Central Christian Church
Joy: A Cowboy and A Pioneer Woman
Joy -- Rising Above My Circumstances. Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from a Roman jail yet the book of Philippians is full of joy. Pastor Nathan leads us through an in-depth study of Philippians to discover Paul’s secret to find joy.
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    204 S Broad St, Lampasas, TX 76550, USA
    Sunday 10:00 AM

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Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, cold, and destitute (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). Despite all this and more, Paul managed to endure the suffering, finish the race, and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
To endure is more than just continuing to exist; it is continuing to exist in the same manner as before the suffering began. If Paul had lived through his sufferings but at some point, had thrown up his hands in defeat, stopped being obedient to God, or no longer worked for the cause of Christ, he would not have “endured.” If he had responded to his sufferings with an attitude of bitterness, anger, or retaliation, then Paul could not have said that he “endured.”

Paul’s response to suffering was not to buckle under the weight of circumstance but to realize Christ has called His church to endure hardship (John 16:33; Luke 14:27). Paul said that he rejoiced because in his flesh he was filling up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24). Every time Paul was beaten, chained, or hungry, he identified more with Christ in his flesh. Paul could rejoice because suffering in his flesh for the sake of the church is a privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Hardships come in a variety of ways. Temptations, illnesses, lost jobs, broken relationships, and persecution for one’s faith are all forms of hardship. Christians should not be taken by surprise when hardships come: Jesus warned us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The good news is that Jesus followed up His warning with this word of encouragement: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We can endure by His grace.
Adversity is a part of life. Everyone encounters difficult situations. Some even encounter tragedies. Margaret Mitchell, from Gone with the Wind, said, “Hardships make or break people.” Whether in sport, in life in general, or in ministry; hardships are the circumstances that define us as people and gives us a story to tell.

Paul’s confinement (Phil 1:7), contrary to what might have been expected, had not stopped the spread of the gospel. In referring to their intimate relationship as brothers in Christ (Phil. 1:12; also 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1,8), he informs them that his imprisonment “really served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12). He does not explain further “what has happened to [him]” (Phil 1:12), but apparently the possibility of death had been before him (Phil 1:20). Paul’s chains opened an opportunity for him to witness to Roman jailers and officials.
What the apostle had discerned was much like the principle that Joseph said to his formerly jealous brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Gen. 50:20). If anything, the providential circumstances had proven to be effective in spreading the gospel. Now Paul was “in chains for Christ” (Phil. 1:13), and not just a common criminal. We do not know if he was chained at this point, or whether this is a figurative way of describing confinement in his own rented quarters (Acts 28:30).
On the other hand, Paul could have been imprisoned at the Mamertine Prison in Rome. This institution could have been called the "House of Darkness." Few prisons were as dim, dank, and dirty as the lower chamber Paul occupied. Known in earlier times as the Tullianum dungeon, its "neglect, darkness, and stench" gave it "a hideous and terrifying appearance," according to Roman historian Sallust.

We do know that in Rome there were soldiers assigned to guard him (Acts 28:16). Presumably this was how the gospel spread “throughout the whole palace guard”. Apparently, God had opened a door for the message of the gospel (1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3) so that Paul could proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to every guard and anyone else who came to see him (Acts 28:30–31).
This unexpected opportunity for Paul the prisoner to witness to the palace guard had the unexpected effect of encouraging most of the unconfined brethren “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Phil. 1:14). Where the Philippians might have expected discouragement because of the apostle’s bondage, there was great boldness in the spread of the gospel. If Paul could do it inside prison, they could do it outside of prison.
Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who endured hardship (Hebrews 12:2). The author of Hebrews reminds believers of Christ’s perseverance at the hands of sinners. Jesus, despite great suffering, never turned back, even from the cross (Hebrews 12:2–4). Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” Although Christ knew the suffering the cross would provide, His anticipated joy enabled Him to keep going; He knew what the rewards would be—the redemption of mankind and a seat at the right hand of God. In the same way, Christians can find hope to endure when we consider the rewards God has promised us.
God's servants often have faced a variety of unjust circumstances—just as Jeremiah and Jesus and Paul did. But regardless of the places in life that seem to imprison us, we must keep the broader view that Paul embraced even while in chains—a perspective that gives purpose even to the most painful of circumstances.

God wants to transform our lives through adversity. Why? It produces character. There will always be difficult things that we must overcome in every season, and God wants to use every single one of them to develop your character. The Apostle Paul, a man who knew suffering, wrote about this in his letter to the Christians in Rome.
We glory in our suffering because we can mature during it. We live in a society that seeks to avoid adversity and suffering at all costs. For example, products sell that promise anti-aging and to cure cancer that have no empirical evidence to support their claims.

When we keep pressing ahead, that’s when the love of God keeps getting poured into our hearts. People who suffered much and didn’t give up, either outwardly or inwardly, have certain richness and strength about them.

As we endure, God changes us. We become more loving, kind, patient -- more like Christ. And that should give us hope. We don’t have to try hard to be Christians! Our transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, who molds and shapes us through our trials.

We can take heart and remember that our sufferings and trials are temporary.
Our relationship with God is eternal and our problems are temporary. Do we live for the temporary or do we store up treasures in Heaven? Do we make the Lord our greatest priority even in times of temptation and trials? As Oswald Chambers wrote, do we give our utmost for His highest? If our shoulder is separated as we run for the goal line, do we press forward? If you are discouraged today, take heart. The Lord guides and strengthens us.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.