Yesterday I went home a bit early from the office to get the lawn mowed before going back for a meeting. At 3:30 it was beautiful, sun shining brightly, a light breeze stirring. I finished up a little before 5. A few minutes later the sky darkened and down came the rain. It poured for about 10 minutes. Life is like that, isn’t it? Life is good, friends are great, we are feeling joy. Cruising along, we are so grateful for the sunny skies and then it happens. “It” can be so many different things – sickness, job loss, accident, a broken heart. The reality of our faith or the lack thereof becomes evident in those kinds of days.
Listen to Paul’s counsel, inspired by the Spirit. He has just reminded those reading his letter that he is uncertain about whether he will live or die, that life means continuing service to Christ Jesus; that death is his homegoing to the home of his Father.
In times of that kind of change, he says that there is a priority choice to be made. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:27-30, NIV)
When things go upside in life, there are a variety of responses other than living in faith, aren’t there?
Sometimes we blow up, raging in our frustration. We lash out at anything and everyone because of our anger.
Sometimes we shrink into a defensive posture, withdrawing from life and retreating into a sullen silence.
Sometimes we become Chicken Little, so overwhelmed with fear that we run around declaring that the world is coming to an end!
Sometimes we go off the rails trying to distract ourselves; chasing pleasure, spending too much, overeating.
God asks for a different response. “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ.” (The Message)
When we focus on faith, pull together in “one spirit,” refusing to let fear rule us a kind of beauty emerges in us, the Light of Jesus shining through us. Even as I write these words, I shudder to remember some of those moments when I have not made the choice of faith and turned into an angry man. But, I also remember moments when I chose faith, when there was a beauty in my brokenness that honored the Lord I love. How about you?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our heritage as a Christian included only sunny days without trouble? But, that is not life in this world. A final observation from Paul’s letter this morning is the last part of the passage quoted above. Note it again- “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Those difficulties are not a surprise to our Father in Heaven. He knows the paths we walk and prepares gracious gifts of patience and encouragement for those moments of suffering and struggle.
Let’s pray for the depth of faith to stay steady, to keep serving Christ as He desires whatever happens!
Here is a word from the Word.
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Psalm 1:1-6, NLT)