Guatemala and Philippians 1–Devotional Thoughts

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Disclaimer–I usually have posts edited for grammar…etc.  However, due to being out of the country and wanting to post thoughts quickly, a simple spelling check and one quick read through is all I can manage.  Forgive mistakes that are no doubt present.

As we rode the bus to the village we are working in while here in Guatemala, our group spent some quiet time in the book of Philippians.  As always, God was faithful to impress on my heart some truths that help me persevere in the faith, understand His plan a bit more clearly, and love Him more deeply. 

As Paul writes to the church in Philippi, he begins by thanking God for them.  His prayers are filled with joy because of their “partnership in the gospel” (1:5).  I take that to mean that Paul is overjoyed when thinking about the Philippians because he is thankful that they are one in Christ and that they are partnering together to further the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He would go on to say as much as Paul speaks of how the Philippian Christians are “partakers…of grace” along with himself.  They have experienced the grace of God in their lives as is evident through their relationship with Jesus and they are working alongside him to defend the gospel (1:7).

So, my first thought today as I rode a bus with some Oak Park believers, as well as believers from a church in Alabama, was that God has blessed me with brothers and sisters around the globe that have (1)  by God’s grace, been transferred from death to life and (2) that there are believers all across the planet that are laboring to see the kingdom of God driven forward.  As Paul was thankful for the Philippians, I am thankful for the Westwood team and all those around the world that are seeking to spread the good news of Jesus to a lost and dying world.

As I continued reading I was also struck by Paul’s response to hardship.  Anytime you feel the need to respond negatively to trial or hardship in your life…read Paul!  This is a man who saw suffering through God-colored glasses.  He looked through the pain and sorrow and saw God standing on the other side with a plan in place that couldn’t be shaken.  Here in Philippians Paul is in prison.  Did he complain?  Nope.  He relays to the Philippian Christians that “what has happened…has really served to advance the gospel” (1:12).  Because Paul was in prison, he had the chance to share Jesus with those who guarded him.  And the result was that the gospel had “become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest…” (1:13).  And not only that, Paul’s faithfulness spurred others on as “most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14). 

Here is a man who saw through his present hardship and saw God doing something great.  Like Joseph thousands of years before him, and unlike Naomi in the first chapter of Ruth, Paul saw God’s purposes and goodness behind even the hardest of times.  Remember Joseph?  Remember how he remained faithful even after betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, and even placed in jail?  He would say later, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant if for good” (Genesis 50:20).  Joseph knew that God was working a good and gracious plan even through suffering.  That is something Naomi missed in the first part of Ruth.  She loses her husband and her sons while living in a foreign land.  She sees this as a “bitter” (1:13, 20) hand that she is dealt.  She comes to the point where she says, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (1:21).  She seems to have been missing the goodness of God in the midst of her trial (although later she gets it).  Paul is more like Joseph than Naomi.  He sees that this plan is working for the good of Paul and the glory of God.

As we suffer (minimally) this week for the gospel, in whatever ways that may be, we remember that God is the Lord of history.  That even in hard times, God is working all things “together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  William Cowper catches the idea as beautifully as anyone. 

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.”

Today I am reminded that there are hundreds of thousands of serious believers around th globe that have experienced the amazing  grace of God and are seeking to see others do the same.  They are my partners in the gospel.  I am thankful for them all.  This day has also reminded me that through the dark, hard, and seemingly godless times, God has not abandoned His people.  He is always working…behind the trials that He brings, He hides a smiling face…for our good and His glory. 


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