The Earnest EXPECTATIONS in Life
INTRODUCTION: In Proverbs 29:18; we read, "Where there is no VISION, the people perish…" After some one-hundred and thirty years, I sincerely believe that God still has a purpose for this church and the ministry He has established here. We can sit back and praise God for what he has done and how He has led in the past. But churches can't grow and can't live on past accomplishments.
There is nothing worse in a church than a static, stagnate, “this is the way we have always done it” mentality. On the other hand, there is nothing more exciting than a church that is on the move, and striving for the glory of God.
I pray God would help this church to understand that this is a new day!
It demands a new vision.
It demands a renewed dedication.
It demands a renewed determination on the part of believers in today’s congregation.
I believe God will show us what is ahead for the present as well as the future of this ministry, if we prayerfully seek His will.
In Calcutta, India there is a church called the Carry Baptist Church. It's the church founded by the modern day father of missions, William Carry. It is also the church attended by another great missionary, Adoniar Judson. As you enter that church, there is a sign upon the wall which reads, "Attempt great things for God, Expect great things from God." If our church ever wants a motto, that would be a great one to choose, "Attempt great things for God, Expect great things from God."
We know from previous study the Apostle Paul had a great desire to preach the gospel in the imperial city of Rome. Paul reasoned that conquering Rome for Christ would mean reaching thousands with the message of salvation. However, when that desire was fulfilled, he didn't come to Rome as a PREACHER. Rather he came as a PRISONER. Instead of freely walking the streets of Rome, he was behind bars in a Roman prison. Circumstances seemed against him. But…
Paul knew God could turn opposition into opportunity.
Paul knew that human opposition only enhances God's glory.
Many would say, look at this man. He is a failure. He's in jail. However, Paul did not find his joy in ideal circumstances, he found his JOY in winning others to Christ. If his circumstances promoted the "furtherance of the gospel," that was all that mattered!
Reading carefully through the first chapter of Philippians, we discover a number of references to the gospel.
Verse 5 mentions the "fellowship in the GOSPEL."
Verse 7 mentions the "confirmation of the GOSPEL."
Verse 12 mentions the "furtherance of the GOSPEL."
Verse 17 mentions the "defense of the GOSPEL."
Verse 27 mentions the “faith of the GOSPEL."
Paul is saying that he had been put in this DISTASTEFUL and DISTRESSFUL place that he might further the gospel.
In Romans 1:16; Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…”
In I Corinthians 9:16; he also said, "For though I preach the GOSPEL, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the GOSPEL."
Paul was in jail because he had been preaching the GOSPEL. Yet even in jail, he was still preaching the GOSPEL.
His passion was for spreading the GOSPEL of the "Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ" to everyone he could.
His passion was for the great commission that Jesus gave in Mark 16:15; "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Our mandate as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is to preach the GOSPEL. Primarily, that's why God keeps us on this planet.
We are here for one purpose, to carry out the great commission.
We are here for the furtherance of the GOSPEL.
Paul evaluated every circumstance of life in light of this one great passion of his. He considered how every circumstance affected the spread of the GOSPEL.
Let me ask you, is that your passion? Is that our passion as a church?
Do we not have a mandate from Jesus Christ to "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature?"
If we do, then we ought to be evaluating every circumstance of ours in light of this all consuming passion, this passion for spreading the GOSPEL. Paul was in chains and yet:
Because of his chains, Christ was being made known. Verse 13, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other place;…”
Because of his critics, Christ was being preached. Verse 18, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
Because of his crisis, Christ was being magnified. Verse 20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
Now in the midst of what Paul had to endure, he had a tremendous expectation:
First, Paul's expectation gave him his hope for deliverance.
Second, Paul's expectation gave him a re-evaluation of life.
As we return to the first chapter of Philippians, we are going to focus on 1:19-26,
“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (20) According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. (21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (22) But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. (23) For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (24) Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. (25) And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; (26) That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
Now please notice the opening words to verse 26, "For I know…" It would be prudent to say that nobody has all the answers to life's complex problems. Even as believers we do not have all the answers to the complexities of life, even though some times we give that impression. The Bible says there are some things we don't know about. For example,
In Matthew 24:42; Jesus said, "Watch, therefore; for ye KNOW NOT what hour your Lord doth come."
In Roman 8:26; Paul wrote, "For we KNOW NOT what we should pray for as we ought." That's why we need the aid of the Holy Spirit when we pray.
Acts 1:7; Jesus said before going to heaven, "It is NOT for you to KNOW the times… which the Father hath put in His own power."
There are some areas in Biblical knowledge that we just DON'T KNOW. On the other hand, there is so much that we as believers in Christ CAN KNOW. There are some things of which we can have absolute assurance, assurance that the unsaved world doesn't have a clue about.
In I John 5:13; we read, "… I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life…"
In II Timothy 1:12; Paul tells us, "I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
In Job 19:25; Job in the midst of all his troubles said, "I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth."
In Romans 8:28; we read, "And we KNOW that all things work together for good to them that love God… who are called according to His purpose."
We are not infinite, and we are not infallible. But the things that we can know and do know are profound. As a result of our relationship with God, as a result of our new birth in Christ, we can understand the profundities of life.
We can know from WHERE we have come.
We can know WHY we are here.
We can know WHERE we are going.
There is nothing in all this world that is more important than to have the answers to these questions.
Now in verse 19, Paul says "I know that THIS…" What does Paul mean by using the word "THIS" in the passage? Some say the "THIS" has reference to Paul's release from prison. But as the entire passage is read, I don't believe that is correct. In the context, Paul is talking about the tremendous ministry he is having there in Rome. Those chains were not a DEFEAT, they were a BENEFIT.
He had the privilege of leading many of the guards to Christ. Everyone right up to the Emperor felt the impact of this man's testimony and the preaching of the gospel. Even to those who previously would not stand up for Christ, Paul's imprisonment became a stimulus to preach Christ.
So I find it difficult to believe the word "THIS" refers to Paul's physical deliverance from prison. Neither do I believe it is referring to Paul's spiritual salvation. For Paul had been born again while on the road to Damascus some 25 years earlier. So what is Paul taking about? In order to answer this question let me digress for a few moments.
As we read through I Corinthians 12-13, we find believers are referred to as a BODY, known as the church. People today think of the church as an organization. That is not true in Biblical terms.
The church is not an organization. Rather, it is an organism. There is a tendency to run the church like a business or a country club. A Biblical church is not run in that way. A church is run on an entirely different principle, because it is not an organization, but an organism. It is a spiritual body operating under the God head and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
As we read though Ephesians, we see the church depicted as a BUILDING “rightly framed together.” We believe that every time somebody accepts Christ as their personal Saviour, it's like another brick or another block being added to the building God is forming. One day, there will come a time when the last brick will be put into that building. It will be complete. It is then that the Lord Jesus Christ will come back and take that building (the body we call the church) home to glory.
Paul believed in and taught about the imminent return of Jesus Christ. He believed as I do that Jesus could return at any moment. Paul believed that in his day, just as we do in our day. Paul was looking for and living for and motivated by the return of Christ.
What does God use to bring people into His family, into His kingdom? Holding your place here in Philippians, please turn with me to I Corinthians 1:17-18;. We read:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Maybe you are here this morning, listening to the message, and you say, “Does that mean if I just accept the gospel message, God would transform my life?
The emphatic answer is YES! Notice verse 21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The preaching of the Cross is what God will honor.
Notice verses 23-24, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” How desperately we need the PREACHING of the GOSPEL, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we return to Philippians 1, I have said all this because I believe the "this" in Philippians 1:19; refers not to what comes next, but what has preceded in verses 15-17,
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: (16) The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: (17) But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.”
Paul believed that the preaching of Christ and the witness of the gospel would bring about conversions. Therefore, when the building of God's church is completed, "this" shall turn to his own translation.
Paul was not just thinking about his deliverance from prison, he was thinking about his home going. The ultimate release for him would be to die and therefore gain. The preaching of the gospel to the lost, the winning of them to Christ, would bring the Lord Jesus Christ back to take His body, His building, His church unto himself.
Now, my next comments may not be pertinent to your current situation, but allow me to explain.
One of my deepest desires, as Pastor of this church, is to see a steady flow of people coming forward at the invitation, to receive Christ as personal Saviour. I am also sure that is the heart-longing of many people of this church. We want to see folks being moved by the Spirit of God to come forward week after week, sincerely wanting to accept Christ as their Saviour.
If that is not happening, perhaps our level of expectancy is too low. Maybe we are content to say, “What will be, will be. If someone comes forward, that's Good, and if no one comes forward, well, that's the way it is.” Truthfully, how many of us really care?
Let me ask this, what do we, as members of this church, really want God to be doing in our midst? It is no secret that when a congregation really prays and really begs God, there is an increase in the power of the Holy Spirit of God among us.
When that happens, our VISIONS move from fantasy into reality. As a result, we will see sons and daughters, husbands and friends, co-workers and neighbors, as well as your relatives coming to accept Christ as their personal Saviour.
I don't believe God has this church in this place to have empty pews here and there. For far too long we have seen the empty pews, and accepted them. We have said to ourselves, “Who cares if any one fills them, as long as I am here and accounted for.” The problem with that line of thinking is, the vast majority of us are not inviting people to church any more.
We come week after week, and think this is the way it is supposed to be.
We get challenged; sometimes we get stimulated to do something for God; we are moved and impressed. But we don't go out of our way to bring others into the House of God.
Jesus said in the parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14:15-24, in verse 21-23,
"Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor, and the maimed, and the halt (or lame), and the blind…and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, THAT MY HOUSE MAY BE FILLED."
I believe God wants his house filled, even this church house filled. Do you have that same vision? I wonder. Do you see this with your eyes, and believe it in your heart? Not because I desire to see it happen, but because this is Bible thinking. This is what God wants of us, both you and me.
A Chinese proverb reads, "Ideas are funny things, they will not work unless we do."
We need to WORK; we need to WITNESS; we need to PRAY for the mighty power of God to give us boldness to preach the Gospel message.
Paul is saying that the preaching of the cross will one day turn out to be his deliverance. One day the last brick will be added to the building. The last soul will be saved and Jesus will come again. Amen! and Amen! Paul's expectation in the gospel gave him Hope for deliverance.
Now lets move on. In Philippians 1:20-24; we find that Paul's expectation gave him a re-evaluation of life,
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. (21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (22) But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. (23) For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (24) Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Paul’s suffering led him to re-evaluate his life and to find out what things were most important. He faced a difficult future. It was possible that Paul would be found a traitor to Rome and then be executed. His preliminary trial had apparently gone in his favor. The final verdict, however, was yet to come. In the mean time, Paul's conclusion was "The suffering I have gone through let me see that Jesus is the one thing worthwhile in life."
Please notice one word and one phase in verse 20. The word is "ashamed." In our English way of thinking it means "disgrace or dishonor." However in a Biblical sense it means "disappoint." Paul was saying in effect "That in nothing I shall be disappointed…" In Romans 1:16; Paul tells us "For I am not ashamed (disappointed) of the gospel of Christ…" Whatever happened to Paul, he would not be disappointed.
The phrase "Christ shall be magnified in my body" has what meaning? It means Paul was confident that God's will for him was perfect, either by life or by death. I wonder if you have such confidence in God.
Because when life is smooth, it is easy to say, as we often do, "All things work together for good to them that love God." It is easy when you have everything you want, when God blesses you materially and blesses your family.
BUT, It is not so easy at the grave. It is not easy in the face of bitter disappointment, where you wonder if Christ is preeminent. It is not easy in the face of physical pain, where you come face to face with the question of whether health or Jesus is preeminent. It is not easy in the face of financial reversals, or sudden job loss and you wonder which is worthwhile Jesus or a job.
We could go on and on. God has His ways of making us face the issue of WHO or WHAT is preeminent in life. Paul came face to face with that issue and realized "that the sufferings he went through let him see Jesus as the one thing worthwhile in life."
Then how can a mere human being ever magnify the Son of God? Think of it this way. The telescope brings distant things closer, and the microscope makes tiny things look big. To the average unbeliever, Christ is a misty figure in history that lived centuries ago.
Other people and other things are far more important to them. But as unbelievers watch believers go through a crisis experience, they are able to see how big Jesus Christ really is.
Someone said, "THE BELIEVERS LIFE IS A "lens" THAT MAKES A "little Christ" LOOK VERY BIG, AND A "distant Christ" COME VERY CLOSE."
Today you may not be able to see what God is doing in your life. You may resist God's will and drown yourself in self-pity, even in legitimate sorrow. But the day is coming when you will see clearly as you stand before your loving heavenly Father. Then you will look back from a vantage point in heaven and confess that God knew all along what He was doing in your life.
Verse 21 reveals the pivotal point in Paul's life, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The thing that excites us and "turns us on" is the thing that really is "life" to us. In Paul's case, Christ was his life. Verse 21 becomes a test of our lives, as we fill in the blanks. "FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS ____ AND TO DIE IS ________"
"For to me to live is MONEY and to die is to LEAVE IT BEHIND."
"For to me to live is FAME and to die is TO BE FORGOTTEN."
"For to me to live is POWER and to die is TO LOSE IT ALL.
Now we must echo Paul's convictions, if we are going to have JOY in spite of circumstance, and if we are going to have REALITY in the VISION of the "Furtherance of the Gospel" by proclaiming, "FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN."
The things that happen unto me, Are not by chance, I know,
But because my Father’s wisdom, Has willed to have it so.
For the "Furtherance of the gospel" As a part of His great plan,
God can use our disappointments, And the weaknesses of man.
Give me faith to meet them bravely, Trials I do not understand,
To let God work His will in me, To trust His guiding hand.
Help me to shine, a clear bright light, And not to live in vain,
Help me hold forth the Word of Life in triumph over pain.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon, "The Earnest EXPECTATIONS in Life," then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
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