I completed the Ephesians study last week, so the plan is to finish the summer with a study in Philippians. So, here’s what I learned from Chapter 1.
I’ve always loved Philippians. Finding joy in the direst of circumstances. Plus, the love that is shared between Paul and this church. It’s just something awesome. Philippi was the place the Paul met Lydia, cast out the demon possessed, fortune-telling girl, and stayed put in a prison earthquake which led to the conversion of the jailer. I can imagine that in verse 13 when he mentions the fact that the whole palace guard is aware that he is in chains for Christ, that the same jailer connected with that.
But the verse that really stood out for me, or verses, 12-18.
What has happened to me. This unfortunate situation has brought about great fortune. Because of where he is, what he has experienced, doors are opening for Paul. He speaks into the lives of those around him. He makes a difference. It gives purpose to his suffering. That’s something that I realized when I wrote Scars after my first daughter died.
But the next few verses are really what threw me.
It’s something that I have been learning recently, not just in my writing, but in all kinds of communication. I have no control over how anything I say or write or do is received by others. So much energy is used to try to edit and cultivate a message in order to control the outcome. But the reality is I can try to be kind, try to keep in mind the feelings of others when I communicate, but in the end, they decide how to receive it and how they share it. That is their right.
Everything I say will be filtered through other’s emotions, motives, and experiences. If they are set on thinking I’m hateful, then what I say will be hateful. If they were having a bad day, or if something I said was said in a way that has been hurtful to them in the past, it might not be taken well. But if I know my motivations are true, and that I’m doing everything I can to honor God with my words, then I have to let go of the message and trust that God will work through it.
And in verse 18, Paul says, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.” He knew that this wasn’t about him, that people were going to do what they were going to do, but he trusted the message. The truth will always win in the end. God is already on the throne. And if I seek after Him, I cannot go astray.