Thursday, June 23, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 1:12-30 (ESV).
Without Fear (vv. 12-14)
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
We have an enemy. His name is Satan. His goal is to destroy us one way or another. One of the biggest weapons he uses against us is to try to get us to doubt God and to give way to fear. So, he will go to great lengths to lie to us and to attempt to deceive us into thinking that we need to be afraid, and/or that we need to give up and run, because of whatever potential consequences he may threaten us with if we keep on keeping on in our walks with the Lord and in sharing the message of the gospel with a world in need of the Savior.
Yet, when we respond with faith, and with prayer, and with putting on the armor of God, instead of retreating, his tactics against us only serve to advance the gospel, so he is really just shooting himself in the foot. Even if we are put in prison for our faith in Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation, our Lord can use that to get the word out to people, letting them know that we are suffering for the sake of Christ. And, the gospel message will spread even more, rather than dwindling away to nothing, which is Satan’s goal. And, our brothers and sisters in Christ who are also sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings can be encouraged by our faith to speak the word of God without fear.
Selfish Ambition (vv. 15-18a)
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Another of Satan’s evil schemes against us is to use other humans to oppose us and to cause us trouble, hardship and persecution. Sometimes our opponents are others who call themselves ministers of the gospel, who will see us as their competition, and thus they will make a concerted effort to try to discredit us in any way they can, in hopes that they can draw people away from us and to them. They will also dilute the gospel message to make it more appealing to human flesh in order to draw in large crowds of people. They focus much on entertainment because they want to attract the world to their meetings, rather than focusing on the cross of Christ and leading people to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
Still there are others who are preaching the true message of the gospel, but not out of a sincere desire to see people come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, but out of jealousy and a desire to gain attention to themselves rather than to Christ. Yet, I have found that many of these only appear to be preaching the true message of the gospel, because they use the true gospel as a means to gain the trust of those who long to hear truth spoken, and then they very stealthily introduce heresies disguised as truth, and they do this so subtly that these heresies are barely noticeable to the unsuspecting ear. These people are usually smooth talkers and charmers, so people readily like them and want to listen to what they have to say, but in doing so they open themselves wide to deception and trickery.
If someone is preaching the truth, then we are to rejoice that the truth is going out, even if the messengers are driven by the wrong motives. Yet, we should remain discerning, and we should listen for those subtle lies which are so carefully placed within what appears to be truth so that we can counteract the lies with truth, and so we can warn others.
Full Courage (vv. 18b-26)
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored 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 live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
God is not unaware of the devil’s schemes, though. In fact, Satan has no power but what God permits. One day God will take away that power, though, and he will send him into the lake of fire for eternity, and he will never be able to trouble us again. Until then, God has allowed Satan to roam this earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. In fact, in the book of Revelation it says that the dragon (Satan) will give its power to the beast, and the beast will be allowed to exercise authority over the people of the earth, and to make war against the saints of God and to conquer them (militarily, not spiritually).
Yet, God allows us to go through suffering, hardship, pain, sorrow and persecution, for our trials produce in us patient endurance, and they strengthen us in our walks of faith, and they draw us closer to God in full assurance of faith if we choose to allow God to do his work in our hearts through these times of testing rather than retreat and give up because things got too hard. Through these times of testing we learn to rely on God and not on ourselves for our strength. Also, these trials mature and humble us, and they teach us to be more compassionate towards others who are suffering. Then, we can comfort others in their trials with the comfort we received from God when we went through difficult times.
Another quality these times of testing produce in us, who put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, is courage. We learn to be courageous the more we choose to trust God with our circumstances rather than retreat out of fear. We learn that courage doesn’t mean we don’t ever feel fear, but we feel the fear and we do it anyway, i.e. we go against our fears through putting our hope, trust and faith in Jesus Christ. We also learn that we don’t have to face these difficulties in our own strength and resolve, but we can rely on the strength of the Lord to get us through each and every day. As well, we learn that God is absolutely sovereign and in control over every circumstance in our lives, so we never have cause to fear, because he is with us, and he will accomplish his purposes in and through our lives even if all looks hopeless in the natural realm. Our God is a God of miracles! Amen!
Our Manner of Life (vv. 27-30)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
If we want to be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty strength, and if we want to know the power of God in our lives in conquering and/or overcoming all opposition against us, so that we do stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, then we need to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to daily be putting sin and self to death in our lives, by the Spirit, and be daily putting on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us. And, we need to walk according to the Spirit and not according to our sinful flesh.
If we give way to sin in our lives on a regular basis, we open ourselves wide to give the devil a foothold in our lives so that we end up living spiritually defeated, not spiritually victorious lives, in the Spirit, giving glory to God in all things. So, know that we are called not only to believe in Jesus, but to suffer for him, so be strong and take courage, for the Lord will go before you, and His light will show the way. God will take care of you!
Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way…
Why don’ you give him all of your fears
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for…