Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Bad Situation

Have you ever notice how prayer request are always geared toward people wanting things to get better. Here are some typical prayer requests: Sally just found out she has cancer. Pray for a complete healing and for a quick recovery. Or, Bill just lost his job, pray that the Lord would help him find something quick. He has a wife and three kids. Or, Mary's son just broke his leg playing basketball. Pray that he would receive a complete recovery and that the pain would be kept to a minimum. Do those sound familiar?

The reason I bring this up is that I heard a verse the other day that I have heard many times but when I heard it this time it gave me a whole new perspective on the situations we often find ourselves in.

Philippians 1: 12 - Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
What happened to Paul that advanced the gospel? Was he delivered from a shipwreck? Did he heal someone important? Did he survive being stoned so he could preach another day? Was he knocking on death's door and was miraculously healed?

Philippians 1: 13, 14 - 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Because Paul was arrested and put in prison the gospel was advanced. It was not a good thing personally that Paul was arrested and put in prison but it was a good thing spiritually. Paul was put in prison but he was taking advantage of the situation to share the gospel with the guards who were chained to him. He could not get away from them and escape and they could not get away from him as he shared his faith!

As I sat there and let that sink in I could not help but think of how we pray for adversity. We seem to always pray that things would get better. That is not a bad thing per say but is it a good thing? When we pray that things would get better for us are we, in essence, saying that nothing good can come of this bad situation, only if it turns out good. The only way the gospel can advance is if Sally is healed or if Bill finds a good job right away or if Mary's son's leg is miraculously healed so he can get back to playing basketball?

I sometimes wonder if the way we pray is tied to our understanding of who God is and how he works. God can be glorified in success or in failure. He can receive glory in health and in sickness. He can advance the gospel in successful marriages and in broken ones. He can use us to evangelize whether we have a large public platform or no platform at all. I think Paul's life experiences helped him truly understand the verse we refer to as Romans 8: 28:

Romans 8: 28 - 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Whether we are sick or well, employed or unemployed, a prisoner or a free, God can and does use all situations to advance the gospel and bring himself glory. Most of the time we simply need to get out of the way and realize what is going on. We have to realize that the world does not revolve around our happiness but is revolves around God's glory.

Philippians 1: 12 - Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  -- Can you say the same?!?

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