Paul touches on something in this passage that most believers really don’t want to hear. 2 Timothy 3:12 puts it this way, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.” The way that Paul says it here goes like this, “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him….”
Suffering is a part of life. Unfortunately, much of the suffering that we experience has more to do with suffering the consequences of our own sin than it does with suffering for Him. Paul mentions a few things in this passage that qualify as suffering for Him.
v 27 – Sometimes we suffer for the stands that we take – There are times when doing nothing more than taking a stand will cause trouble. Not doing something that everybody else is doing can bring us ridicule and scorn. We see this all the time in our culture. By not jumping on the gay marriage bandwagon or not agreeing with the the pro-choicers or not bowing to the evolution theoryists or not getting excited about transgender equality will bring on disparagement and mockery. But suffering for Him is a worthy kind of suffering.
v. 27 – Sometimes we suffer for the fights we engage in – But then there are also times when our faith takes on a more active approach. There are times when we must fight for what we believe in – in an active sense. Sometimes the gospel demands that we go into battle. And whether it is a war that plays out in the media or a war that is actually confronting enemies to the truth, casualties ensue and suffering happens. But suffering for Him is a worthy kind of suffering.
May the Lord gives us His wisdom to know when to stand and when to fight. And the courage to endure whatever suffering may come our way.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
A number of years ago Stephen Covey published a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It quickly became a best seller. Habit # 2 says this: Begin with the end in mind. I suspect that he got this idea from the Apostle Paul. Throughout his letters Paul is consciously aware of that day when he will be with Christ. He seems to always have the end in mind. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this passage.
Why is this so important from Paul’s perspective? Here are a few observations as I ponder this passage…
Keeping the end in mind fuels Paul with determination to live courageously in the present (v.20) – Paul does not want to come face to face with God and feel ashamed of the way that the lived his life. This future encounter gives him the courage to make hard choices now. He chooses not to indulge in sinful behaviors because he knows that one day he will have to give an account for his actions.
Keeping the end in mind excites him about the future (v.21) – Paul is not scared to die. He anticipates death as a great reward and knows that it will be far better than anything that he can experience in this life. He is excited about spending eternity in the presence of God.
Keeping the end in mind keeps him from wasting his life (v.22-26) – He is concerned that his time here on earth be “fruitful labor.” He doesn’t want to get to the end of his life and feel like he wasted the time that God gave him. Here are a few quotes from John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life that will make you think:
“Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.”
“America is the first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death.”
“You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.”
“The greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing it with a kind, serious pleasure that makes Christ look like the Treasure he is.”
“Why don’t people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do. Our lives don’t look like they are on the Calvary road, stripped down for sacrificial love, serving others with the sweet assurance that we don’t need to be rewarded in this life.”
There was a time when it was said about believers that they were “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” The pendulum has swung too far. Now we are too earthly minded to be any good for the kingdom of God. It will do us well to ponder the end of our lives and what it will be like to be with Jesus – and then ask that He would use us “in the mean time” to gospel couriers.
“The prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” came from the Lord Jesus in direct response to His disciples’ request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” It has always fascinated me that they never asked Jesus to teach them to preach. They never asked Him to teach them to give or to witness. Perhaps, like us, the disciples were often at a loss when it came to communicating with the Almighty.”
Several things come to mind as I ponder this passage…
1) Paul strongly believes in the sovereignty of God – He has been arrested. He is no longer free to go from city to city to encourage the saints and to plant churches. It would seem that his life’s work has come to an abrupt halt. And yet Paul does not see it this way at all. He recognizes the hand of God even in circumstances that would frustrate and depress most people. He is taking advantage of a less than ideal situation to continue to “advance the gospel”. He knows that God’s ways are not our ways and he knows that God is in control of everything. He is sovereign!
2) Paul strongly believed in the power of prayer – verse 19: “… 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.” Now, I will admit that I don’t really understand how all this works together. Here’s what I mean – if God is sovereign over everything then why does prayer make a difference? And yet, one of the mysteries of our faith is that somehow in the sovereignty of God prayer is effectual. So Paul prayed, as we saw at the beginning of the chapter. And he solicits the prayers of the saints on his behalf. And this is good enough reason for me to pray and to have others praying on my behalf. Even if it is somewhat incomprehensible to my puny mind.
“Prayer is asking God to incarnate, to get dirty in your life. Yes, the eternal God scrubs floors. For sure we know he washes feet. So take Jesus at his word. Ask him. Tell him what you want. Get dirty. Write out your prayer requests; don’t mindlessly drift through life on the American narcotic of busyness. If you try to seize the day, the day will eventually break you. Seize the corner of his garment and don’t let go until he blesses you. He will reshape the day.”
As I ponder this passage there are a few things that come to mind.
1) Paul is writing while he is in prison. Even in circumstances that are difficult he is still looking for ways to encourage believers and to challenge them to grow deeper in their walk with God. He does not whine and complain about his lot in life. He does not seem concerned that somehow God has forgotten about him. His faith is as strong as ever and he knows that God is going to use his imprisonment to further the gospel.
2) He may not be able to travel and preach and plant churches but he can pray. He prays because he is convinced that God hears his prayers and will do what he asks because he prays for things that are of concern to God himself. He does not pray prayers that will change circumstances for his Philippian friends; he prays prayers that change hearts.
3) I notice a few things about his praying:
His praying is laced with gratitude (v.3)
He prays with joy as he thinks about his friends (v.4)
He prays with confidence that God is at work in their lives (v.6)
He prays about things that matter to God more than outward circumstances (vs 9-11)
There is so much that I have to learn about prayer. These few verses here are a great reminder to me and a great challenge to me that prayer is not the least that I can do for others, it is the most that I can do for others.
“As followers of Christ, we must become acutely aware of the darkness and hardness of the human heart. God is certainly aware. He spoke of it when He said of His people, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh”(Ezekiel 11:9) It is our “stony hearts” that are the root cause not only of apathy toward our fellow man but even of hatred, murder, and genocide. Divided between the things of God and the things of the world, a “heart of stone” is incapable of loving the poor unless God changes it to a heart of “flesh”. Should this not cause us to plead with God daily, as Bob Pierce did, for our hearts to “be broken by the things that break the heart of God”? (p.102, The Hole In Our Gospel)
3 years ago I did 3 posts on this passage. Here is a copy of the first one and then I have put links to the other two in case you are interested…
As I ponder this passage there are three words that catch my attention:
1) “Finally ” v.10 – Paul has had a lot to say about a lof things in this epistle. In chapters 1-3 he talked theology. In chapters 4- 6 he talked praxis. As he brings things to a close and talks about the armor of God he helps the Ephesian believers (and us) to know what we are up against as we bring theology and praxis together. Finally, he says, don’t underestimate the fact that you are in a war. Finally, he says, don’t ever discount the fact that Satan is real. Finally, he says, don’t ever forget that the power of the living God dwells within you.
2) “when” v. 13 – Paul pleads with us to make sure we are armored so that “when the day of evil comes…” Not if, but when! We have a tendency to get lulled into a false sense of safety because the war we fight is an invisible war. We don’t see the flaming arrows of the evil one. We don’t see the forces of evil around us. So there is this question mark that we live with. “If”? Paul wants to make sure that there is no “if”. It is emphatically “when”. And more likely than not I would suggest that the “when” is NOW. The day of evil is upon us.
3) “stand” v. 13 – When Paul wrote this the church was very young. This is only about 30 years or so after the resurrection and the beginning of the church. Already Paul has watched friends fall by the spiritual wayside because they have become infatuated with the ways of the world and the lure of the evil one. He is crafty. He is a schemer. And his lies are shrouded in truth and his deceitfulness masked by beauty. He wants us to be aware of what the enemy is up to so that we too do not become a spiritual casualty. When all is said and done and the war is over he wants us still to be standing.
So he tells us what we need to do in order to stand. It would be wise for us to pay attention to what he says next.