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An Earth-shaking Confidence In God

Wednesday Bible Study

Philippians 1:1-14

Jim Davis

Mark Twain, as a professional humorist, made millions of people around the world laugh. His writings still entertain us. The laughter of Mark Twain is short lived. It bought only momentary pleasure to Twain for Twain's personal life was filled with sorrow. Jesus Christ was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Yet he possessed a deep joy that was beyond anything this world could imagine. The Psalmist writes, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (Psalms 16:11 NIV) Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:10-11 NIV) Nowhere is Christ's joy more exemplified than in the book of Philippians.

Warren Wiersbe says, the book of Philippians "is a Christian psychology book, based solidly on Bible doctrine. It is not a shallow 'self-help' book that 'everything is going to turn out all right.' It is a book that explains the mind the believer must have if he is going to experience Christian joy in a world filled with trouble." (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful, Philippians, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois. Pg. 15.)

The book of Philippians reveals the mindset Christ must develop within us for us to experience true joy in a world filled with trouble.

Philippians 1:1-14
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. 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, 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. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God. Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really 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. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (NIV)

The first fourteen verses of Philippians reveal the basic essentials to developing the mind of Christ that we might experience the joy of Christ.

Joy Begins with Confidence in God

The first essential for Christian joy is confidence in God. Paul writes, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on . . ." Without confidence in God we will not follow his directions to discover joy. It was Paul's confidence in God that lead him through an earth shaking experience in the city of Philippi. In the book of Acts we receive our first introduction to the beginning of the church in Philippi.

Acts 16:6-14
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. (NIV)

Paul was confident in God's work because he experienced God's call to initiate his work in that Roman colony. Paul was there when God initially began his work in the city of Philippi. Paul's confidence in God causes him to become a partner with God in bringing the earth-shaking gospel to Philippi.

Acts 16:16-34
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice." The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-- he and his whole family. (NIV)

These experiences in Philippi gave Paul confidence in God's earth-shaking power. He witnessed God's power in his circumstances. God had not only provided an open door, he also overruled the circumstances. This is where Paul's confidence allowed him to rejoice when there seemed to be no reason to rejoice. As Paul writes this letter he is in chains for Christ. Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher. Instead he went as a prisoner. It was his initial experience of God's overruling power in the city of Philippi that gives him his optimistic outlook as he writes this letter.

Paul was confident that God's power would bring his work to fruition. Paul writes, "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, 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. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me." (Philippians 1:4-7NIV)

Paul had learned that God’s grace was sufficient to sustain him in the weakest moments. His confidence for the Philippians was that they shared in God’s sustaining grace also. Paul’s confidence was in God.

Confidence in Trying Times

Paul's confidence was the result of experiencing God's grace in the difficult circumstances he had faced in the past. When Paul was in a dilemma as to which direction he should go in preaching the gospel God opened the door to Macedonia. When Paul found himself in prison for following God's leading he experience God's deliverance in earthshaking proportions as he was released from prison in Philippi. There is no doubt but that the Philippians experienced the same earthquake.

As they beheld what God was doing through Paul they were encouraged. Paul writes, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really 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. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." The Philippians were no doubt encouraged as they saw God sustaining Paul through his difficulties.

Confidence in God allows us to invite God's presence into the circumstances we face. God is present through his omnipresence, but we must invite him into the circumstances we face in a more personal way. Paul and Silas did this as they sat in the Philippian prison praying to God. It made an earth-shaking difference. Paul requested God's powerful presence in the lives of the Philippians as he prays: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God." When we understand the power God has exerted through Christ to save us, and to get the gospel preached, then we develop confidence to invite God into each circumstance we face.

Have you ever stopped to consider how few of the circumstances we face in life are really under our control? There is the weather, the traffic, the things people say and do. The poet Byron wrote, "Men are the sport of circumstances." Is it any wonder why many look at their circumstances and quit trying?

How many have lost their confidence because of people: what they are, what they say and what they do? There is no doubt but what you and I have contributed to making someone else unhappy. It works both ways. But we must work with people to bring glory to God.

Philippians 1:14-19
Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in 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. 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. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for 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. (NIV)

How many have lost their confidence because of things: we don't have worldly things, we can't get worldly things. Our world believes that joy comes from things that they own. Things can rob us of the only kind of joyful confidence that really lasts. Paul's confidence took him through the lean times. He put it this way:

Philippians 4:10-18
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been 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. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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 everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (NIV)

Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street with his two sons, who were crying and fighting. "What's the matter with the boys?" a friend asked.

"The same thing that's wrong with the whole world," Lincoln replied. "I have three walnuts and each of the boys wants two."

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (NIV)

How many times has our negative thinking robbed us of confidence? If Paul had wanted to worry, he had plenty to worry about. He was in prison; there were those in Philippi preaching out of envy and strife. He was in physical need. Instead he is filled with a joyful outlook.

Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (NIV)

Keys to Confidence in Trying Times

We must develop singleness of mind. The word mind is used 10 times in the book of Philippians. The word think is used 5 times. The word remember is used 15 times. This is significant because every spiritual battle begins in the mind and heart. Paul in this letter explains the mind a Christian must have if he/she is going to experience confidence in a world of trouble.

Circumstances upset us when we are not single minded. We must be single minded to experience the joyful confidence Christ offers. A double-minded person is unstable in every way (James 1:8). A Latin proverb says, "When the pilot does not know what port he is heading for, no wind is the right wind."

Through every circumstance Paul focused on Christ---and this changed everything. Even his troubles fell out for the furtherance of the gospel. It was his difficult circumstances that provided him an opportunity to lead others to Christ.

Philippians 1:20-26
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. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 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. 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 joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (NIV)

We must develop a submissive mind. This is especially difficult when we deal with people. The reason people are difficult is because we can't have our own way. We can’t make them think the way we think. If each of us goes through life seeking to put ourselves first, each us are going to be miserable.

Philippians 2:1-7
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (NIV)

Christians don't expect others to serve them; they consider the needs of others more important than their own. Jesus left us this example in his death upon the cross.

We must develop a spiritual mind. The spiritual mind has an heavenly outlook upon the things of this world.

Philippians 3:7-14
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Our confidence in worldly things has robbed us of our confidence in God. We want to possess things, but things usually possess us. We must learn to look at the things in this world from heaven's vantage point. The spiritual minded person counts this world's goods as rubbish as he/she develops the mind of Christ. Paul says, I press . . . I strain . . . toward God's prize in Christ Jesus. He has his mind fully set on Christ.

We must have a secure mind. An anxious mind results from a mind thinking and feeling wrong about circumstances, people and things. Someone once told me life is a matter of mind over matter. Then in the vernacular he said, "If you don't mind, it don't matter." This stoic approach to life is not what the Bible has in mind. The spiritual mind is developed as a person develops the mind of Christ. Looking at life through the mind and heart of Christ is the key to developing the spiritual mind.

Our minds and hearts are guarded by the peace of knowing that God is in control. The Bible is not encouraging a philosophy of, "see no evil, and hear no evil." Paul fully understands the difficulty he faces; Paul understands the people involved, but he knows that God is in charge. The spiritual mind discovers peace through seeing Christ ability to conquer in every circumstance.

Conclusion:

Confidence in God must be learned. Paul said, "I have learned to be content . . . " The peace of God must be learned during the difficult times. It will only be learned by our willingness to experience God's presence in our daily lives. Learning takes desire and effort.

This world seeks to blind us to God's presence in every circumstance. We must choose to see him through faith.

 

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