It’s not over! Actually, it’s about to begin so don’t give up just because God has told you “No”. There’s something else for you that you don’t know about.
This is the continuation of the message [Choosing your chains]. Therefore, I recommend you to read it so you can better understand the context with which we are going to start this message. Although this message in itself says enough.
It’s not over
If you don’t remember exactly what the message [Choosing your chains] was about, here I leave you the most important part of what was happening to Paul when he started writing Philippians.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.Philippians 1.15-16 NIV
Remember that in this situation Paul is writing from jail.
Many people who go through situations less serious than jail or the death of their loved ones are beginning to question the sovereignty of God instead of taking responsibility for the situation. In this case, Paul reacts in a way that reminds us that although things are out of our control, they’re always under God’s control.
When in verse 16 Paul says “I am put here for the defense of the gospel” he is referring to his situation in prison which shows that he does not consider him as if he was stuck in prison but simply stationed in that place.
The situation has not changed and the prison remains the same, but what has changed is the perspective that Paul has developed over the years to understand what it really means that he is imprisoned.
Everything is a matter of perspective.
17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 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, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 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. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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!Philippians 1.17-22 NIV
By the way, I wanted to stop here to highlight what Paul said since Paul is debating between choosing death or choosing life because with his new perspective he understood that in both cases there is a benefit for him and for others.
23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 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,Philippians 1.23-25 NIV
When Paul asks God if he can go to heaven, God answers him “No”.
In this letter, Paul is talking about being “released in reverse”, which seems ironic because he is explaining it from prison but that is precisely the point. Where to be free externally is necessary to be free internally. Hence the meaning of “released in reverse”.
God has a greater interest in liberating us from within and that is why he focuses on changing us from within, reorganizing our internal condition.
Paul is very wise and we should listen to him when he says “I have not been released from prison but I am free”.
It’s weird as we sometimes let people (like friends or family), who have not died for us, be able to dictate our level of faith and be ashamed of the gospel when we claim to be free.
Now, it is very important that you pay attention because Paul in his mind begins to remember what happened a long time ago (perhaps 30 years ago) when he began his ministry with the Philippians. Paul decides to deal with this current situation by remembering what happened in the past.
It’s very important to clarify that there is a way of remembering the past that usually paralyzes the potential of our present but there is also another way of remembering the past that feeds our faith to continue towards tomorrow. Paul does the second.
Many years before Paul made the decision to preach to the Gentiles there was a discussion about whether Gentiles should follow the Jewish tradition like circumcision. In the end, it was decided that Paul should continue his mission of preaching to the Gentiles with a greater flexibility of the law for Gentiles so that they didn’t have to continue with some Jewish traditions.
4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. 6 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. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.Acts 16.4-7 NIV
This is a completely different perspective of the Holy Spirit because we can think that the Holy Spirit motivates us to continue but in this case, He is holding Paul back.
It’s curious because Jesus called Paul to preach to the nations, however, when Paul prepares to do so, the Spirit of God stops him.
If we were in that situation we would possibly make the decision to resign and return home with the excuse that God does not want us to continue.
This is precisely what is called “conditional faith” where we renounce as soon as God says “No”.
The point is that a father sometimes says “No” to his children because he knows something that the children don’t. And since God is a good Father, it’s to be expected that the same thing will happen.
The question is “Would you consider that God is good even if he says ‘no’?”
Paul knew that when God said “No,” didn’t mean to be over.
8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”Acts 16.8-9 NIV
In the same way as Paul, there are times when you must let your plans pass to reach God’s purpose for you. Moreover, God may begin to speak to you of what is coming for you through the need that is in front of you.
10 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. 11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.Acts 16.10-12 NIV
Now everything makes sense. That’s why Paul said, “I thank God every time I remember you.”
Philippi was the place that Paul did not plan but it was the place where God wanted him to be. Philippi was a Roman colony that became the first church that Paul would establish in Europe. Moreover, it was the first church in the western world.
We’re all part of a church that was formed thanks to God telling Paul “No!”.
I hope you have been extracting the diverse teachings that Paul gives us with his life. I consider that the most important one has been knowing what God’s “No” means because it will surely happen.
If you liked this message then follow me on social media as @lenusme to talk more about the subject or directly add your email [by clicking here] so that you could receive the new post into your inbox.
Finally, don’t forget to stay healthy and to subscribe.
See you in the next post.
- It’s not over | Steven Furtick | Elevation Church | 2018.07.29 | [Link]