This passage has one of my all time favorite verses in the Bible. It is 1:6 “Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This is a great passage and has met a lot to me over the last year and a half. The first time I ever remember hearing this passage was at Saddleback Church which is really where I started to kick off a new segment of my life. That was a weird time, I had moved out to California, I wanted to find a church so I had some people to hang out with since the guys at work were all older then me and went out to bars or spent time with their families. And God started working on me here…first in worship, where it felt like I was back at workcamp, and then I went to crave, the young adult service and small groups, and I made friends. In fact if you are reading this and don’t know one of them we need to have a little talk to catch up, becaus this is where I met Lauren. But it was later that I felt like I heard a little voice say “OK, youv’e had your fun, it’s time to listen to me and what I have to say.” I almost seem to remember God saying it more then once. I think one was while I was walking from the parking lot to main building at the church and then agian during worship, so I’m pretty sure now that God wanted to drive this point home. But I digress, Saddleback was awesome for me. I know Jeff isn’t too fond of what he calls the “guilt letter” that comes out of Saddleback (and you can’t blame him since that church is freakin’ huge and has it’s fingers into more ministries then the local vineyard has members), but if you want to know something about the place other then the “Purpose Driven Church” model that almost every church that is growing is using some derivative of, talk to me or Lauren, because we can tell you a little more then just about how great Rick Warren is. More importantly we can tell you how we met. So I have fond memories about that place and I can go on for a long time about it, but most of what you need to konw is I read Ephesians and Phillipians straight through for the first time while I was attending this church and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things. So, on to the questions.
Q: Why do you think Paul was able to be positive in the face of difficult circumstances? What difficult situations are you facing in your life right now? How might God use these? What can you choose to thank him for?
A: Paul was able to be positive in these circumstances because he new the gospel was being spread even while he was in chains. He also knew that since he was being persecuted in the name of Christ he was blessed. I have recently felt very persecuted for trying to extend a hand to people. God taught me that it isn’t always for naught the other day, by answering a prayer of mine, but none the less that doesn’t make it easy to deal with. One of the things that comforts me is that I know that I am blessed for trying to reach out to people and introduce them to the word of God, and subsequently being persecuted for it. Also, it is good to love your enemies and to do good to those who hate you, (Luke 6:27 my paraphrase) so Paul was praying for his enemies, i.e. the people that locked him up, and this is what I plan to do. If Christianity was easy everyone would do it, which I think is summed up in Luke 6:32-36 says “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” So I figure if I can do this, I can be happy about being in Jail, and for now I can just try to do what this passage says and try to be happy about it. Especially since I think that God can use a joyful follower, even in bad circumstances, to produce good things where if a person is bitter God just moves on to someone else because the only seeds that person sows are bitter ones. I choose to thank God for allowing me a time to develop my character in a way that will make it easier to persevere in the face of ridicule and mocking. I thank God for showing me how to pray for people that I don’t think deserve the time or energy. I thank God for reminding me about some of my own faults so that I can remain humble, and so that I can see where people are about to, or are stumbling where I have in the past. And I thank him for allowing me to learn how to pick those people up after they fall, and for showing me when it isn’t my job to jump in and help those who stumble, but it is his job and he can handle it better then I can on my own. So anyway, I’m tired, and I’ve gone almost into ranting mode, so I will sleep now.