Opportunities Amidst Limitations
Speaker: Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series: Philippians
Philippians 1:1-26 (ESV)
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 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. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
We perceive opportunities when we trust that God is at work even when we are greatly limited.
v6 “I am sure of this… he who began a good work…”
v14 “And most of the brothers, having become confident… are much more bold”
v20 “It is my eager expectation and hope that… Christ will be honored in my body”
v12 “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel”
v5 “because of your partnership in the gospel”; v7 “you are all partakers with me of grace”
v19 “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…”
v9 “it is my prayer that your love may abound… with knowledge and all discernment
Questions for Reflection
Do you believe God is actively at work in the world? If so, how does that work? What does it mean? If not, why not?
Do you have confidence God’s plans and purposes will ultimately come about? What is your basis for believing that? Are you confident God’s plans are good?
What are your expectations about the intersection between your plans and God’s plans? What assumptions do you have? What fears? What don’t you understand?
How do you experience opposition? What do you think, feel and do when something or someone gets in the way of your aspirations?
How can you cultivate an eye for good? What can you do to perceive opportunities or recognize things to be grateful for?
What are good ways to honestly and courageously face failure or disappointment?
How do you sustain longing for what is good and act for it, without giving up or getting cynical?
In Philippians the pattern of Jesus willingly experiencing humiliation, and God exalting him is presented as a way to frame our own experience. How can this guide our decisions and actions? How is trust in Christ essential for properly facing opposition?
Prayer of Confession
Our God, the creator of heaven and earth: we marvel at the wisdom of your ways, from the work of creation through the on-going work of sustaining and providing for your people. We confess we fail to trust you, and don’t respond well to not understanding what you are doing. We are frustrated in our own aspirations, and troubled by a world that seems invested in its own demise. We see that our hopes are misplaced, and our dreams self serving. We do not seize every occasion to honor Christ in our bodies; we often do the opposite. Forgive us. With the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, strengthen us for the work you are continuing to do in us, and grant us patience until the day you bring it to completion. Cause our love to abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment. Amen.