Posts Tagged 'Victory'

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PHILIPPIANS, Part 5

VICTORY OVER ADVERSITY

Philippians 1:19—26

Paul was an optimistic prisoner for two reasons. First, he realized that because of his imprisonment, many had come to know Christ as Savior. What was first thought to be a disadvantage to his work turned out to a great advantage in Paul’s evangelistic ministry. Second, Paul was positively convinced that Christ was being glorified in what he was doing, and would continue to be glorified whether he, the Apostle, was to be released (as Paul expected) or whether he would be put to death (a distinct possibility).

1. Foundation of victory, 1:19

I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

This verse seems to be a rough quotation of Job 13:16—

Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!

Paul was sure his deliverance was just around the corner. But what was the “deliverance” he was sure of? Was it his release from prison? Or was he referring to his life being spared? Or did Paul have his salvation in mind? We know that the Apostle viewed salvation as having three aspects:

  • Past: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…(Ephesians 2:8).
  • Present: …work out your salvation with fear and trembling…(Philippians 2:12).
  • Future: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11).

Of course Paul knew he was saved (past), but he seemed to view himself as being in a spiritual battle, that would determine his salvation in the present and future, and of which he wrote about on another occasion—

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

Victory in this spiritual battle is assured, of this Paul was positive, but assurance of victory did not negate the necessity of the battle. For it was in the battle—that is, his imprisonment—that the nature of Christ would be perfected in Paul’s character, to the glory of Christ. With this attitude, no wonder Paul wrote what he did to the Romans—

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)

Why was Paul so sure that he would be delivered from this spiritual battle in which he found himself? He had two reasons:

  • The effective prayers of his friends in Philippi. We should never underestimate the power of our prayers on another’s behalf. The Philippians needed encouragement, but their prayers were yielding the desired result, even though at present Paul was still imprisoned; he had not yet been released, but his current state did not mean his friends’ prayers were going unanswered.
  • The help of the Holy Spirit, here referred to as “the Spirit of Christ.” The Greek is far more descriptive, calling the Spirit’s help “bountiful.” The word is epichoregias, from the word chorus. The help of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is likened to a Greek chorus standing behind an actor on a stage. In back of ever single believer is that same Spirit, and in back of Him are all the resources of Heaven, ready to come to the believer’s aid when needed. The Spirit furnishes all that is necessary to maintain and advance his salvation, regardless of life’s circumstances. The Holy Spirit not only gives grace for salvation, but continues to pour abundant grace into us as it is needed.

It is clear that success in Paul’s mind depended on a combination of the work of man and the work of the Spirit in his life. As their prayers went up, the Spirit came down.

2. Hope of victory, 1:20—24

What a great attitude Paul had! Verse 20 ought to be a lesson for all believers—

I eagerly expect and hope…

Regardless of the outcome of his imprisonment, Paul knew victory was his, and this was his eager expectation and hope. The Greek, apokaradokian, illustrates single-mindedness or a deliberate turning away from other distractions to concentrate on one thing. It is, literally, “stretching out the head” to see as far into the distance as you can. In Paul’s case, his focus was on Christ, namely, Christ’s return, not on his present circumstances. The Apostle knew that despite his untimely imprisonment, he would stand before Christ unashamed because he was glorifying His Savior in his life, that is, he was diligently evangelizing as much as he could.

This was very important to Paul; that Christ would be glorified in how he lived his life. If he should gain release, he would continue the work. But if he should die a prisoner, Christ would still be glorified. This is an amazing thing to ponder. Whether in life or death, Christ would be glorified in Paul’s body. It’s not that Paul was not relying on his own resources and ingenuity to glorify Christ, but on the energizing of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s life and death were literally the screen on which the glory of Christ was being displayed.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (verse 21)

Paul considered himself a winner whether he lived or died because he viewed each as a possible out-working of God’s will for him. Modern Christians cringe when they think of dying, but the Apostle had a very different view of death: it meant that he could leave this world and go to be with His Lord. He almost seemed to welcome the notion that he might very well die in prison. However, he was not 100% what his future held; Paul had not more a lock on God’s will that we do.

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (verses 23, 24)

Here is another side to Paul’s dilemma; one the one hand, he wanted to be with Christ, but working for Him on earth was almost as good, and on the other hand he wanted to be with Christ, but he had a solemn duty toward the Church, in particular, he felt he had a responsibility to continue working with his friends in Philippi. He was willing to postpone eternal blessedness for earthly service.

There is no clearer picture of the kind of attitude every believer ought to have when he considers his relationship to this world, to heaven, to his service, and even to his eternal reward. Paul did not long for death, he longed for Christ; death was simply one more hurdle to clear on his way to a deeper relationship with Him. He was not looking for an escape from this world. Paul did not walk around day after day with his head in the clouds, contemplating some pie-in-the-sky escapist philosophy. Indeed, as far as he was concerned, his continued work for Christ and his continued responsibility to other believers must always come first, ahead of anything he wanted for himself.

But while Paul’s work was on earth, his hope was firmly planted in heaven.

3. Result of victory, verses 25, 26

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Paul was confident of what? In the broadest sense, he was confident that his life was in God’s hands; that no matter what happened to him, whether he was delivered from prison or whether he died in prison, it was God’s will. In a narrower sense, Paul was confident that his life, even in prison, was a benefit to the Philippians.

A very important theme in Pauline literature is the idea of Christian progress. Here in Philippians, there are no less than four references to Christian growth:

  • Grow in love, 1:9;
  • Grow in knowledge, 1:9;
  • Grow in fruitfulness, 1:11;
  • Grow in obedience, 2:12.

As far as Paul could tell, his presence with the Philippians caused them to grow in all these areas. Progress or growth is essential for a Christian; there is no standing still, only progression or regression. Where there is growth, there is joy. However, there is no more miserable creature in all the world than a stagnant Christian, for they are of no use to anybody, not even themselves.

Paul hoped he would be released from prison and that when he was at last able to return to Philippi, that reunion would be more than just an occasion for a party or pot-luck dinner. His restoration to them would cause them to not only rejoice, but to boast even more about Jesus Christ. The KJV renders kauchaomai “rejoicing,” the TNIV “boasting,” both are correct and may be either positive or negative. It’s definitely negative to boast in yourself or of your own accomplishments, but to boast about Jesus Christ; to be exuberantly joyful about Him and to advertise His accomplishments and to promote His presence among you is more than acceptable; it is essential.

Here is a picture of a man who not only knew the power of God firsthand, but Paul also understood the influence he had on other people. But that influence was not based on who he was, it was a natural outworking of the Holy Spirit in him and who Jesus Christ is. Every single Christian is just like Paul in that regard. None of us lives only for ourselves. We have an influence over far more people than we imagine. We rarely consider how our lives impact those around us, for if we did, we would take our faith and our responsibilities toward others far more seriously.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

GOD’S ANOINTED: Coming to his senses.

David in battle

1 Samuel 30

It is never easy to praise God when our world is falling apart.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote:

Is God less God, that thou are left undone?
Rise, worship, bless Him in this sackcloth spun,
As in the purple.

Indeed, the circumstances we may find ourselves in, whether they be good or bad, should never dictate whether we should praise God or not.  The time to praise God is all the time!  Judging by how the average Christian behaves, though, we can only assume that God has a lot of “fair-weather friends” these days.  That is real shame because God never bails out on us; and there is real value is pausing in the midst of your trial to praise Him.  Not only does it serve to take your eyes off of yourself and on God where they belong, but it affords God the opportunity through the ministry of His Holy Spirit to work in you.

There is also a tremendous blessing when we learn the discipline of praise while wearing sackcloth, and it is a discipline because praising God in the bad times is not natural nor is it easy and God will honor you if you put forth the effort.

David’s uneasy alliance with the Philistines kept his safe from Saul, but it brought him a load of misery, as all unholy alliances are sure to do.

1.  A crushing disappointment, 30:3—5

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.  So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.  David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel.

David’s return to Ziklag, where he and his men had been living in exile, was timely and tragic.  While his men were marching north with Achish, the Amalekites from the south had invaded the area, captured and burned Ziklag, and had taken the women and children captives, destined for a fate worth than death.  No one could have guessed that the Amalekites would have acted so boldly.

David, while seeking to help the ungodly lost all he had.  Such is always the case when the child of God abandons the cause of the righteous for another.  In attempting to do a favor for a person he had no business even being associated with, David, as it were, left his home unguarded and wide open.

Yet in the midst of such a tragedy, we can see a glimmer of hope.  Notice the phrase, “so David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”   This terrible event had the effect of a slingshot on David and his men, snapping them back to reality.  This is often the case in our own lives, if we would care to view negative events as God does.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  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 8:27—28)

God alone knows what it will take to get the Prodigal’s attention and return him to Himself.   Yes, God will even use our enemies to waken us to our true state.

2.  Return to faith, 30:6—8

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.  Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

Can you just imagine the scene that day?  Wives, sons, daughters, homes, cattle; all gone; everything David and his men held dear was taken away while they were busy living a lie.  David was upset, curiously, not so much by the loss of his family but by the fact that his men were turning on him.  Of course, he was sad at the loss of his family, but it was the betrayal of his men that roused him to action.  David’s heart is revealed here, which explains why, years later, he will have so much trouble with his sons and daughters.  David was definitely “God’s anointed,” but he wasn’t much of a father.

However, God used this event to force David to come to himself, and for the first time in a long time, David turned back to the Lord, much as a person might do to a friend in the time of need.  Here is a remarkable quality in David that we will see time and again.  He was very much a passionate human being, and his passions frequently got him into trouble, but when brought face-to-face with his sins, David cried out to God.   We also learn something about God, for all the time David was cavorting with the avowed enemies of God, God never left David, and when David finally came to his senses, the Holy Spirit was, once again, on the throne in his heart.

We are told that “David found strength in the Lord.”  Yet that kind of strength is found only when a person submits to God.  Psalm 56:3—4 expresses a marvelous thought—

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

It’s too bad David hadn’t thought of that sooner, it may have spared both himself and his men unimaginable pain.  How much pain do we submit ourselves to because we stubbornly refuse to submit to God instead?  David seemed to have learned his lesson, at least for the moment.

3.  An encouraging word, 30:8

David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

Isn’t amazing how a word from the Lord can calm even the most upset heart?  Nothing changed for David; his circumstances were still awful, yet when God spoke to him it was like he was set on fire from the inside and his troubled heart found peace.

It is never too late to turn to God for help.  Even when we are in a terrible predicament of our own making, if we call out to God in earnestness, He will answer, as He answered David.

4.  An ordained coincidence, 30:11, 16

They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat—He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah.

David had God’s promise that everything taken from him would be recovered.  But how was that going to happen?  Where had the Amalekite raiding party taken the people?  They had no clues.  They had no guide.   Don’t you hate it when all seems hopeless?  God loves hopeless situations! He works best when we can’t work at all.  Paul the Apostle, no stranger to rough times, wrote this—

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.

How could he say that?  Was he speaking through his hat?  Quite the opposite; Paul was speaking from his experience.  He had noticed something we all need to take heed of:  When all seems lost or hopeless, the Spirit of God comes in like a flood and shows us a way out!   David experienced this when, by “coincidence,” he came across one of the very Amalekite raiders who had taken his family and possessions away.   Naturally, this was no “coincidence,” it was a divinely appointed way to fulfill a God-given promise.   In fact, God can use any means to accomplish His will, even a weak and sickly slave of an Amalekite.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  (1 Corinthians 1:28)

Here also is a small lesson about the character of David, who, though he had many weaknesses, still exhibited a very God-like character.  He spared this slave’s life, fed him and gave him water to drink.  Jesus Christ was not so far above us that couldn’t reach down to rescue us, weak and sickly slaves to sin, to use us to accomplish His will.

5.  A stunning victory, 30:16—20

David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives.  Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back.  (verses 18, 19)

This was quite an accomplishment!  Not a thing was lost, either when they were taken way or during the battle to retrieve them; there was no collateral damage!   When God makes a promise, He surely keeps it.

Our Anointed One, Jesus Christ, embarked on a similar mission.  He left His Father and the glories of Heaven to come to earth to recover all that had been lost to Adam’s sin.   This is what He prayed—

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  (John 6:38—40)

6.  Sharing the victory, 30:26

When David reached Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the LORD’s enemies.”

The word translated “gift” really means “blessing.”  David, the man who saved all turns around and offers a blessing to his friends in Judah.   In fact, he did much more than that.  Not everybody could fight and David understood this.  To those who were unable to fight, David promised this—

The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.  (verse 24)

Our Heavenly David who redeemed us, the “lost inheritance,” has given us multiplied blessings that we neither deserved nor earned.  It is His right to do so!

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.  (Ephesians 1:7, 8a)

Our Savior, who accomplished so much has also been given an inheritance by His Father, which He graciously shares with those who have faith.  The prophet Isaiah wrote these interesting words—

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong.  (Isaiah 53:12)

Jesus won a great victory for mankind, and out of the abundance of the grace of His heart, mankind has a share in that victory!

You don’t have to  be great, or strong, you just have to be like David:  humble enough to admit your mistakes and wise enough to trust in God to set things right.  To such, Hebrews 2:16 finds application—

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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