired, freckle-faced girl with braces on her teeth got out up, ran onto the stage, put her arm around Jonathan’s shoulder, wrapped her hand around his on the microphone, and together they sang: ““Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never for the welcome will not end.” Jonathan won the talent night. Those who were there will never forget the night. They saw Jesus in a red-haired, freckle-faced girl and in a knock-kneed Jr. High boy who just wanted to sing a song for his friends. [xxxvii]
“You are my friends if you do what I command. This is my command: Love each other.” If the test of your friendship with Jesus is how well you are loving others, what’s your test score? Today, fill in the blank: I will love __________________ this week. Who is crying for your love? Who is standing alone with no one else to care? Who needs you to share their microphone and help them sing their song of life?
Living a Joy-Full Life: Know Your Profits and Losses – Day 31 – Profits
“For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!” (Philippians 3:3-4)
The Consistory was discussing requirements for who could serve on Consistory. A tither expressed only tithers should serve on Consistory. Knowing he only attended morning worship, I facetiously said only those who attended worship both morning and evening should serve. A few more such requirements were offered tongue-in-cheek. The point became clear: we cannot pick and choose ‘laws’ to add to our faith. We either believe that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient or we do not.
In Philippi a group was trying to add required works to faith, to pile up profits by which they could gain salvation and blessing. But Paul countered “…We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us…” Paul knew they are wrong – he’d been there and done that.
He shared some of his personal profits. He had added rituals: “…circumcised on the eighth day…” (v.5) Devout Jews believed people had to become Jewish to be Christian. Do your rituals become requirements? Do baptism, communion, or the order of worship determine your judgment of the level of one’s faith?
Another profit was rank. Paul had the right ancestry and heritage, born “…of the people of Israel…” (v.5) It’s not too different from those who claim profit because their family has been “part of such and such church for generations,” or “I’ve been part of this church for 50 years…” implying it brings special blessing.
Paul added he was “…of the tribe of Benjamin…” (v.5), the best of the best with the right pedigree. He was just a little better, higher, purer than others. It’s a little like “If you’re not Dutch, you’re not much.”
Paul was also “…a Hebrew of Hebrews…” (v.5) A strict orthodox Jew he had the right orthodoxy. It’s like “Oh, you’re not Reformed?” which means “Our denomination is the right and pure one.”
If anyone could pile up enough profit to purchase an entrance ticket to heaven, it was Paul. But now he was admitting that his rituals, rank, and pedigree made him so zealous that he became not a protector of the faith but a persecutor of those who failed to measure up to his standards. What are your ‘personal profits?’ What laws have you added to your faith? Have you used them to persecute or condemn others who don’t measure up? What difference would it make if you truly believed that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient?
Know Your Profits and Losses – Day 32 – Knowing Christ
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss…” (Philippians 3:7)
Paul’s profits (Day 31) had driven him away from Jesus so he counted them as profitable losses.
They were profitable, first, because he could truly know Christ. “…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” (v. 8-9). We can know Jesus in our heads but not our hearts. “To know” is a deep intimacy of heart, soul, mind, body – an intertwining of whole beings. It’s the way God knows us: “Oh Lord you have searched me and known me…” (Psalm 139:1). It’s the difference between knowing that the definition of a kiss is “a caress with the lips; a gentle touch or contact” and experiencing a loving kiss.
Once Paul had been kissed by Jesus on the road to Damascus, it was no longer what he did for God but what God had done for him in Jesus. Religion is our effort to get to God. Jesus is God’s effort to enter into a relationship with us. Paul moved from a religion to a relationship. Knowing Jesus became his life’s aim.
Albert Pujols – World Series champ, frequent All Star, recipient of multiple National League MVP awards – was the most feared hitter in the sport. Yet more impressive is his life off the field. The Pujols Family Foundation offers support and care to people with Down syndrome and their families, and also helps the poor in the Dominican Republic. He and his wife provide a loving home for four children. But most importantly he knows Jesus. He told an audience of men and young boys, “As a Christian, I am called to live a holy life. My standard for living is set by God, not by the world. I am responsible for growing and sharing the gospel.” Then, after reading Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3—”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves”—he said “One way for me to stay satisfied in Jesus is for me to stay humble. Humility is getting on your knees and staying in God’s will—what he wants for me, not what the world wants…It would be easy to go out and do whatever I want, but those things only satisfy the flesh for a moment. Jesus satisfies my soul forever.” Like Paul, Albert knows Christ.
Are there some profits you need to lose to truly know Jesus?
Know Your Profits and Losses – Day 33 – Resurrection Power
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection…” (Philippians 3:10)
Paul felt it was profitable to lose all his personal accomplishments because then he could truly know Christ (Day 32) and also know the power of Christ’s resurrection. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection…” (v.10).
While in Italy a minister saw the centuries old grave of a man who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity but was a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, “I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don’t believe in it.” Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, “If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God’s resurrection power do in a person’s life?”
Tim Keller summarizes it well: “The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It’s the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection.” [xxxviii]
What slabs need smashing in your life? Where do you need resurrection power to burst forth?
With Paul I pray “…that you may know… his incomparably great power for us who believe…Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 1:18-19 & 3:20).
Know Your Profit and Losses – Day 34 – Suffering
“I want to know…the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” (Philippians 3:10)
It’s hard to think of suffering as a profit but Paul is very clear. He considered all his suffering as a means of knowing Christ more intimately. And he knew suffering. He experienced a thorn in his flesh, shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, robberies, rejection, mockery, malicious gossip, and persecution.
Yet as David Wilkerson pointed out, “Suffering is an area of life over which we have no control. It’s the realm where we learn to surrender to God’s will…It’s a training place where, like Paul, we fall on our faces, and end up crying, ‘Lord, I can’t handle this.’ He responds, ‘Good. I’ll handle it. Surrender it all to me, your body, soul, mind, heart, everything. Trust me fully.” [xxxix}
A few ladies met to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3). One lady decided to visit a silversmith and report to the others on what he said about the subject. She went and without telling him the reason for her visit begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, “Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes ma’am,” replied the silversmith; “l must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.” The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” God sees it necessary to put His children into the furnace; but His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us. Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure.
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, “How do you know when the process is complete?” “That’s quite simple,” replied the silversmith. “When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished.”
When have you shared in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering? Are you able to thank God as He seeks to see His image fully reflected in you?
Know Your Profits and Losses – Day 35 – Dying
“I want to know…the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”” (Philippians 3:10)
Paul’s losses were profitable because they made it possible for him to know about dying. He knew that dying to himself each day was always a gain. The Desert Fathers lived in that tradition. “Their world asked, ‘How can I get more?” They asked, ‘How can I do without?’ Their world asked, ‘How can I find myself?’ They asked, ‘How can I lose myself?’ Their world asked, ‘How can I win friends and influence people?’ They asked, ‘How can I love God?’” [xl]
Today “…In a culture of self-realization, the Christian’s call is to renounce self; in the face of noise, silence is the preference; in a world of competition, the Christian’s declaration is that the winners will be losers and the losers winners; in a culture whose economy is intent on consumption, the Christian insists on simplicity … and at every point, the Christian exposes the emptiness of fullness for the sake of the gospel’s fullness of emptiness.” [xli]
Here’s the question: Is there anything you will not lose for Jesus? South Asia is predominantly Hindu so believers must be aware there could be a price to pay for a commitment to Jesus Christ. So church planters have a series of questions they ask new believers who are considering baptism. [xlii] (1) Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father? (2) Are you willing to lose your job? (3) Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them? (4) Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord? (5) Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith? (6) Are you willing to go to prison? (7) Are you willing to die for Jesus? What would your answers be?
If the new convert answers yes to all of these questions, they are then asked to sign on the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. But here’s the risk: if a new convert is caught by the government, it will be three years behind bars – and the one who did the evangelizing faces six years behind bars. Would you sign on the dotted line? Would you evangelize? Can you say, in the words of the hymn “You can have all this world, Give me Jesus?”
Know Your Profits and Losses – Day 36 – The Target
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ… I want to know Christ…to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)
A church leader died and met Peter at the pearly gates. Peter said “It takes a thousand points to get in, so tell me something about yourself.” The man replied, “Until I was twenty-one years old, I never missed Sunday School, unless I was sick. I have a string of perfect attendance medals. I was an acolyte, active in the youth group, and often worked around church doing odd jobs.” Peter said, “That’s extremely good. It gives you one point. Tell me something else about yourself.” “Well, I’m seventy years old. I attended church regularly, served on Consistory several times, sang in the choir, and was a speaker on layman’s Sunday. I always gave 10% of my income to church and was a lifelong church member.” Said Peter, “That’s truly remarkable. It gives you another point. Tell me something else about yourself.” Getting desperate the man blurted out, “Look, at this rate the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.” Peter said, “That’s worth 1,000 points, and with the two you earned, it makes one thousand two. Would you like to come in now?”
Because he was saved by grace Paul knew his losses would enable him to know resurrection from the dead. So he began chapter 3 by exhorting us to rejoice in the Lord. He had discovered the truth of Jesus’ words “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NLT).
Matt Emmons had the gold medal in sight. One shot away from claiming victory in the 2004 Olympic 50-meter three-position rifle event, he didn’t even need a bull’s-eye to win. He merely needed to be on target. But standing in lane two, he somehow fired at the target in lane three. His score? Zero. Instead of a medal, he ended up in eighth place. It doesn’t matter how accurate you are if you are aiming at the wrong goal. [xliii]
If you get to where you’re going, where will you be? If you accomplish your goals, what will you have? Are you willing to let your personal profits become profitable losses? Aim your eyes at the cross of Jesus, and He will satisfy your soul forever.
“Developing a Race Strategy” – Day 37 – Examination
“This one thing I do…I press on…” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Storm Jameson said, “I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend 59 minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening) or in a future which we either long for or dread…There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute, here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable minute. Which is exactly what it is – a miracle and unrepeatable.” [xliv] I’m not sure about the number of minutes, but he is accurate about the impact of the past and the importance of the future. Paul, too, understood the importance of the present moment: “This one thing I do…I press on.”
Paul’s race began with an examination. “… I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (v. 12). Jesus had taken hold of – apprehended – Paul. It pictures a fugitive on the run being apprehended by authorities, just like Paul was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus took hold of Paul’s shoulder and said, “Come with me.”
As a result, Paul had taken hold of Jesus. Jesus’ goals had become his goals. But as he examined his life he admitted he had not yet accomplished it completely. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal… I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it…” (v. 12-13). There was more work to be done and further to go in Paul’s transformation. Paul was a great apostle, and brilliant theologian, a master missionary, a devoted follower of Jesus – but he had not yet become all Jesus wanted him to be.
To master living in the present moment we, too, must examine our lives. Jesus wants to transform us as well. Have you been apprehended by Him? Has He grabbed hold of you and said, “Come with me?” If not, do you want Him to? Will you ask Him to? If Jesus has taken hold of you, are you taking hold of Jesus? Are you willing to press on to Christ-likeness? What does ‘pressing on’ mean for you? It’s the first step in living in the present moment.
“Developing a Race Strategy” – Day 38 – Elimination
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind…” (Philippians 3:13)
Transformation is a process. So Paul paints the image of a marathon runner pressing on to the finish line. To do so effectively there must be a process of elimination. “Forgetting what is behind…” We cannot totally forget our pasts. Paul did not – he referred to his a few verses earlier. Paul means the past should not hold power over us. We need to break its power. How? The Blackabys wrote, “The people of the world focus on what they are overcoming. Christians focus on what they are becoming.” [xlv]
What from your past has a hold on you? A string of failures, a pile of sins, a multitude of disappointments, your painful broken relationships, memories of people saying you’ll never make anything of yourself? Break their power. A farmer riding his horse came to a shallow ford; his horse refused to cross because it remembered that the last time they had crossed this place the river was flooded and the raging waters had frightened him. Encouraging the horse to move forward, the farmer shouted, “Come on, Donald, your memory is better than your judgment.” [xlvi] Judge yourself by where you’re headed, not by where you’ve been. Break the power of the past.
Maybe your past has a hold on you because of your successes. Like Paul you have an impressive list of accomplishments. But if you’re resting on them, you’re at an impasse of non-development. Suppose one Sunday I failed to have a sermon ready, claiming “Well a month ago I had two funerals in the same week. And I did a great job!” Would that be acceptable? Past successes can have a strong, negative hold on us.
The Goodyear Company engaged in re-inventing the wheel. Working in a wind tunnel engineers found the shape of wheels and tires account for as much as 7% of aerodynamic drag for cars moving at steady highway speeds. Also an open window adds 7%, roof racks 13%, mud flaps 7%, outside mirrors, 3%, spotlights 2%, and radio antennas 1%. [xlvii] To effectively live in the present moment reduce your spiritual drag – eliminate the power of the past. Are you experiencing spiritual drag? What is causing it? Decide today to break it.
“Developing a Race Strategy” – Day 39 – Anticipation
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” (Philippians 3:13)
Psychologist Daniel Gilbert opens his book with: “The human is the only animal that ….” A secular psychologist, he gave an insightful answer. He said humans are the only animal that thinks about the future … We think about it in a way that no other animal can, does, or ever has, and this is the defining feature of our humanity. The average adult spends 12 percent of the day thinking about the future, roughly one of every eight hours. We can imagine events years into the future … no animal can keep up with us. [xlviii]
There is tremendous energy in the present power of a future hope. Hebrews 11 & 12 point out that because Abraham looked for a future city he was content to live in a tent; Moses looked for the rewards of heaven so was willing to forsake the treasures of earth; Jesus, because of the joy before Him, was willing to endure the cross.
So Paul strains, extends himself, toward what is ahead. It’s the image of a racer straining to reach the finish tape. An Olympic runner explained it, “The only way to win a race is to forget all previous victories which would give you false pride and all former failures which would give you false fears. Each race is a new beginning. Pressing on to the finish tape is all that’s important.” [xlix]
Paul did it through anticipation of the prize. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (v.14). Like a runner, Paul anticipated and gave every ounce of energy for the moment he would receive the victor’s crown. As he neared the end of his life he wrote “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
During a Monday night football game between the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears, one of the announcers mentioned that the great Walter Payton had accumulated over nine miles rushing in his career. The other announcer commented, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!” That’s doggedly pursuing the goal. That’s Paul. Is it you?
Developing a Race Strategy – Day 40 – One Thing
“This one thing I do…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me?” (Philippians 1:13-14)
The U.S. Women’s soccer team won the 2015 World Cup with six players who were cut from their youth soccer teams. [l] Morgan Brian, at age 12 didn’t make Florida’s Olympic Developmental team. She said, “It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. It was the hardest I’d ever worked in my life.” Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat trick in the final game, was cut from her Under-21 national team. It was the wake-up call that led her to succeed. [li]
For followers of Christ failure and defeat lead to doggedly pursuing the goal. “This ONE THING I do…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…”
Randy Alcorn tells of his friend Ethel Herr. Two months after a double mastectomy doctors discovered the cancer had spread. A friend asked, “And how do you feel about God now?” Herr said: “As I sought to explain what has happened in my spirit, it all became clearer to me. God has been preparing me for this moment. He has undergirded me in ways I’ve never known before. He has made himself increasingly real and precious to me. He has given to me joy such as I’ve never known before—and I’ve no need to work at it, it just comes, even amidst the tears. He has taught me that no matter how good my genes are or how well I take care of my diet and myself, he will lead me on whatever journey he chooses and will never leave me for a moment of that journey. And he planned it all in such a way that step by step, he prepared me for the moment when the doctor dropped the last shoe … God is good, no matter what the diagnosis or the prognosis, or the fearfulness of the uncertainty of having neither. The key to knowing God is good is simply knowing him.” [lii] Doggedly pursuing the goal to gain the prize.
Can you say “This one thing I do…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me?” If so you will also say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…”
Oh how I long for that day. Do you? Doggedly pursue it!
“Furnish Your Memory” – Day 41 – Mind Perspective
“But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20)
What’s in our minds determines our perspective. For example, look at these words. WOMAN WITHOUT HER MAN IS A SAVAGE. Do you see WOMAN: WITHOUT HER, MAN IS A SAVAGE? Or WOMAN, WITHOUT HER MAN, IS A SAVAGE? What’s in your mind determines your perspective. So Paul uses the picture of citizenship to remind us to whom we truly belong.
We are to remember our home base. Many people are citizens of one country but live in another. It’s not where they live but where they are born that determines their citizenship. John reminds us “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).
So Paul says we are citizens of heaven and visitors on earth. Jesus understood it. He often pointed out that He was not of this world but had come down from heaven, and therefore was to do the Father’s will. The Gospels point out He was born in a borrowed manger, buried in a borrowed tomb, and often had no place to lay His head. When His disciples went home, He went to the Mount of Olives to be with his Father. His whole life was framed by his heavenly citizenship.
The same was true for Paul – he knew his dual citizenship. On more than one occasion he used his earthly Roman citizenship to fend off punishment and gain more favorable treatment. Yet he also knew that his real citizenship was heavenly. He therefore built his entire life around that. His heavenly citizenship provided the framework of his life.
Therefore we are to make heaven our priority. Jesus Christ, not any earthly leader or government, is our leader and ruler. Our allegiance is to Christ’s Kingdom. The nation in which we live is our secondary loyalty. As Jesus said “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:19-21, 33). Is this the priority of your life? As you travel this life, remember your home base.
“Furnish Your Memory” – Day 42 – Our Destination
“And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)
We are to remember our destination which is a return to our home base. Our names are inscribed in heaven’s register. Our rights are secured, our interests are promoted and our inheritance is stored in heaven. Our mansion is being prepared in heaven. [liii] “And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am” (John 14:3 GNT). We are headed for heaven because Jesus has promised to bring us home. We have an appointment with Jesus! “And we eagerly await a Savior…”
When I think of heaven I get excited about seeing what it is really like. I can only imagine. But that can wait – because I’m more excited about meeting Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and so many others. I can only imagine. But they can wait – because I’m more excited to greet my loved ones – my mom and dad, my sister, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles – and so many of my friends. I can only imagine. But they can wait – because I want to see my Savior first of all.
As Carrie Breck so poignantly wrote , “Face to face with Christ, my Savior, Face to face—what will it be, When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me? Only faintly now I see Him, With the darkened veil between, But a blessed day is coming, When His glory shall be seen. What rejoicing in His presence, When are banished grief and pain; When the crooked ways are straightened, And the dark things shall be plain. Face to face—oh, blissful moment! Face to face—to see and know; Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so. Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky; Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!” [liv] I can only imagine.
It’s imagining that fills our memory, sustains our hope and inspires our attitude. No matter how tough the day or how hard the circumstance, the best is yet to come. This world is not our home – we’re just passing through. May that hope encourage you and those you influence today.
“Furnish Your Memory” – Day 43 – Transformation
“…the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control…” (Philippians 3:21)
Remember that our bodies will be transformed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:52). Forget plastic surgery, cosmetics, and workouts; Jesus will give us a new body! It will be our body, but different. Years ago an old farmer took his family to the big city for the very first time. The farmer dropped his wife off at a department store and took his son with him to the bank. As they walked into the lobby they saw an elevator for the first time. The doors opened and an elderly woman got in. The doors closed behind her and a dial over the doors went to the right and then back to the left. The doors opened again and out came a beautiful young lady. The farmer turned to his son and said, “You wait right here. I’m going to get your mother and run her through that thing.”
It may not work that way, but our bodies will be different! The Heidelberg Catechism (Q & A #57) states: “…even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.” In His resurrection body Jesus passed through doors and walls and appeared and disappeared at will. We will be perfectly suited for heaven, like Christ.
Yet even now our lives are being transformed: “…the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control…” There is nothing in this life that Jesus cannot transform. He can make a leper clean, an adulterous woman a saint, the blind see, the lame walk, the dumb speak. He can bring the dead to life. When our passions are wrong and strong, we are weak in flesh or in spirit, our will is off track, temptation is heavy, the task is difficult, the sorrow is overwhelming, our body is disintegrating, our marriage or our family life is rocky, Jesus is able to transform us and our situations.
I pray you can join me in claiming “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16-18).
“Furnish Your Memory” – Day 44 – Anticipation
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)
Since we eagerly await a Savior our perspective is one of energetic anticipation. The first church I served was only a couple blocks away from our house, so I often walked to and from. As I walked home our 3 year old son was often waiting by the front door; when he saw me coming my wife would open the door and he would, as fast as his little legs would allow him, run up the street to greet me. Is that the desire and energy you feel, that you want to run to greet Jesus? Are you straining and making plans for heaven? Does this anticipation drive your life?
Joni Eareckson Tada, paralyzed from the shoulders down since a diving accident while a teen, has for years had her heart set on heaven. It shows in her conversations, her radio messages, and her artwork. When talking with her one is drawn to the very edge of heaven itself. She said: “I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness – powerful and dazzling…. It’s easy for me to ‘be joyful in hope,’ …and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past twenty-odd years. My assurance of heaven is so alive that I’ve been making dates with friends to do all sorts of fun things once we get our new bodies…I don’t take these appointments lightly. I’m convinced these things will really happen.” [lv] Joni remembers her destination.
Are you headed for heaven? Does it drive you now? Are you setting plans and making the arrangements? Today, sing these words over and over.
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed He’ll prepare for us a place.
While we walk the pilgrim pathway, Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over, Not a shadow, not a sigh.
Let us then be true and faithful, Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory Will the toils of life repay.
Onward to the prize before us! Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open; We shall tread the streets of gold.
When we all get to Heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory! [lvi]
“Furnish Your Memory” – Day 45 – Direction
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 3:20-4:1)
In the Movie Madagascar, Marty is a well-cared-for zebra at the New York City zoo. In front of him is a mural that depicts a scene of the wild places he longs to go. Suddenly, in the grassy part of his enclosure a penguin head pops out. The penguin asks, “What continent is this?” And Marty replies, “Manhattan.” The penguin is disappointed; “Still in New York!” and then to the other penguins, “Abort, dive, dive, dive!” Marty, curious, says “Wait a minute! What are you guys doing?” “We’re digging to Antarctica!” The penguin asks Marty if he has ever seen penguins “running around in New York City?” but whispers that there aren’t any, that “We don’t belong here. It’s just not natural.” So the penguins are “going to the wide-open spaces of Antarctica. To the wild.” The words are magic in Marty’s ears, “To the wild? You can actually go there?” One by one the penguins begin to disappear down the hole. Frantically, Marty shouts, “Hey! Hold up! Where is this place? Tell me where it is!” Waving his flipper the penguin intones, “You didn’t see anything . . . right?” And Marty says, “Right. Right. Yes, sir!” But his desire to escape has been ignited. Marty longs for a place he’s only seen in murals — the wild. He longs for it because deep down inside he knows that he was not created to live in a zoo. Even though he is looked after, he recognizes that his life is unnatural, not how it is supposed to be. So when the chance for escape presents itself, Marty is excited.
Like Marty, deep inside us is a voice reminding us this world is not where we are meant to be. We are made for heaven, and God gives us glimpses of it to excite us. Like Marty, we need directions. [lvii] Through the cross Jesus Christ has shown the way. He, in fact, is the way, the truth and the life and no one can get to the Father except through Him. So be transformed by furnishing your memory as you remember the cross, focus on Jesus and anticipate heaven.
Pray today: “Grant, O God, that I may never lose the way through my self-will, and so end up in the far countries of the soul; that I may never abandon the struggle, but that I may endure to the end, and so be saved; that I may never drop out of the race, but that I may ever press forward to the goal of my high calling; that I may never choose the cheap and passing things, and let go of the precious things that last forever; that I may never take the easy way, and so leave the right way; that I may never forget that sweat is the price of all things, and that without the cross, there cannot be the crown. Amen.”
“Control Your Stress” – Day 46 – Rejoice!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
A devout servant was stressed. Her mistress asked, “Why do you agonize so long and so deeply over your misfortune? After all, you’re a Christian and you have the grace of God to help you over times like this.” The servant responded, “Well, when the Lord sends me tribulation, I tribulate!” How do you respond when tribulation and stress attach themselves to your life?
Paul wrote these words while in prison awaiting a verdict on his life – he had a right to be stressed! But he chose a different attitude. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” There are no escape clauses – “always”. 17 times in this letter he mentions rejoicing and joy. ‘Joy’ in here is a defiant ‘Nevertheless!’ ”— nevertheless “Rejoice.”[xviii] Circumstances need not determine the condition of our hearts. The Psalmist expressed it in Ps. 73. Upset because of the apparent success and health of his enemies, he came to a point of realization: “Yet (nevertheless) I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (v. 23-26). Rejoice always.
But note we are to rejoice “in the Lord.” Rejoicing flows from a relationship with Jesus Christ. A child once remarked that she believed Principal Rainy went to Heaven every night because he was so happy every day. Rainy once said, “Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.” [lix] When our joy flag flies others take notice. So Paul says to let our gentleness be evident to all. When we rejoice in the midst of tough times people take notice.
We can ‘rejoice always’ because “The Lord is near (at hand)”(v.5). A teacher leaves the room for a period of time. The atmosphere of the classroom in her absence is different than when she is present. Her presence changes everything. So Jesus’ presence changes everything. And more than a teacher He is the Creator of the world who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). I ask you: Is anything too hard for the Lord? No matter what you’re going through, how heavy the load, or how hard you’re tribulating you are not alone. Jesus is at hand. Rejoice.
“Control Your Stress” – Day 47 – Anxiety
“Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6)
Ever been anxious about something? The Greek word for ‘worry’ means to tear apart, to distract, to come apart at the seams of a garment. The Latin word for ‘worry’ suggests a violent agitation and turmoil inside a person. The Anglo-Saxon word describes a power gripping a man by the throat. Get the picture? Anxiety and worry tear us apart, create inner turmoil, and grab us by the throat. Anxiety and stress have adverse effects on our muscles, heart rate, blood vessels, and our glands. No wonder Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything…”.
Notice Paul does not say we ‘shall not’ be anxious but that we ‘need not’ be anxious. It’s a choice we make. Since the Lord is at hand, and since all things hold together in Him, we can release ourselves from the compulsion to tackle our circumstances by ourselves. As Rick Warren put it, we can stop assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. [lx]
I appreciate how a poet penned it:
“Don’t you trouble trouble Till troubles trouble you, Don’t you look for trouble; Let trouble look for you…
Don’t you borrow sorrow You’ll surely have your share. He who dreams of sorrow Will find that sorrow’s there…
Don’t you hurry worry By worrying lest it come. To flurry is to worry, ‘Twill miss you if you’re mum…
If care you’ve got to carry Wait till ‘tis at the door; For he who runs to meet it Takes up the load before…
If minding will not mend it, Then better not to mind; The best thing is to end it – Just leave it all behind…
Who feareth hath forsaken The Heavenly Father’s side; What He hath undertaken He surely will provide…
The very birds reprove thee With all their happy song; The very flowers teach thee That fretting is a wrong…
‘Cheer up,’ the sparrow chirpeth, ‘Thy Father feedeth me; Think how much more He careth, O lonely child, for thee.’…
‘Fear not,’ the flowers whisper; ‘Since thus he hath arrayed The buttercup and daisy, How canst thou be afraid?’…
Then don’t you trouble trouble, Till trouble troubles you; You’ll only double trouble, And trouble others too.” [lxi]
Sage advice for today – and every day.
“Control Your Stress” – Day 48 – The Anxiety Antidote
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Worry does things to you and prayer does things for you. Prayer is the antidote to anxiety. What if the time you spend worrying was spent praying?
Prayer was Jesus’ life. If hungry for fellowship, tempted, criticized, fatigued in body or wearied in spirit, He prayed. Prior to choosing His disciples and performing His miracles He prayed. There was no situation that He did not offer up to prayer. [lxii] “In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him” (Hebrews 5:7 GNT). So pray in every situation.
Remember there is no problem too big for God’s power nor too small for His concern. A woman received a phone call that her daughter was sick. Leaving work she stopped by the pharmacy and got some medicine. Then she discovered she had locked her keys in the car. She called her baby sitter and explained the situation. The sitter told her the daughter was getting worse and suggested the woman find a coat hanger to use to open the car door. She found an old rusty coat hanger on the ground but didn’t know how to use the hanger. She uttered a brief prayer to God to send someone to help her. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up, and out stepped a dirty, greasy, bearded man wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, “Dear God. This is what you sent to help me?” But being desperate she was thankful. She explained her situation and the man offered to help. Taking the hanger he opened the car door in less than a minute. The woman was so grateful that she hugged the man and through her tears said, “Thank you so much…you are such a nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour.” The woman hugged the man again and, still sobbing, cried out, “Thank you, God, for sending me a professional!” [lxiii]
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns” (Philippians 4:6, The Message). Starting today may the time you spend worrying be spent praying.
“Control Your Stress” – Day 49 – The Peace of Thanksgiving
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Prayers and petitions should be offered with thanksgiving. We can pray with thanksgiving because God is still on His throne, we’re still on His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between. [lxiv] We can pray with thanksgiving because the Lord is at hand waiting to help. William Barclay wrote: “When we pray, we must always remember three things. We must remember the love of God, which ever desires only what is best for us. We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring to pass that which is best for us.” [lxv]
Such prayer guarantees “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Like Roman sentinels who guarded critical entrances the peace of God will guard and keep our hearts from anxiety and worry. The peace of God will keep our focus on Jesus.
In her convent alone, an 85-year-old Catholic nun was trapped inside a broken elevator for four nights and three days. She tried pushing the inside elevator door, but the electricity went off. She had her cell phone with her but there wasn’t a signal. She did have a jar of water, some celery sticks, and a few cough drops. At first she said, “This can’t happen!” But then she turned her elevator into a personal prayer retreat. “It was either panic or pray,” she later told a CNN interviewer. She started viewing the experience as a “gift.” “I believe that God’s presence was my strength and my joy—really. I felt God’s presence almost immediately. I felt like he provided the opportunity for a closer relationship.” [lxvi] This is a peace “…which transcends all understanding…”
What anxiety are you feeling? How will you, with thanksgiving, offer up your prayers and petitions?
“Control Your Stress” – Day 50 – Right Thinking and Acting
“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.” (Philippians 4:8)
Our thoughts are tracks over which the train of our lives chugs along. We are today where our thoughts have brought us and will be tomorrow where our thoughts will take us. Since our minds can store over 100 trillion thoughts it’s important to think right. So Paul says to fill our minds with thoughts that lead to God. Think thoughts that are true – in tune with God’s Word; that are noble and honorable – inspiring awe and reverence for sacred things; thoughts that are right and just –representing the will of God for human life; that are pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy – which God can approve. If your most common thoughts were flashed up on the screen, would they pass these filters? When you get up in the morning, what’s the first thing you listen to or read? When you prepare for bed at night, what’s the last thing you listen to or read?
When we think right we can act right. “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” (v. 9) “The Center for Attitudinal Healing,” a children’s hospital in California, focuses on children disabled by or suffering from traumatic diseases or severe accidents. Its’ unique purpose is to stimulate attitudinal healing that enables the children to triumph over their adversity. Rather than simply being patients, or victims needing professionals to attend them, the children are encouraged to take responsibility for their own healing and for the healing of other children. One of the workers said, “We feel that much healing takes place by asking the simple question, do I want to have peace of mind, the peace of God, or do I want to experience conflict? If we want to experience peace of mind we will choose to extend our love to others and experience the love extended to us.” The center believes, “If you can help somebody else you’re not disabled,” and is a modern institutional witness to the fact that we are what we think. [lxvii]
To lower your stress, think right and act according to what you think, and “the God of peace will be with you.” Why not sing today? “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s a light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” [lxviii]
“Live with Contentment” – Day 51 – A Choice
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)
As two teardrops floated down the river of life one asked the other, “Who are you?” “I’m a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him. But who are you?” The first replied, “I’m a teardrop from the girl who got him.” We cry over the things we can’t have, but might cry twice as hard if we had received them. [lxix] So we need Paul’s teaching about contentment.
Paul learned from all his circumstances. He knew about need. He endured several imprisonments and 39 lashes five times; was stoned; experienced three shipwrecks and multiple storms; was exposed to all kinds of danger (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). But Paul also knew about plenty. Prior to his conversion to Christ, he lived an upstanding Jewish life and lacked little. He also knew plenty in terms of God’s provision during those times of need. Through all these circumstances Paul learned contentment. ‘Learned’ means ‘initiated into’. All his circumstances, over time, initiated him into contentment. Have you ever said, “I’m okay – under the circumstances?” Paul would ask, “Why are you under your circumstances? Why not get on top of them?” Don’t let circumstances control or dominate you. Contentment here means ‘contained.’ The resources for contentment are contained within us. Contentment is a choice. We choose to be thermometers, merely reflecting the temperature around us, or thermostats setting the temperature by using resources within us.
Fanny Crosby, blinded at the age of six weeks by a country doctor who thought he was treating her with eye-drops, chose contentment at an early age. When eight years old she wrote:
“Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.”
Contentment is a choice. [lxx]
A Puritan sat down to his meal of only a little bread and some water. He exclaimed, “What? All this and Jesus Christ, too!” [lxxi] Contentment is a choice. Paul, in chains awaiting a verdict on his life wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Contentment is a choice. Will you choose it today?
“Live with Contentment” – Day 52 – Embracing Truth
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:10-11)
Often we feel we will be content “If only…” If only I had a better job, more money, my spouse would love me more, my parents would let me…; if only. Contentment does not result from having more, or having what others have, or being liked by everyone or even by certain people.
Paul’s source of contentment came from embracing a truth about God. He believed and trusted in the overwhelming providence of God. Our word for providence comes from the root ‘pro’ – before – and ‘video’ – to see. It means to see to it beforehand. God is always seeing to it beforehand. The Heidelberg Catechism defines it this way (#27): “Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.”
An illustration of this overwhelming providence is seen in the life of Joseph. At age 17 Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt. There Joseph was betrayed, falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. But when Pharaoh had a dream God led Joseph to interpret it: seven years of famine were coming after seven years of plenty. So Joseph was elevated to the position of second ruler in Egypt. After twenty years his brothers were reconciled to him as Joseph told them what the Lord had done: “Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives” (Gen. 45:5 GNT). “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). This is the providence of God, His hand ruling and overruling in the affairs of life.
And now it was God in His providence that caused the church at Philippi to become concerned about Paul’s needs at the very time Paul needed their love most! Paul learned “… that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 GNT).
Life is not a series of accidents; it is a series of appointments. What appointments has God made with you? What have you received from His fatherly hand? Spend some time thanking Him today.
“Live with Contentment” – Day 53 – Acceptance
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)
Believing and trusting in the overwhelming providence of God, Paul could accept all things. The Heidelberg Catechism (#26) puts it poignantly: “I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.”
But this acceptance and trust is not just a ‘give up and move on’ mentality, nor a stoical “It is what it is.” Rather, it’s an attitude of faith that motivates our behavior. As the Catechism #28 puts it, because of this trust “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love. All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.” We can be patient, thankful and confident!
Francis de Sales, in the 16th century, linked contentment to God’s providential care. He compared our relationship with God to that of a child going out for a walk. Strolling along a country lane the child hangs on to his or her parent with one hand, while happily picking blackberries and wild strawberries with the other. Francis says that’s how it should be. God wants us to delight in the world. But, he warned, we should be careful not to get distracted or greedy, and attempt to accumulate too many things on our journey through life. If we let go of God’s hand in order to pick more and more strawberries we’ll end up flat on our face: ‘Throughout your life, learn to trust in the providential care of God, through which alone comes contentment. Work hard, but always to cooperate with God’s good designs. Let me assure you, if you trust all to God, whatever happens will be the best for you, whether at the time it seems good or bad to your own judgment…God will work with you and in you and for you throughout your life. And at the last you will know that you have not labored in vain, and be filled with a profound contentment that only God can give.” [lxxii]
Where have you let go of God’s hand to pick more berries? What are the berries that tempt you? How can you strengthen your trust in God?
“Live with Contentment” – Day 54 – Power
“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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13)
Paul said the secret of contentment flows from the ever present power of God. It’s not human power, it’s divine power. Here’s how the various translations phrase the secret: “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” (GNT). “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power” (TLB). “I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency” (AMP). “I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me” (Phillips).
Paul was certainly aware of the Scriptures. “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV). So when he repeatedly asked God to remove a thorn from his flesh he wrote “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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Because of this ever present power of God through Jesus Christ, from prison Paul wrote “I can do all things through (Christ) who gives me strength.”
Years ago newspapers carried the story of Arnold Lemerand. For six years he had avoided picking up anything heavy because he had suffered a heart attack. But when he saw a 5 year-old boy pinned beneath an iron pipe, he lifted the pipe and freed the boy. The pipe weighed 1800 pounds. God made our bodies in such a way that they can respond in amazing ways during times of stress and danger. Through His Holy Spirit God does the same thing in us spiritually.
What do you do when a situation is about to overcome you or demands spiritual strength beyond the norm? Do you believe Jesus gives us the strength we need? Whatever it is your facing right now, remember the Psalmist: “You answered me when I called to you; with your strength you strengthened me” (138:3 GNT). So pray. You can do it through Him who gives you strength!
“Live with Contentment” – Day 55 – Belief and Trust
“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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
During the Great Depression of the 1930s a panel addressed people from Chicago’s Southside—most of them African American. The economic conditions were at their worst: money and jobs were scarce. Clarence Darrow, the distinguished attorney and professed atheist, was one of the speakers. He summed up the woes of the African American people, “And yet you sing? No one can sing like you do! What do you have to sing about?” Quick as a flash a lady shouted, “We got Jesus to sing about!” Her response was followed by “Amens” and “Yeses” and “That’s rights.” Darrow was stopped dead in his tracks, with no response, for he was face to face with people who sang through tears and above their fears because they walked with the One who strengthens them to do all things. [lxxiii] “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Marshall Shelley wrote about his father-in-law, a Kansas farmer, who had spent a lifetime raising wheat, corn, milo, beef, and along the way some sheep and chickens. One morning Marshall followed him around the farm as they talked about the differences between city living and a rural lifestyle. His father-in-law said, “Most city folks I know expect each year to be better than the last. They think it’s normal to get an annual raise, to earn more this year than you did last year. As a farmer, I have good years and bad years. It all depends on rain at the right time, dry days for harvest, and no damaging storms. Some years we have more; some years we have less.” [lxxiv] “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
In the varying seasons of life, in our times of plenty and need, we can fuss and fume or we can be content and do all things through Jesus who strengthens us. Do you believe in the overwhelming providence of God that allows you to accept all things? Do you trust in the ever present power of God that empowers you to do all things?
Embrace the promise of God: “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God; he created all the world. He never grows tired or weary. No one understands his thoughts. He strengthens those who are weak and tired. Even those who are young grow weak; young people can fall exhausted. But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak” (Isaiah 41:28-31 GNT).
“Make Good Investments” – Day 56 – Additional Credit
“Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.” (Philippians 4:17-18)
How are your investments doing? Did you just think about your financial investments? More important than our financial investments is our investment in others for the cause of Christ. As Paul closes out his letter to his beloved Philippians, he commends them for making good investments. He measures the Philippians’ investment not so much by what it did for him as by what it did for them. He says (v.14-16) their constant support of him, even when they themselves did not have much to give, was credited to their account and has been accumulating interest. “…what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” This account is stored in the bank of Heaven. Paul also told Timothy about this heavenly account. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. In this way they will store up for themselves a treasure which will be a solid foundation for the future. And then they will be able to win the life which is true life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19 GNT).
Viktor Frankl spent years in a Nazi prison camp. Persons were subjected to subhuman treatment. It threatened annihilation of decency, the worth and dignity of persons, as well as physical being. Out of that experience he wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning”. He documented the amazing coping powers of humans to retain inner freedom. “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last pieces of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” [lxxv] Those who gave blessed others but blessed themselves even more.
The Bible consistently teaches this truth. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25). “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt. 5:7 NLT). “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Lk. 6:38 NLT). So I ask again – how are your investments doing?
“Make Good Investments” – Day 57 – Satisfaction
“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.” (Philippians 4:18)
Adequate contributions lead to satisfaction. Because the Philippians’ gift was more than he had anticipated, Paul was financially set and had no more need. They had given, above and beyond their means, an amount that only God knew would so overwhelmingly satisfy Paul’s needs. God knows what His servants need. We do the investing and God does the satisfying.
One of my congregations decided to change our fiscal year from January – December to July – June. The transition to this meant one 6-month budget. It impacted what our missionaries would receive and when they would receive it. So when the payments were sent for this one time schedule I attached a letter explaining what we were doing. I received several letters in return stating how that particular contribution at that particular unexpected time had met a specific need that would not otherwise have been met in a timely manner. God knows what His servants need.
God makes sure our good faith investments are satisfying – to the giver and receiver. As Paul wrote, “Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop; the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop. You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly. And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause…And God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity. He will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts which they receive from us. For this service you perform not only meets the needs of God’s people, but also produces an outpouring of gratitude to God. And because of the proof which this service of yours brings, many will give glory to God for your loyalty to the gospel of Christ, which you profess, and for your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else. And so with deep affection they will pray for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown you” (2 Corinthians 9:6-14 GNT). Today prayerfully consider an adequate contribution and experience God’s satisfaction.
“Make Good Investments” – Day 58 – Sacrifice
“They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)
Sacrificial investments are fragrant offerings. “And the LORD was pleased with the aroma of (Noah’s) sacrifice…” (Gen. 8:21 NLT). “This is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a pleasing aroma … to the LORD” (Ex. 29:18 NLT). “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). In the same way the Philippian offerings were fragrant to God.
Sacrificial investments are acceptable to God. The Philippians gave beyond their means, trusting that God would take care of them. It required faith. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system is based upon faith. The Israelites were to give the first of their herds and flocks and produce to the Lord, trusting Him to provide abundant flocks and harvests. So Peter wrote “…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Sacrificial investments also please God. There is a difference between obeying the commandments of God and doing those things that are pleasing in His sight. The former are required, but the latter go beyond the call of duty. [lxxvi] “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” (Romans 12:1) So Paul was pleased with their gift because God was pleased with it.
There was a knock on the door of a hut occupied by a missionary in Africa. Answering it, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, “Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here – I’ve brought you my tithe.” As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he asked the boy, “If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?” The boy beamed and said, “Oh, they’re still back in the river. I’m going back to catch them now.” [lxxvii] How I your trust? What sacrifice can you offer today?
“Make Good Investments” – Day 59 – Sustaining Sacraments
“And my God will meet all your needs…” (Philippians 4:19)
Even the small investments we make in others are sacramental. “The world may not have noticed what Epaphroditus and his friends in Philippi did. It didn’t get into the papers in Rome. But God knew.” [lxxviii] When we die and come into the presence of Jesus what will count will not be our accomplishments or achievements, but, rather, our small offerings that were big in His sight. It won’t be, “She was a great surgeon.” Or “He broke 9 records on his way to the Hall of Fame.” Or “He authored 21 books. “It will be “He mowed my lawn when I was sick. She cared for my children so I could rest up and heal. He wrote me notes of encouragement when I needed them most. She befriended me when no one else would.” [lxxix] As Hebrews encourages us (13:15-16 NLT) “Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”
These investments are also sustaining. Paul makes a tremendous promise based upon “My God.” The value of a promise depends upon the reliability of the source of the promise. Paul’s God is the God who called the idol worshiping Abraham out of Mesopotamia and sent him to a new land, promising that he would be a blessing to all people; the God who called Israel out of Egypt, took her through the Red Sea, preserved her for forty years in the wilderness, and finally enabled her to conquer the land of Canaan; the God of David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and all the prophets. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our salvation and then triumphed over the tomb. This God stands behind His promises. [lxxx] This was Paul’s God – so he could make the bold promise God will provide for and meet all your needs.
If we invest for the purpose of gaining reward, the promise is null and void. Good investments are those made for the cause of and out of the love of Jesus Christ. Invest this way and all your needs will be supplied – often in ways you can never expect or define. Today – reflect on how your needs have been supplied and give thanks to God, and decide who needs your investment – and make it.
“Make Good Investments” – Day 60 – Rich Provisions
“…my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
If a millionaire gives you $10.00 he’s given to you ‘out of’ his riches. If He gives you millions he’s given ‘according to’ his riches. God gives ‘according to’ His glorious riches! And He has inexhaustible resources! His bank never goes bankrupt.
How often do you reflect on the wealth and abundance of God’s promised provisions? An old French woman said that as a youth she was taught to make a little box of Bible verses containing promises of God from Scripture. Each verse was written on a small piece of paper about the size of a piece of chewing gum, and was then rolled up into a miniature scroll. After there were forty or fifty of these small scrolls they were placed on end in a tiny open box. This was her promise box. She was encouraged to pull out one verse each morning and read it. One day during World War II, when she was much older, she was feeling terribly discouraged by many things that had happened. Her mind turned to the little box of promises that she had long since forgotten. She opened the drawer where she kept the box and took it out. She prayed, “Lord, you know how depressed I am. You know that I need a word of encouragement. Isn’t there a promise here somewhere that can help me?” She finished praying and stepped over to the window where the light was better for reading. As she did she tripped over the rug and all the promises spilled out onto the carpet. She immediately got the point and prayed again, joyfully, “Lord, how foolish I have been to ask for one promise when there are so many glorious promises in your Word!” [lxxxi]
As we conclude this series on ‘Joy-Full Living” I leave you with these words of promise: “Lend your boat for a whole afternoon to Christ that it may be his floating pulpit, and He will return it to you laden with fish. Place your upper room at His disposal for a single meal, and He will fill it and the whole house with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost. Place in His hands your barley loaves and fish, and He will not only satisfy your hunger, but add twelve baskets full of fragments.” [lxxxii]
Are you ready to make good investments? Are you ready to be caught up in an adventure that’s larger than you, to claim a vision that didn’t begin with you, doesn’t end with you, yet gives you life – a vision that’s worth living and dying for? The adventure is investing your life in Jesus Christ – and it’s an adventure of overwhelming joy-full living.
[ii] Robert Smith Jr., Living on the Edge of Whatever Happens
[iii] Source unknown
[v] Robert Smith Jr., Living on the Edge of Whatever Happens
[vi] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, p. 55). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[vii] Robert Smith Jr., Living on the Edge of Whatever Happens
[ix] AP release, June 1978, Tucumcari, New Mexico – from Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, edited by Michael P. Green, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI., © 1989 Michael P. Green, #1095
[x] From cnenews.com – as reported by Michael W. Chapman
[xii] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 496). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[xiii] Soul Unfinished, Robert Atwell, Paraclete Press, Brewster Mass., © 2012 by Robert Atwell, p. 180
[xiv] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 497). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[xvi] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 633). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[xix] Ironside, H. A. (1922). Notes on the Epistle to the Philippians (pp. 37–38). Loizeaux Brothers: Neptune, NJ.
[xx] Charles DeHaven, “Holiday a Time to Receive Gift”, New Braunfels, TX. Herald-Zeitung, August 30, 1985
[xxi] Scott Wenig, Preaching Today #183
[xxii] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 109–110). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[xxiii] Charles Colson, Loving God, Judith Markham Books-Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI., © 1987 by Charles W. Colson, p. 125-126
[xxiv] Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan, 2006), p.167-168; from www.preachingtoday.com
[xxv] Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon (Vol. 31, p. 279). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
[xxvi] Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
[xxvii] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1230). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
[xxix] Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (p. 106). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
[xxx] From Sean Smuts, @ sermoncentral.com
[xxxi] Ina D. Ogdon, 1913
[xxxii] Told and experienced by Jack Burton while serving in Austin TX
[xxxiii] Clarence E. Macartney, in Moody Monthly as quoted in Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations
[xxxiv] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1961, p. 57
[xxxv] As told by Clarence J. Forsberg
[xxxvi] Joseph M. Scriven, 1855
[xxxvii] As related and experienced by Joe Bray
[xxxviii] Nancy Guthrie, editor, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (Crossway, 2009), p. 136
[xxxix] David Wilkerson, The Surrendered Life, January 23, 2002
[xl] From Freedom of Simplicity, by Richard Foster – cited in A Guide to Prayer, Rueben P. Job & Norman Shawchuck, p.205
[xli] From The Art of Spiritual Direction, W. Paul Jones – cited in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Norman Shawchuck & Rueben P. Job, p.139
[xlii] Leadership Journal, ‘Toolkit’, Spring 2012, p. 60
[xliii] Alan Price, Chatsworth, Georgia; source: David Mordkoff, “American Emmons Misses Out on Gold by Firing at Wrong Target,” www.Sports.Yahoo.com (8-22-04)
[xliv] From Marian Wright Edelman, The Measure of Our Success, New York, NY: harper Collins, 1992, p. 66 – as quoted in Live in the Present, Bobby I. Touchton, www.preaching.com , august 1998
[xlv] Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, “Experiencing God Day-by-Day, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville TN., © 1998 by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, p. 315
[xlvi] C. Thomas Hilton, “Travel Light”, The Clergy Journal, January 1984, p.3
[xlviii] Adapted from Frank Partnoy, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay (PublicAffairs, 2012), pp. 120-123
[xlix] From Lloyd Oglivie, “Let God Love You”, WORD Books, Waco TX., © 1974 by Word, Incorporated, p. 110
[lii] If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, Multnomah Books, © 2009 by Eternal Perspective Ministries. P. 399
[liii] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Philippians (Vol. 5, pp. 182–183). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House
[liv] Carrie E. Breck, Face to Face
[lv] Joni Eareckson Fada and Steven Estes, When God Weeps, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 216
[lvi] Eliza H. Hewitt
[lviii] Karl Barth, quoted by R.K. Hughes, Philippians: the Fellowship of the Gospel, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007 (p. 167)
[lix] Doing What Comes Spiritually – John M. Drescher – 2007, Page 95
[lx] Rick Warren, A Strategy for Reducing Stress
[lxi] Quoted by Roy L. Laurin in Life Established: A Devotional Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, Van Kampen Press, Wheaton, IL., © 1948 by Van Kampen Press, p. 46-47
[lxii] S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer
[lxiii] From Idea Central, April 10, 2000
[lxiv] From an old issue of Daily Walk
[lxv] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible
[lxvi] Jenny Wilson, “Nun Stuck in Elevator Survives Four Nights on Celery Sticks, Water and Cough Drops,” Time.com (4-28-11) – From www.preachingtoday.com
[lxvii] Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon (Vol. 31, pp. 311–312). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
[lxviii] Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
[lxix] Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 49516, © 1989 by Michael P. Green, #245
[lxx] Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, © 2000 by Robert J. Morgan, p. 146
[lxxi] Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, #248
[lxxii] Robert Atwell, Soul Unfinished, Paraclete Press, Brewster Mass., © 2012 by Robert Atwell (111-112)
[lxxiii] Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon (Vol. 31, p. 316). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
[lxxiv] Marshall Shelley, editor of Leadership Journal, Leadership Weekly(11-30-10) – from www.preachingtoday.com
[lxxv] Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor E. Frankl, Beacon Press, 1959
[lxxvi] Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series – Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series – The Books of Philippians and Colossians: Joy and Completeness in Christ.
[lxxvii] Adapted from Joan Winmill Brown and Bill Brown, Together Each Day, Revell – as reported in Christian Communication Laboratory
[lxxviii] John Killinger, The Great Importance of Little Deeds, Preaching, March-April 1989, p. 8
[lxxx] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 257–258). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
[lxxxi] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, p. 256-257
[lxxxii] F. B. Meyer, The Epistle to the Philippians, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1952