The Pursuit of Perspective
Text: Philippians 1:12-30
Proposition: The glory of God’s sovereignty is the righteous passion of God, directing the holy plans of God, through the entirety of the creation of God, for His purpose alone.
Introduction: Getting things into perspective helps us to get a better grip on just who we are and even where we are. For instance consider our everyday experience with daylight. Our sun is so big that, if hollowed out, it could hold 1,300,000 earths. The sun, however, is dwarfed by the star Antares, which could hold 64 of our suns. But Antares is a pipsqueak compared to Hercules, which could hold 100 million Antares. Yet Hercules is a speck compared to Epsilon, the largest known star, which could hold 3 million Hercules. Yet if you look at these in the night sky they are just specks of light. Our sun which dominates the sky in the daytime is perfect for us in terms of the light and heat it generates yet in the context of space it is but a tiny, tiny speck. What makes these planets like Antares and Epsilon seem so small is that they are so far away from us, we need a telescope to get the perspective of their true size. Perhaps in a similar way Jesus can seem very far away, yet when we use the telescope of Scripture we begin to see the scale of Who He is and what He does. This is what Paul is wanting the Philippian church to grasp, the wonder of God’s sovereign plan in Christ and that God’s sovereign hand is unique in each situation..
When Paul was in Phillipi the people there saw the incredible release of Paul and his friend from prison, they saw people coming to Christ and even saw the demons were cast out of a slave girl. Now it’s ten years later and Paul is in prison in Rome. The Philippians were likely wondering why God doesn’t set him free like He did before, where were the miracles, why is there imprisonment? It’s now toward the end of his second year of imprisonment that Paul writes these words of perspective to the Philippian church. Have a look at Philippians 1:12-30.
I. When Difficult Times Fall Upon Good People, The Gospel is Near.
Ravi Zacharias once said that, “God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.” To observe Paul the gifted preacher and skilled missionary being immobilized in a jail cell for two years can seem like God is punishing him or has forgotten him. So look at what Paul does to correct any wrong assumptions that might be on the mind of the Philippian believers. Look at verses 12 to 14. He tells them God has placed him in Rome, captivity is the perfect place; guards are introduced to the gospel; the church is emboldened by Paul’s response to captivity. But particularly look at verse 13, “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” In other words the whole guard, most of whom were not Christian, now see that there is something greater going on here, it has become evident to even the unbelievers that the chains of Paul are in Christ, at Christ’s choice, for the purposes of Christ’s gospel. Not only that but the Christians who barely knew Paul have become confident by his chains. The effect of this is that they are much more bold to speak the word without fear. When difficult times fall upon good people, people in Christ, the Gospel is made near. They gain a perspective they never had before and the wonder of the gospel of Christ is what comes out of their hearts.
Then there is the issue of friendly fire, other Christians who saw Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity for their advancement. They believed that with Paul sidelined their skills at preaching and ministry could now be recognized. Paul says that though their motive was selfish still the gospel is preached. In other words he is aware of the freedom of others being flaunted at him and yet he still maintains a perspective of Christ’s hand in his life. When difficult times fall on God’s people the gospel is made near to them, to comfort them. But even greater than that, the gospel is put in their hearts and in their mouths as the truth that trumps trial.
II. The Certainty of Christ Overcomes The Uncertainty of Trials.
This is all about the transformation of Chance to Providence. If I were to come and ask you to choose heads or tails and then flip a coin, what is at work… chance or providence. The answer is neither, what is at work is cause and effect, which function in the realm of providence and can be used by God to direct the hearts and events of peoples lives to Himself. For instance, the flipping of a coin has the causes of force, starting point and resistance that determine the effect of how it lands, but it all occurs in the realm of God’s sovereign presence. Without Him there wouldn’t even be a coin to flip or a thumb to do it! In essence there is no such thing as chance, there is only cause and effect operating in the realm of God’s sovereignty.
There was a story told of a man whose horse ran away. His neighbor came to him and said “Man, that’s bad luck, your horse is gone”. The man replies, “What do I know about these things?” A few days later the horse came back with 20 other wild horses, and the neighbor came and said, “Amazing, its not bad luck-its good luck, you’ve got 20 more horses”. The man says, “What do I know about these things?” His young son is taming one of the new horses and the horse kicks him and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes and says, “Terrible isn’t it? Your son’s leg is broken, bad luck that these horses came” The man again says, “What do I know about good luck and bad luck?” A few days go by and a bunch of thugs come looking for recruits to join their gang. They’re about to pick this young man but find out his leg is broken. “We don’t want him” they say and move on to the next house. So the neighbor again comes man and says “Good luck isn’t it, your sons leg was broken and he is spared his life.”
In Paul’s life there is no such thing as chance or luck. Did you hear the number of times Paul moved from death to life and back to death again? In verse 19 he’s confident he will be delivered, verse 20 he allows that he may die, verse 24, 25 he’s convinced that he will remain and live, verse 27 he may remain absent. Is it that he’s fickle or is that something higher is at work here? Perhaps it’s the pinnacle statement of verse 21 that really settles it. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”, that is, Paul is secure in God. He has come to know, believe and move in the glory of God’s sovereignty which is the righteous passion of God, directing the holy plans of God, through the entirety of the creation of God, for His purpose alone. Righteous passion, holy plans, entirety of creation… all for His purpose alone. Paul not only knew he was a part of God’s purpose, he knew that the righteous passion of Christ Jesus is for the glory of the Father and that he, Paul, was caught up in Christ in those holy plans.
Learn to shift the perspective from you and your life to Christ and His glory. Could we ever come to the point that we would say, “It is more for Christ’s sake that we are saved, than for our sake.” It will be more for Christ’s sake that we live or suffer or die, all point through Christ to the glory of God. And what is the glory of God but the revealed truth of who God is, the enormity of love in the midst of holiness, omnipotence moving with mercy and grace, exercising both forgiveness and judgment, being both Almighty and Father, the omnipotent sovereign glory of God. It is this perspective that will stop division and strife, struggles for power and control, issues of priority and commitment, the disciplines of giving and loving… that for us, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Listen to Paul’s words in verses 29, 30, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
The Philippians needed to have this perspective of God’s sovereignty and how God uses the certainty of Christ not only to overcome all trials but to glorify God. This would guide their next steps of faith and it will guide ours as well.