Living in fear that if anything goes wrong your mind and body will react like it’s the end of the world and you’ll end up losing all the progress you’ve […]
Living in fear that if anything goes wrong your mind and body will react like it’s the end of the world and you’ll end up losing all the progress you’ve made is a terrible way to live. It stops you from trying new things, meeting new people, and leaving your comfort zone. Here are 3 things you need to live as a stronger person.
This message is from my Twitch channel’s Devos & Chill series where, on Thursdays, I give a short message before we get into the gaming. Please join us!
This is the fifth week we’re going through Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, and I think it’s been an interesting study so far. We’ve talked about the author, Paul (the former Christian killer turned missionary), his partner Timothy (Paul’s young protige), the recipients, the Philippian church, and the context (Paul sitting under house arrest in Rome waiting to hear whether Caesar would find him innocent and let him go, or guilty and have him killed).
Last week we talked about how this letter is, in a very real sense, a love letter between a pastor and his church – one filled with almost romantic language, with each longing to be with the other, worried about the other, wanting to bring comfort to each other. And, how that love isn’t merely emotional, or based on what they’ve done for each other, but goes so much deeper as a spiritual connection built on their mutual relationships with Jesus.
Today we’re going to look at the same passage as last week, but I want to focus on a different part, verse 6. But let’s read the whole of 1:3-11 to get the context:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
The first thing to remember here is that there was a real chance that this could be the last letter Paul ever wrote to them. What had happened was that after Paul had journeyed all Asia as a missionary, he came back to Jerusalem, and was almost immediately arrested by the same group that had put Jesus to death. And they had whipped the whole crowd into a frenzy. When Paul had left, he had been Saul, favourite son of the city, most educated, most respected, one of the most powerful men in all of Jerusalem.
But, he had become a Christian, and was now despised. And so, to have him killed, his enemies spread lies and rumours about him. In fact, after he was arrested, the soldier who had put him in chains thought he was an Egyptian terrorist leader with thousands of other terrorists at his command. Then the rulers of Jerusalem took him to have him beaten and flogged, but at the last second, even as he was tied up and they were holding the whips, he said, “Did you guys know I was born a Roman citizen and everything you’re doing is illegal – and you guys could get in an incredible amount of trouble?”
So Paul was immediately released and the Roman commander demanded that he and the whole of the Jewish leadership come together so they could work it out. It didn’t go well, and they tried to kill him some more, but Paul, did what any Roman citizen could do – he asked to have his case brought before Caesar. Now, keep in mind, he hadn’t done anything, and had already been released, but he knew that God wanted him to share the gospel with the leaders of Rome, and this was how God wanted him to do it.
This led to years in prison in the city of Caesarea, a bunch more trials before leaders where he continued to tell the story of Jesus to them, and when he was finally getting transferred to Rome, in chains on a prisoner ship, the ship was wrecked in a storm. Three months and one new ship later, Paul finally made it to Rome , and was promptly stuck under house arrest with a roman soldier guarding him 27/7.
When the Philippian church heard this they kind of freaked out. That is a lot of bad news for one guy to go through but it gets worse. The person he was about to appeal to was Nero. Emperor Nero was absolutely insane. He was a sexually abusive monster, murdered so many people, including his family, and is most famous for burning down a huge section of Rome so he could build some fancy new buildings – and blamed it on the Christians, who were then arrested and then tortured and murdered in the most horrible ways. He would even dip Christians in oil and then burn them as street lamps.
When Paul appealed to Caesar, he hadn’t burned down Rome yet, but he was still insane – and Christians were already being abused and martyred.
Which is why the Philippian church freaked out when they heard that Paul, the travelling missionary, was now under arrest in Rome, waiting to be tried by Emperor Nero.
Which makes the verse I wanted to look at today a strange one to read. Let me read it again, Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
What this verse means is that Paul, knowing he was potentially facing death, had the confidence that even if he died, even if the worst should happen, even if all the terrible things happening to Christians just got worse – he was absolutely certain that God, who had brought them to faith in Jesus, had changed their lives completely, had given them a new hope, new outlook, and was changing them every day a little bit more into better versions of who He created them to be – would continue to do the work – would never stop, and that He would complete it.
That’s what I want to park on right now – and the big idea for today. Consider how difficult it was to be a Christian then. Tough, right? Very often, people assume that once things go bad on the outside – that it is inevitable that they will fall apart on the inside. Whether it’s something huge like a global pandemic or terrible disaster – something personally serious like a health crisis or divorce or job loss or betrayal by someone close to you – or something less catastrophic, like you have a bad day, lose your wallet, fail a test, break a bone, your hours get cut at work, some kind of news that catches you off guard – a lot of people believe that, because something on the outside has changed, because their circumstances have changed, have become negative or more difficult, that it is inevitable that they are going to fall apart.
I think that’s why a lot of people, even Christians, even folks who have had a lot of victories over bad stuff in their lives, live in terror that something is going to go wrong – because they assume that if something goes bad, that they almost have to fall back into the pit that they were in, that their life will spiral out of control, that all the hard work they’ve put into becoming who they are – all the changes God has done in them, all the positive things they’ve done – will immediately go up in smoke.
And that fear makes them not want to take risks, try new things, meet new people, experiment, leave their comfort zone.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever been given an opportunity to do something you know would be good, helpful, kind, special, and maybe do a lot of positive things for yourself and others – but you haven’t – because you know that if you were to take that step, there would be the risk you would fall back into old habits, act like your old self, or that you would ruin it because you might go out of control?
Say you’ve overcome something bad – porn, drugs, alcohol, angry outbursts, being overly critical, negative self-talk, broken a cycle of unhealthy relationships, finally got a hold of your finances or time-schedule – and then someone offers you an opportunity to do something that sounds awesome.
A new business start-up, plant a church, walk with someone going through the same addiction you had, join a new dnd campaign or gaming community, try a new restaurant, meet a new potential boyfriend or girlfriend, lead a group of some kind…
It all looks good. It would be fun, positive, interesting, and potentially lead to great things – but immediately you hear a voice in your head that says, “Don’t. If you change anything in your life, if you take that risk, if you add that person, if you go to that place – there is the risk, even a slight one, that you’ll lose all of your progress and be back at square one.” So, even though the stars have aligned for you, God has provided it for you, you want to do it, and you’d be great for it – you say no.
If I start that business, I’ll just become a workaholic again. If I talk to that addict, I’ll just start using again. If I join that DND campaign or e-sports team I’ll just turn back into that jerk I used to be, if I go to that restaurant I’ll lose control of my finances, if I meet that new person I’ll just make all the same mistakes as before and everyone will get hurt…
Why do you do that? It’s because you believe that the foundation of your personal growth depends on how strong you are. You are the one holding yourself together. You are the one protecting yourself. You are the one who sets the rules, who controls the future, knows yourself the best, makes the best decisions, can keep all the darkness at bay – and that if you let up, for even a second – drop your defences – change your habits – that your strength will fail, your foundation will crumble, and your life will collapse.
That’s a terrible way to live. And, here’s the thing, it’s also a lie. Here’s the truth:
You are not the most important person in your life. In fact, if you live believing that your ideas are the best, your strength is the strongest, your perspective is the rightest, your path is the only right one for you – you have set yourself up for a great failure, a huge disappointment – because you are simply not enough.
In order to make personal changes, in order to conquer your demons, clean up your soul, destroy the darkness within you, live as a wise, sensitive, strong person – you need three things, and none of them are you.
First, you need to be in a proper relationship with God. Only God knows your soul properly – and only he can begin the good work in you, and only he can bring it to completion. The number one thing you need to do, if you want to have a secure foundation for all the changes you know your life needs, is to let go of the idea that you know best, and then give all that to the One who created you.
That means recognizing you are a sinful mess, that you keep doing wrong things, that you are cursed to stay in that terrible loop, and asking Jesus to forgive you, break the cycle, and to bring you to God so you can finally start really knowing yourself.
The second thing you need is a foundation of truth. In other words, you need an outside voice, an outside perspective, to tell you what life is supposed to look like, what relationships are supposed to look like, what joy, and self-control, and sacrifice, and fun, and work, and everything else is supposed to look like. Just like a science experiment, you need to find a control variable. Just like in building, you need to find bedrock. And that control, that bedrock, is the Word of God, the Bible. It was written so that humanity could be told the truth about how things are supposed to go in this world. Once you trust that God is the only one who can begin the good work in you, and bring it to completion, the next step is to trust that His Word is the best foundation to build your life on.
And, the third thing you need is an outside voice. Nobody can fool you like you can fool yourself. Nobody lies to you better than you do. Even if you connect with God, and start reading the Bible, if you do it alone, do it in a vacuum, you are going to be in trouble, because you’re going to start coming up with stuff that simply isn’t true – and you’re going to believe it came from God!
That’s why you need other voices in your life. Whether that’s a loving family and friends, a trusted counsellor, a pastor, a small group, a discord community, or someone else, you need people in your life – as in more than one – that you trust enough to ask tough questions about yourself to, who you know will give you an honest and loving answer, who will point you in the right direction, who will walk with you in your journey, and who will keep pointing you back to the truth.
That’s why Paul could say that he could be sure, absolutely sure, that even though life for Christians was pretty bad and about to get way worse – that God, who had began a good work among the Philippian church, would continue that good work, even bringing it to completion – despite what would happen on the outside. It wasn’t because he had faith in their strength, it was because he had faith in God’s.
And that’s what I want for you too. I know you want to be better, stronger, kinder, more purposeful, more joyful, more self-controlled – but, unlike so many others, I will say this – I don’t have faith you can do it. Not alone. You need God to begin the good work and others to help you along.
And I want to help! If you are going through something, want some help, want to talk about God, ask some tough questions, or just want to talk – that’s why I’m here, and that’s why I set up the discord server. Come and join us. Chat with me. Let’s get to know one another, and see what good work God wants to begin in you.