This week as I visited our Brother Doug Saukkola at the Watkins Hilltop Care Center where he is on the mend after being hospitalized for a few days, I visited with two people who shared with me of their current life. One man told me that he was in the care center because his wife of many years “wants to have time to do things with her friends” and by his attitude and demeanor it was clear that he felt left aside by her. The other person was a woman who had lost her husband of 70 years two years ago and she said how she missed him so much for they had done everything together. And then I thought about our dear Doug and of how his loving wife Sue (and their family) take care of him in such a loving and dedicated manner.
Life is about relationships, when they are loving, healthy and growing, it is wonderful, but when they are broken life is very difficult and trying. We recognize that all relationships are designed to work, to grow and to flourish as they are patterned after the relationship that we have with our Lord and Saviour, who came here to bring us back into relationship with our Heavenly Father. According to 2 Corinthians 5:19 God is now friendly toward us and wants to have a loving and growing relationship with us in fellowship, we yet retain our sinful nature which has difficulty in yielding control of our life into His ways. Putting it simply, even though we no longer are under the penalty of sin or under the controlling power of it, yet there is within us remaining the presence of sin. This reality causes real difficulty for us in our relationships…….Need I say more?? I don’t think so.
My wife is great at writing things down that she hears or reads and in passing, I noticed a question that she had jotted down on a piece of paper that went something like this: “What is the mission of your life?” I have not been able to stop thinking about that question ever since I read it and especially as I have been reading and praying over the life of Apostle Paul and the letter of J.o.y. that he wrote to his beloved congregation at Philippi. The Apostle always had a mission in his life, but it got drastically changed as the result of an encounter with Jesus while he, Paul, was fulfilling his mission: persecuting Christians. He was transformed through that encounter and as a result his mission was changed from persecuting Christ in his followers to being one who was himself persecuted for truly following and preaching Christ to even his persecutors. In this letter, we will be told by the Apostle himself of how his thinking (and his mission in life) were drastically changed and how he now looked at what his true mission was.
What is our mission in life? Is it to serve others? What if we become unpopular by serving others for the cause of Christ? What if our stand with Jesus and truth is resisted? Who is our example? Well, Jesus, of course, and we will see Him set before us in the next chapter. So far we have been observing the Apostle Paul and his example of one who is not only a follower of Christ, is an imitator of Christ but more than that he is one in whom Christ dwells so deeply that one sees and hears Christ through his mission in life.
We also have other current examples of those who have been transformed through life’s changed circumstances. Listen to this poem which speaks to the our lesson for today.
A Journey Not My Own
As a youth with plans and dreams, I set my course ahead.
I owned the world and all its worth. Not following, I led.
I often sought new travelers and helped them find the way.
So strong was I, they did not know my vessel of clay.
Not one was more prepared than I for raging storms at sea.
But I ignored small leaks and cracks within that vessel-me.
I drifted in deep waters far away from those I love,
Convinced that I was all alone and God somewhere above.
And in the darkness of my sea I heard a soft voice say,
“I’m by your side to mend your ship, my precious one of clay.”
It’s then I realized thought God was at my side,
I was the one who set the course with all my senseless pride.
I have found an inner peace—my journey’s not my own
With Jesus at the helm I have a joy I’d never known.
Now let us listen to how the Apostle Paul looked at life after his transformation.
J.o.y. through Adversity
1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Paul recognized that opportunities to preach the gospel are opened up that he could not have had if he was not in prison, for barriers are removed. How many soldiers heard the gospel as they walked along chained to Paul as he shared the gospel? His chains emboldened others to preach the gospel, even if they were doing it with the wrong motive.
J.o.y. of serving others
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
Christ’s love was so embedded in Paul that Christ shone and acted through him, his appetite to be with Him in heaven was great, but nevertheless he saw that necessity to stay here to serve for the sake of the gospel was better than his desire to be with Christ. That is quite a struggle for many in their later years, especially when they are suffering and they are wanting to see Christ. Many struggle with this question: Is it okay to want to see Jesus in His fullness or is it necessary for us to remain here for the sake of our family, others?
J.oy. of Suffering for Christ
27 Only let your conversation (life) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
He closes this section by reminding them to keep their outer life as becoming to their true identity in Christ, whether he is with them or not. He encourages them to stand fast and to stand together. Don’t be afraid of those who are against you, for they are resisting the gospel of God in Christ and in so doing, they are revealing whose children they are: children of the Liar and Deceiver. But you are children of God, and by your standing together for truth, you give witness to them whose you are. And finally he says that just as Christ suffered, just as I suffered, you will have the same experience.
Suffering… What does that mean? In the context of our text, we understand that it is being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Persecuted for letting people know that their sins are forgiven! We yet live in a time when our religious freedom is yet guarded by our government and so we thank God for that blessing. No one in their right mind would wish persecution such as Paul experienced or such as is going on in many countries across the world.
It is difficult for us to learn of how there can be joy in suffering of the outward bodily type where the gospel is resisted to the point that there are attempts to shut a person from publicly testifying of Christ’s saving work. We have more in common with people being brought into joy through personal tragedies and disappointment of life, such as Dave and Jan Dravecky experienced in their lives.
I am reading two books in relation to this sermon series through the letter to the Philippians. One is by Dave Dravecky himself, “entitled Comeback” and the other is by his wife, Jan Dravecky, with the title, “A Joy I’d Never Known. They each give account of their journey to where they are now as a result of Dave’s baseball career as a pitcher being brought to a halt due to cancer in his arm, which resulted in the amputation of his pitching arm. It is not often that one is able to read such a story from the perspective of both the sufferer and the co sufferer. It is my hope that through reading these accounts of the journey that I will be able to better understand to sympathize with those who are co sufferers, or as we call them “caregivers.”
We will watch a short video to go along with this message today, in which Dave Dravecky gives an overview of his journey which led to his understand of what his true mission is in life. It can be found n CBN under Dave Dravecky’s last pitch.
Grace and Peace to you as you journey fulfilling your purpose here on this earth.
Pastor Orval Wirkkala