A Smile Framed by Tears

(Read Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 17-18.)

“Joy in Creation”

How vast he wonders God hat wrought!

Heaven, earth, stars, He made from naught.

He must have felt a glow of pride

When laws He’d planned ruled space so wide.

I’m sure He felt a pleasant thrill

When plants grew green from plain to hill.

Perhaps he laughed a bit when He

Taught squirrels to bounce from tree to tree,

He surely spent some happy hours

Splashing color on birds and flowers.

He still must find it rather fun

To daily tint each setting sun.

The Lord God surely understands

Our joy in the work of our own hands.

– Miriam R. Murdock

CONTEXT = Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, & Philemon are letters Paul wrote while in prison.  Philippians was written during Paul’s imprisonment in the capital city of the empire, Rome.  He was under house arrest, awaiting Caesar’s decision on his case – life or death.

You would think that kind of waiting would produce a certain amount of anxiety.  Not to mention the obvious troubles of being imprisoned.

All that to say this; you’d understand if Paul were a little anxious.  To the degree that you can put yourself in his sandals, you’d understand if Paul had difficulty seeing the sunny side of life.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen to any degree that seems to have slowed Paul down.  He learned how to minister in his chains and made the most of his situation.  In fact, here’s what Acts 28:31 records about this period of Paul’s life; BOLDLY & WITHOUT HINDRANCE HE PREACHED T KINGDOM OF GOD & PRAYED AND TAUGHT ABOUT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Paul did not allow his physical chains to be spiritual restraints.  Further, he did not allow his problems to restrain his spirit.  As we will see, he had joy in spite of what he suffered.

The joy of sharing God’s grace (v. 7).

         Though self-pity would be understandable in Paul’s case, he focused on love instead. Interestingly, in the Greek, the translation of verse seven can go both ways; it can refer to Paul’s love for the church or for the church’s love for Paul. However you take it, their relationship encouraged Paul.

What they shared was more important than what imprisonment took away: God’s grace.  “Grace” is God dealing seriously & completely with sin but without punishing the sinner.

DEFENDING & CONFIRMING are legal terms. Paul used them to refer to opportunities to witness that came as a result of his imprisonment. He doesn’t use legal terms because his thoughts are on his legal proceedings, for Paul’s greatest concern is using every hearing as an opportunity to tell people about Jesus. So it’s actually a play on words or inside joke for Paul to express it this way.

The church in Philippi was also involved in this.  Because of the love and support they showed Paul, he saw the church as his partner in witness.

The joy of advancing the Gospel (vs. 12-14).

         What is clear as you read the account of these events in Acts, is that the only crime of which Paul was guilty, was being a Christian. What we learn in Paul’s letters was that the example Paul set was being copied. He had the faith and wisdom to see that God was using his calamity to create opportunities to ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.  How do we know this?

    • Because other Christians were emboldened, joining Paul in standing for faith and against persecution.
    • Because we all learn that trials are “fertilizer” for faith. Days of ease and seasons of success don’t have as much to teach us.  One important benefit of suffering is that it strengthens us for deeper relationships (with God and each other) and develops spiritual stamina to withstand trials. (See 1 Peter 1:3-7.)
  • Because God can turn trials into triumphs. What the Enemy intended for a deterrent was turned into an OPPORTUNITY!
  • Because Paul gained access to the powerful people. Though Paul was a Roman citizen, how easy do you think it would have been for his to get a chance to talk with the emperor?  His imprisonment got him several chances to talk to several levels of Roman rulers, including Caesar!

 The joy of preaching Christ (vs. 17-18).

         The cloud: false teachers preaching Christ with bad motives in their hearts. So, to all of Paul’s other troubles, add Paul’s concern for the churches under his care. Paul knew that some church people were trying to take advantage of his absence to push their false teaching on the churches. Part of their falsehood was personal; they were attacking Paul, trying to destroy his credibility as a means of building up their own

The silver lining: Christ was still preached. It takes faith and Spirit-led imagination to find “silver linings.” Our human nature tends more toward despair or anger, doesn’t it?

Paul believed God’s promise in Isaiah 55:11 = “SO IS MY WORD THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH: IT WILL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY, BUT WILL ACCOMPLISH THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH I SENT IT.” To Paul, this meant that even in their falsehood, these false teachers were still proclaiming the Word.

Paul, by faith, saw good in his situation; he identified what God was doing. God is so much more powerful than our enemies, He turns treachery to triumph. So, rather than complain, Paul found something praiseworthy in his situation.

He wore… “A Smile Framed by Tears.”

 “Joy: Our Destination”

          “Life’s inevitable problems turn some Christians bitter.  These are the ones who say only sadness and sorrow are our lot in this ‘valley of tears’.”

In response to this problem, Rev. Timothy Goldrick wrote, “Others are given the grace to realize that suffering is not our perennial state.  Joy is our destination.  These are the ones who no longer take themselves so seriously.  They learn to laugh more easily.  Joy sets them free to be who God intends them to be.  They get a life.

“Why not start now?” he concluded.

(“The Joyful Noiseletter,” November 2007, p. 5.)

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