CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 1, specifically, Philippians 1:19-20.
Reflection | When we last left Paul, he was rejoicing in the Lord – rejoicing despite being mistreated, not by the Romans, but disappointingly by fellow Christians! The basis for Paul’s joy is two-fold. First, personal conflicts aside, Paul rejoices because the good news about Jesus continues to be spread far and wide. And now, Paul offers another reason for his joy – his certain assurance that God holds the future – specifically, his future in His hands.
Paul writes, “I know what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (v. 19). Something not to miss here is that Paul’s confidence is placed in how God would have things to work out rather than how he, Paul, might orchestrate what comes next. This is underscored as he further declares, “now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by my life or my death” (v. 20). Paul sits behind bars. As he awaits his trial, he is potentially staring death in the face. And yet Paul asserts with deep conviction that he KNOWS how this is going to turn out. One way or the other, he will be freed from his prison cell either in his release or even in his execution.
For most of us, our moods tend to swing based on the results we get in life. When things are going well, life is good. When things are not going so well, life is not so good anymore. And if we’re facing a possible death sentence, our outlook is anything but positive. This tendency doesn’t change all that much if we insert “God” in place of the word “life.” How we feel about the Lord – His relationship to us and our relationship to Him – and our willingness to trust God going forward, fluctuates based upon our circumstances.
Paul’s outlook, however, is not dependent upon his situation; it is shaped by his relationship with Christ. Paul doesn’t just invoke Jesus’ name when he gets into a bind and needs help. Paul places not just part of his life but all of it into the open hands of Christ. His joy comes not from knowing about Jesus but from being intimately aware of how Jesus is present and moving in, with, and through him. Notice, adopting and maintain this posture is not something Paul does on his own. No, Paul reveals to live like this, he depends on the prayers of the Philippians “and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (v. 20).
Sometimes people ask, “If God is in control over all things, why pray?” However, we ought to look at it the other way. If God is not in control over all things, THEN why pray? Why bother? However, because God is sovereign, in control over all things, then we can and we should pray because we are talking to the One who truly can make a difference, the One for whom nothing is impossible. Paul relies, he glories in the prayers of the Philippians because Paul trusts they are going to pray him into God’s will, whichever way this will go.
For Paul, the prayers of the people go hand in hand with the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that connects and holds together the Body of Christ. The Spirit prompts and works through the prayers of the Philippians. And Paul regards those prayers as being answered by the wisdom and perseverance the Spirit continues to provide to him during a trying time.
How can we live out of our confidence in Christ, rather than whatever mood we’re in because of our current situation? By seeking and asking for the prayers of others who walk with us in following Jesus. And in tandem with this, through our own prayers and internalization of the word of God, by getting to better know, by learning to recognize and to rely on the voice and movement of the Spirit of Jesus Christ both with, in and through us.
Consider and Discuss | Where is your outlook on life being shaped more by your circumstances than your relationship with Christ? Who will you ask to pray for you so that you would remain focused on Jesus and more in tune with His Spirit at work in you?
Prayer Focus | Lord, teach us to view our lives not based on where we are but on who You are. Guide us to draw our confidence from the perspective, the power, and the all-sufficient provision of Your Spirit – from You – the One who is always with us and for us. Amen.