Posts Tagged 'optimism'

HEBREWS: OUR 3-FOLD DUTY

Hebrews 12:12—17

The writer of this letter just spent a handful of verses encouraging his readers to look at God’s discipline as a good thing. The “therefore” at the start of verse 12 connects this new admonition to the last one. Discouraged believers need to “keep calm and carry on” in the faith. We can’t let hard times deter us from our walk of faith. We can’t let any kind “persecution” on account of our faith cause us to doubt that same faith. In fact, we must “suck it up” and understand that reversals in life are either sent by God or allowed by God to discipline us. That’s not to say God is punishing us; discipline is essentially a means to teach something to somebody so that they’ll learn something helpful.

This is an important topic, and if you can understand how deep it is, it will help you live a more positive, optimistic life. Many believers needlessly beat up on themselves because they are reaping the unpleasant consequences of a decision sowed years and years ago. Instead of doing that—living in some kind limbo of regret—understand that God is trying to teach you something that will not only benefit you, but others as well. And that’s hard to do, but the rewards of doing that will range from lower blood pressure to fewer frown lines to a happier marriage and an all around happier disposition!

The idea in this letter is that if you consider Jesus and what Jesus went through to live a life of faith, whatever negatives you may encounter are nothing compared to He went through! It is important for God’s people to live AS God’s people all the time, not just when things are going their way.

Why is this so important? Believers are called to a higher standard of living than unbelievers. We are not to look to unbelievers for our standards. What that means is this: if a reversal in your life causes you distress, you are NOT to respond to that reversal like an unbeliever. You are not to assign blame to God. You are not to mope around forever, feeling sorry for yourself. You are not to remain in the pit of discouragement and despair for long. You, because you are a child of God, are to respond like a child of God

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (Luke 11:11, 12a)

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

If you understand that and respond as you should as a child of God, then you are fulfilling a three-fold duty.

1. Our duty to ourselves, verses 12, 13a, 14

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.See to it that no one misses the grace of God

The writer quotes from Isaiah 35:3 and Proverbs and essentially tells his readers to “Snap out of it!” Because Jesus is their example and because they now know about God’s loving discipline, it was time for them to get out of their posture of discouragement and to “put their best foot forward.” What an exceptional word of encouragement! These people may have been overwhelmed with a series of adversities, but God had not forgotten them! Let their hands be lifted up in praise! Let their legs stop trembling in fear! The implication of this verse is that these set upon Hebrew Christians had become spiritually paralyzed. Notice that the writer doesn’t offer sympathy; they didn’t need sympathy! What these folks needed was what we often need: somebody to point their spiritual finger at them and say, “get with it” and “put things right” and to “stop thinking about yoursselves!”

Spiritual paralysis” must surely be the plague of the modern church! At least these Hebrew Christians faced real, genuine threats because of their faith. Think about what paralyzes modern believers; car problems, high interest rates, ATM fees, and so on. It may be all relative, but let’s face it: we modern believers have nothing to complain about! And even if we did, the Bible’s advice would be exactly the same: get with it! Stop looking and thinking only of yourselves and look to God.

Though highly metaphorical, verses 12 and 13 are powerful because they refer to aspects of the Christian life. Hands are typically a metaphor for service, knees are a picture of attitude (either courageous or anxious or reverent), and feet picture the daily walk of the Christian. We can’t afford to be spiritually inactive because time is so short. Our duty to ourselves is to make sure our walk is not wobbly or crooked or unsure. Of all the people in all the world, Christians should be the ones who are identified by their optimism, their positive attitude, and their disposition of good cheer.

Why is it to our benefit to be like this? The first phrase of verse 15 suggests that if we respond to adverse circumstances like worldly people do, then we run the very real risk missing out on the grace of God! This is the fundamental risk of spiritual paralysis and may well be the fundamental failure of most believers. If we become so preoccupied with ourselves and the circumstances of our lives, then we will miss out on something special from God. Is there a lack of God’s blessings in your life? It could that the problem is as simple as your outlook!

So, our primary duty to ourselves is to make sure we are spiritually healthy. If we don’t, we’ll be spiritually disabled. True healing comes to us when we put forth the effort to live as we ought. When we do that, we will be the recipients of God’s amazing grace.

2. Our duty of fellow believers, verses 14, 15

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Verse 14 is positively emphatic; we MUST make the effort to live in peace with all men. If we are to live with a Christ-like attitude, it must start with troubled personal relationships. Taken in context, the “with all men” seems to restrict itself to members of the household of faith—so be at peace with other Christians. In other words, we can’t be holy if we can’t live at peace with other believers, and if we can’t be holy, we’ll never see God. You may ask, “How can that be possible?” Indeed, this is a good question that is answered in Deuteronomy 29:18—

Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

That verse speaks a mouthful! The implication is that if we are at odds with a fellow believer or believers, we might fall into apostasy. This was a big problem with Israel, and it certainly is a problem in the Church. So much about our relationship with God hangs on our relationship with fellow believers.

Just what is this relationship between “peace” and “holiness?” “Holiness” is supposed to be a characteristic of the believer; it means “being set apart for God.” So, even though the Christian lives in the world, because he is “holy,” he must always be different from the world and separate from the world. In the world, it’s “dog-eat-dog,” but it shouldn’t be like that in the church. In the world, people walk all over each other to gain an advantage; it should never be like that in the church. Those who want to fellowship with God must be able to fellowship with others who want to fellowship with God. Any kind of a “bitter root” can disrupt fellowship between believers and ultimately fellowship with God.

God takes our fellowship with each other seriously, and so should we. Verse 15 tells us as much: “See to it that no one misses….” We are “look diligently” so as to make sure none of us misses out on God’s grace. This is an obligation we have to each other. We are to “look diligently” to the spiritual well-being of each other! This does not mean we are to be intrusive or nosey! We must be ever vigilant and be ready to lend a hand to any brother or sister who is stumbling in their walk. We must bear one another’s burdens:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

So, not only must we make sure WE are not missing out on God’s grace, we have to do our best to make sure OTHERS aren’t missing out on God’s grace. While that may sound like a lot of work, consider this: If we are busy doing the things necessary to live like this, we might be so occupied with the “good fight” of faith that we won’t have time to get mired in our own discouragement.

3. Our duty to God, verses 14, 16, 17

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Verse 14 makes it crystal clear: we must live holy lives if we ever want to see God. Part of living a holy life is being right with other believers. We may question the order of the words in this verse: God wants us to pursue peace before holiness?  Really?  Why do you suppose it’s that way? As Christians, we cannot be right with God if we are not right with our fellows. An unbeliever, on the other hand, must get right with God first, then with his fellow man. But a Christian cannot be right with God if he is not right with other believers. This is a duty to God, as well as a duty to other Christians.

So, looking out for the well-being of other believes is also a duty to God. We are to strive after holiness in ourselves and in others. Now, those who live this way won’t be like Esau. He’s given as a bad example not to follow after, just as Jesus is a good example we should follow after. Esau was one who allowed a bad attitude to take root in his life. Esau, you recall, was the first born son of Isaac and should have been his chief heir. However, Esau was a bitter, godless fornicator (he married “Hittite” women contrary to his parents wishes). The bitter Christian—the Christian who isn’t pursuing a life holiness in himself or others—typifies that elder brother, Esau. This unfortunate believer’s bad attitude toward God, toward his faith, and toward his fellow believers may cause him to fall from from grace; to become an apostate. Or, alternately, he may stick around his church as a respectable member, his bad attitude rubbing off on all he comes in contact with.

This is why the pursuit of holiness is so vital and is at the very heart of the true believer’s life. When you neglect holiness, you will ultimately despise it, perhaps even going so far as to do just what Esau did: sell your birthright for a moment’s gratification. Remember; holiness is not a kind of moral or ethical superiority manifested by the Christian, but rather a separation from the world. It’s living a life markedly different from that of the unbeliever.  Oour duty to God is to pursue a life of holiness. Esau is given as an example of one who did not do that. He was an immoral man; he was not a holy man and that affected his whole way of thinking. He sold his birthright for some food; a foolish thing to do. The really sad thing about Esau is that eventually he realized his tragic mistake:

He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (vs. 17)

Esau is the kind of man that James might have had in mind when he wrote this:

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6—8)

Esau didn’t really believe, and his immoral behavior demonstrated that, and he did what a mentally unstable person would do: he gave up his inheritance for a bowl of food. The tragedy is that even while Esau realized his mistake, he couldn’t change it back; he could not undo what he had done. There was a finality to his act.

The lesson for the Hebrews and to modern believers is obvious. Unbelief leads to the hardening of the heart and, maybe in time, to apostasy. Esau cried to his father, but his tears were not tears of repentance, they were tears of anger upon realizing the blessing had bypassed him, only to fall on his brother. The one who falls away from God will find that God has rejected him. This is why believers are to take such pains to guard against drifting away from the faith and to help others to stay faithful. We have a solemn duty to ourselves and to other believers to do all we can to live at peace and promote holiness within the Church. Peter put it like this:

But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)

HEBREWS: THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH, PART 3

The Futurists

Very little is said in the Bible about the faith of the Patriarchs, but what is said is significant: each had a faith that looked beyond death. The thing that distinguishes the faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph is their unshakable conviction that nothing, not even death, could frustrate the plans of God. Their faith in the future was so strong that they spoke with confidence of what would happen after they died. Without exception, their faith was stronger than death and their prophetic words were fulfilled. In a sense, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses’ parents were the original futurists! Verse 13 is the verse that best describes these people:

They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

The Greek verb behind “did not receive” means none of the patriarchs or Moses’ parents were in possession of the promises. But because they had faith, they could “see” the promise at a distance; they knew it was coming closer but that they also knew they wouldn’t live long enough to see come to fruition. Each of these “futurists” looked to the future through eyes of faith. But they never denied the reality the present.

1. The faith of Isaac, Hebrews 11:20

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

The one who has faith possesses  both the eyes of the prophet and a quiet confidence in the future of God’s people. Isaac’s example of faith demonstrates this. His faith in blessing Jacob and Esau when he spoke of their future is such a classic picture of Biblical faith and its willingness to trust in God’s Word. This willingness is understandable, given his past. Isaac was probably in his early 30’s when his father Abraham was prepared to offer him on the altar. Isaac’s willingness to trust was demonstrated even back then by allowing his father to bind him upon an altar. The story of Isaac’s blessing is found in Genesis 27:27—29 and 39—40. The author of this letter glosses over the details of how each son was blessed; he’s not interested in details, he’s interested only in showing Isaac’s willingness to demonstrate his faith in the future. With each blessing, Isaac spoke out of a firm confidence that God’s promises could not possibly faith. The blessings themselves are quite different, but the important thing is to notice Isaac’s faith and the fact that the patriarch’s faith spoke of marvelous blessings that would not be fulfilled until the far, far future. Isaac had an unwavering trust in God and God’s plan for his sons and he was not afraid to voice to his faith.

Isaac was an unremarkable person for most of his life. He was a man who dug wells everywhere he went. That was his claim to fame: digging wells all over the Middle East. The only thing that really distinguishes this otherwise milquetoast man is the truly remarkable demonstration of faith at the very end of his life.

2. The faith of Jacob, Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Josephs sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

The story of Jacob’s faith in blessing the sons of Joseph is seen in Genesis 48, and like Isaac, the blessing went against the natural order of birth. Sometimes faith insists that you do something like that. Remember, God’s ways are not always our ways. Sometimes faith opposes the human way of doing things. Both Isaac and Jacob showed genuine faith in recognizing that it was God’s will to give the greater blessing to the younger son, and the fathers both accepted God’s sovereign plan and went with it; they did not resist it.

Jacob’s life is perhaps one that exemplifies human nature in all its dubious glory. Had it not been for the grace of God, Jacob would have most certainly been a lost soul. He was a thoroughly disreputable character.

So Jacob is not only the picture of Biblical faith, but also of the dreadful human condition. From his birth, Jacob was one who was always struggling, always trying to “get ahead” by hook or by crook. Jacob was a deceiver; he was a con man who who was always working some angle to get something, even it was wrestling with God!

Jacob’s life proves the old proverb: the sins of the father are visited upon the children. Or as we might say, “what goes around comes around.” As Jacob was a smooth operator, so his sons deceived him and broke his heart.

But near the end of his life, he finally demonstrated obedience and faith. He blessed Joseph’s sons as a sign that he was looking ahead to the future fulfillment of God’s promises. Even though famine had forced Jacob and his family to emigrate to Egypt, his ties to the Promised Land remained and his confidence in the Word of God remained.

But what about the fact that Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons while leaning on a staff? Why does the Bible go out of its way to mention that? Jacob was handicapped; for years after he wrestled with God he needed a staff so he could walk. Even with his death just around the corner, old Jacob would not rest and face it lying down! The fact is, Jacob never stopped struggling. His life was a life of sin and deception, chicanery and craftiness. His life blessed no one. But his death did.

The profound lesson from Jacob’s faith is that it’s never too late; God can take any life and straighten it out. Somewhere in the dark crevasses of his heart, Jacob had a measure of faith that, perhaps, lay dormant for most of his life. But when it counted, the faith rose to the occasion and old Jacob was able to lay hold of God and God’s promises.

4. The faith of Joseph, Hebrews 11:22

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

Technically Joseph is not considered to be a patriarch, but had it not been for Joseph, it’s hard to imagine there ever being a nation called Israel.

This man’s faith, like that of Isaac and Jacob, looked far beyond his death. The reference is Genesis 50:24, 25—

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

At the time of his death, there was no indication that the Hebrew people would be leaving Egypt any time soon, but in faith Joseph knew there would come a day when they would leave and he did not want any of his mortal remains left in Egypt. At the time Joseph uttered his prophetic words, the Israelites were contentedly settled in Goshen, decades before the terrible time of oppression. But Joseph was a futurist. He knew he would not leave Egypt alive, but he also knew God would eventually lead His people back to the Land of Promise.

5. The faith Moses’ parents, Hebrews 11:23

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

The king’s edict was that every male infant should be cast in the Nile River, effectively drowning them (Exodus 1:22). But Moses’ parents defied that terrible edict, not because they loved their son more than other parents loved their sons, but because they “saw he was no ordinary child.” Now, every parent thinks their baby is the most exceptional baby ever born and that their infant is smarter, further advanced, and more genetically perfect than any other infant, but the Greek word asteios, usually translated “beautiful,” is perhaps better rendered “princely.” But what exactly does that mean? These parents, futurists, somehow had prophetic insight that this child, this strangely beautiful child, had a special destiny to fulfill and that he must, against all odds, survive. It was the purpose of the king to weaken the Israelites by causing the death of their baby boys, but this one—this princely baby—had to live, and it was up to his parents to make that happen.

His parents kept their baby at home for as long as they could, then one fateful day they placed him in an ark of bulrushes on the Nile, instead of in the Nile. In faith, they let their precious baby boy go, in hopes that he might live. As painful as that must have been, these parents trusted the future to God, whose love they trusted at least as much as their own for their son. They knew that God had a plan for him and that somehow God would preserve his life. And God did just that, in a way no Hollywood screenwriter could have conceived!

Moses’ parents refused to be bullied by the threat of Pharaoh. They stood against the law of the land and they set a pattern for the people of God forever.

People who possess real Biblical faith are futurists in the truest sense. They live in the present, but their hope is in the future. But they know the future isn’t set by other people or by the state, but by God and His unshakable promises. They are the optimists in the pew. They are the cheerful individuals who, no matter what’s going around them, are convinced that God is control and they always live above the circumstances, not under them.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

PHILIPPIANS, Part 4

The Value of Adversity

Philippians 1:12—18

Paul had just spent 11 verses encouraging his good friends in the church at Philippi.  His words must have been welcomed, for this church experienced its share of hard times.  From poverty to persecution, the Philippians knew all about adversity.  According to Dictionary.com, here is what the word “adversity” means:

adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress

That’s probably how most people would define “adversity.”  The problem, that’s not necessary how God would define the word.  In fact, given the abundance of teaching in the Bible, it seems clear that “adversity,” as it relates to God’s people, is something quite different than what Dictionry.com says it is.

“Adversity” is something most of us have experienced to varying degrees over the course of our lives.  And even though it is a universal experience, and we are able to articulate what our particular “adversity” is, we don’t understand it.  “Adversity” is complex, and so Paul, in this next group of verses, helps us understand the true nature of all adversity.

1.  Setting the record straight, 1:12a

We don’t often think of Paul as being Mr. Sunshine, but here was a man who wrote almost poetically about the joy that is the ever-present possession of all believers.  Even though he was deadly serious when it came to matters of theology, doctrine, and church practice, Paul was a man filled joy no matter where he was.  For now, he once again found himself in a Roman prison, writing this letter.  Being the always joyful servant of Christ, Paul was also an Optimistic prisoner.

His plight was evidently known to the Philippians, and while Paul was optimistic despite his current circumstances, and while he knew without a doubt that the Christ he was willingly serving would take care of him, the Philippians did not share his optimism, either about himself or themselves.  So, he set the record straight:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters…

That is one of Paul’s favorite phrases that he often used in his writing to introduce an important statement and /or correct a widespread misunderstanding over some matter.  In this instance, Paul’s imprisonment was the important, misunderstood matter.   Obviously there was some anxiety in the church over Paul’s imprisonment.  Was he hurting?  Was he able to continue his work?  Would they ever see him again?  We can only imagine the range of emotions the congregation was experiencing over what was happening to Paul.

2.            The gospel advances regardless, 1:12b—13

In addressing their concerns, it is remarkable that Paul begins by reassuring them that his work continues despite his imprisonment.  Karl Barth’s statement sums it up:

Paul’s commitment to the gospel is so complete that he cannot explain how it is with him without stating how it is with the gospel.

In Acts 28, Dr. Luke gives us a glimpse into how things were going with Paul during this period of imprisonment.  Although he was being guarded constantly, he was permitted to live under a kind of house arrest in what was probably a rented house.  He could have visitors, who were free to come and go as they pleased, and apparently he was able to continue his evangelistic ministry unhindered by his imprisonment.

…what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (verse 12b)

In fact, in Paul’s opinion, his imprisonment became a vehicle to advance the Gospel!   The use of the word mallon (“rather,” KJV) suggests that the Philippians were expecting bad news from Paul, not this good news.  But as is always the case, nothing can stop the progress of the Gospel.  It’s unfortunate that so many Christians don’t understand this; they react to adverse circumstances with fear and cowardice, rather than optimism.

Just a glance at many of the personalities throughout the Bible show us that God always acted in amazing ways through people in adverse circumstances:

  • Joseph, cast into a pit by his jealous brothers, ends up the second-most powerful man in Egypt, leading to the preservation of the nation of Israel;
  • Job lost his family, his possessions, and his health, but found a deeper insight into the mysteries of God and His wisdom than he ever had before;
  • Jeremiah, cast into a well, suffering a myriad of afflictions, was able to coin the phrase that has comforted man for thousands of years:  “Great is thy faithfulness”;
  • Jesus Christ, Himself suffering and dying won victory of Satan, sin, and death;
  • Peter and John, while in prison, became bolder than ever in their evangelistic efforts;
  • The early church, broken up and scattered all over the world, was able to grow and multiply exponentially thanks to that persecution.

You can’t keep the Gospel a secret if you are committed to it.  It is a force of nature:  God’s Nature!

We know from Ephesians 6, written during this same period of incarceration shortly before Philippians, Paul referred to himself as an “ambassador in chains.”  For at least part of his imprisonment, a guard was chained to Paul night and day.  Imagine this:  with every change of this guard came a new opportunity to share the Gospel and witness for Christ!  How many guards heard the Gospel and how man responded to it during this two-year period of Paul’s life?

It was from his personal experiences that Paul could tell young Timothy:

God’s word is not chained.  (2 Timothy 2:9)

And so the Word of God spread, thanks to Paul’s commitment to it, throughout the household of Caesar, no less!  It’s amazing what happens a believer is sold out to Christ, and passionate about His Word.

3.  Influence beyond the prison, 1:14

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.

Who were these other “brothers and sisters?”  Undoubtedly they were believers in Rome.  Years ago, a church had been built and established in Rome, the “belly of the beast,” made up mostly of Gentile converts.  According to Acts 28, when Paul finally reached Rome, he preached, not to Gentiles, but to Jews, and some believed while others did not.  The Jews who converted established their own churches in Rome and now, both Gentile believers and Jewish believers came to visit Paul during his imprisonment.

What was the result of their visiting Paul together?  They had been evangelizing in and around Rome already, but after seeing Paul’s example, they were emboldened to do even more work for the Kingdom, despite their circumstances!  It was Paul’s courage that made the timid Romans courageous.  Sometimes, that’s all people need to come out of their shells!

4.  Nothing more important than preaching Christ, 1:15—18

This new-found courage to proclaim the Gospel caused some problems.  Not all the “preachers” in Rome were doing so for the highest motives.

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.  (verses 15—17)

We don’t know who these preachers were, and opinion is divided.  Some see Judaizers, others see rivals and opponents of Paul’s, taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment to advance their own agendas.  It seems likely that Paul is simply referring men who were selfish and self-centered in their preaching.  Their aim was not to exalt Christ, but to advance their own interests.  These men were “careerists,” seeking to enlarge their base of followers by causing problems within the church at Rome.  They were self-promoters, not proclaimers of the Gospel.  That’s not to say they didn’t preach the facts of the Gospel or the reality of Christ and the faith; but they did so for the wrong reasons.  They were not false teachers teaching false doctrines; they were men using the Gospel as a tool to push their agendas on other believes.

The Church of Jesus Christ is full of preachers like that even today.  When we look at the current debates various denominations are having, like the condoning of and ordination of homosexuals, we have to concede that many who are pushing such atrocities are doing so, not to advance the Gospel, but their own sick agendas.

What does Paul say about the questionable preachers of his day?

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. (verse 18)

The phrase, “what does it matter” may be rendered, “what really matters.”  Perhaps this verse more than any other reveals the Apostle’s sense of values.  There are those who were preaching out of pretense, insincerely, and there are those like Paul, preaching solely to advance the Gospel.  Their purpose in preaching stood in complete distinction to Paul’s, even though the essence of their preaching was the same as his.  But Paul’s main concern was not the motivation of those other preachers, but rather the continued promulgation of the Gospel.

That’s not to say that he was condoning the idea of preaching for cash or for other lesser reasons, but Paul’s agenda at this time did not include straightening out other preachers.  His agenda while in prison was exactly the same as it was when he was free:  making sure as many people heard the Gospel as possible!

The question is always raised, can preaching that comes from insincere people do any good for the Kingdom of God?  The answer is a resounding YES!  First, it is the Word that convicts sinners and changes lives, not the preacher.  Second, and most obvious, those people listening to these other preachers probably did not know what Paul knew; as far as they were concerned, they were hearing a preacher just like Paul!  They don’t see the lesser or wrong motive.  What matters in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, is that Christ is proclaimed.  And in this, Paul rejoiced.

The all-encompassing passion of Paul’s life was the Gospel; or more accurately the furtherance of the Gospel.  So instead of spending time being all bent-out-of-shape with these wacky preachers, Paul chose to dwell on the good that was being accomplished:  the proclamation of Jesus Christ.  The truth of God’s Word is more powerful, more influential, and bigger than any preacher.

Here we see an optimistic man; still passionate about Christ, still passionate about the Word of God, finding ways to continue his work even in prison, yet taking time to encourage others.

(c)  2010, WitzEnd

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