Take a journey with me, a journey of imagination, back two thousand years in time. Envision an old man as he gazes out the window of a Roman prison. See how stooped he is? All angles and curves. Blame his bent back on the miles traveled and the beatings endured. He received thirty-nine lashes on five different occasions. He was beaten with rods on three. Scars spiderweb across his skin like bulging veins. He was once left for dead. He has been imprisoned, deserted by friends and coworkers, and has endured shipwrecks, storms, andstarvation.
He’s probably half-blind, squinting just to read. What’s more, he is awaiting trial before the Roman emperor. Nero has learned to curry the favor of the Roman citizens by killing believers and this man, Paul, is the best known of all.
As if the oppression from the empire weren’t enough, Paul also bears the weight of newborn churches. The members are bickering. False preachers are preaching out of pride and envy.
So much for the easy life of an apostle. His future is as gloomy as his jail cell.
Yet to read his words, you’d think he’d just arrived at a Jamaican beach hotel. His letter to the Philippians bears not one word of fear or complaint. Not one! He never shakes a fist at God; instead, he lifts his thanks to God and calls on his readers to do the same.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Paul’s prescription for anxiety begins with a call to rejoice. But how can a person obey this command? Rejoice always? Is it possible for any person to maintain an uninterrupted spirit of gladness? No. This is not Paul’s challenge. We are urged to “Rejoice in the Lord.” This verse is a call, not to a feeling, but to a decision and a deeply rooted confidence that God exists, that he is in control, and that he is good.
Your Belief System is Key
Your belief system has nothing to do with your skin color, appearance, talents, or age. It is the set of convictions upon which your faith depends. If your belief system is strong, you will stand. If it is weak, you will falter.
Belief always precedes behavior. To change the way a person responds to life, change what a person believes about life. The most important thing about you is your belief system.
Paul’s was Gibraltar strong.
Paul believed that “God highly exalted [Jesus] and gave Him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9 HCSB).
Conditions might have been miserable in the prison, but high above it all was a “God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
To read Paul is to read the words of a man who, in the innermost part of his being, believed in the steady hand of a good God. He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love. He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.
Good and Sovereign God
God’s answer for troubled times has always been the same: heaven has an occupied throne.
The next time you fear the future, stabilize your soul with the sovereignty of God. He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe.
Rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty! Rejoice in what he has accomplished. Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do. Fill your mind with thoughts of God.
“He is the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25). “[He] is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “[His] years will never end” (Ps. 102:27 NIV).
He is king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, and overlord of all history.
An arch of his eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to his. Every crown is papier-mâché next to his. He consults no advisers. He needs no congress. He reports to no one.
He is in charge.
Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems of the world and bend our knees, and there we are reminded over and again of the secret of Paul’s worry free living- our lives are forever held secure in the loving hands of a good and sovereign God!
With more than 125 million products in print, Max Lucado is America's bestselling inspirational author. His latest release is Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World (September 2017). He serves the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy. www.MaxLucado.com
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