Here's Pastor Shim's sermon from January 30. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
(Daniel6:16-24; Phil. 1:12-18)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds"(James 1:2). This advice sounds like a fairy tale; a positive attitude is possible in what looks like a bad situation. No one knows how a situation changes, but we can count on God's unchanging faithfulness.
Today we will learn about Paul's joyful attitude in Christ even though he was in prison. Paul taught from his Lord, Jesus Christ, the secret of joy despite the bad circumstance. "Paul actually viewed his circumstances as God's tool to advance the gospel in Rome." -Ralph Jutman
1) Paul's imprisonment meant to advance the gospel. (Philippeans1:12-20)
a. Paul told us that he rejoiced at the advancement of the gospel, despite his own suffering in prison. “...What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ ....most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly....Some preach...supposing that they can stir up trouble for me...." Paul didn't care about people's good or bad motives as long as the gospel was preached. (Philippeans1: 18-20) “... What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice."
Paul asked for prayer and hoped "by the spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." Paul's wish was to honor Christ with his testimony, by death or life. That was Paul's secret of joyful living. He was totally and fully committed to Christ. And he had no fear of man, only fear of God and faith and love for Christ and His cause.
"Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake the world for Christ." – John Wesley
Paul loved God with his total being and he lived to show it. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
2) Paul's dilemma was to live or die (Philippians 1:21-26). Paul faced two equally attractive choices, death and living. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
“Living and dying, Paul knew how to do both. He knew how to die to self and live for others. He knew to dedicate each moment of life to the service of the church and its message. He knew how to trust in a God who would never forsake him, even as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death." -- Lowell D. Streiker
Paul compared the two choices he was facing. For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain. For me to live is fruitful labor. Better for Philippians’ progress is to live. To depart to be with Christ would be joyful. He wanted your joy in Christ, even though he would rather be with Christ. Paul expected a good outcome for his beloved friends if he was alive. He was expecting God's deliverance!
We worship the God of Daniel who can deliver from the den of lions. Daniel disagreed with the decree of King Darius of Medes and Persians who declared anyone caught praying to any god or man other than King Darius for the following thirty days would find himself thrown into the lions’ den. That's what happened to Daniel. So the king gave the order and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you" (Daniel 6:16). The king spent the night without eating and sleeping, worrying about Daniel. He knew Daniel was a righteous man, even though he ordered Daniel thrown into the lions’ den. The next morning the king got up early and found out that Daniel was alive. He was overjoyed. The king wrote a new decree that cancelled his previous one. "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed; his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:26-28).
That's why Paul could tell us to expect good out of a bad situation, because our God is able to work a miracle. Like Daniel, Paul chose to suffer for Christ for the joy set before him. Paul wanted us to remember the joy in Christ outweighs any suffering in this life. He never said to seek suffering, but to rejoice in Christ since He is our all-sufficient sustainer. “If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: •0, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!" – Martin Luther
Paul's word to the Philippians church is applicable for us today. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27). We can expect good from a bad situation if we put our trust in God and live for him. The God of Daniel, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Paul is with us. If God was with them, his grace is sufficient in any bad situation that we find ourselves in. Let's expect God to be greater than any bad situation - Daniel proved that!
Pastor Shim Habte
Willows United Methodist Church
544 N. Shasta St.
Willows, CA 95988