Wednesday, June 26, 2013

a study in Philippians 4: anxious in prison or free in peace? (part 3)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

As I read these verses in Philippians 4, I'm reminded again of when Paul wrote this letter as a prisoner under house arrest, waiting for sentencing in Rome. As someone who had already been put into prison, Paul knew all too well the fate that likely awaited him. He had already experienced being thrown into a room full of prisoners where overcrowding and lack of hygiene were commonplace. He had undoubtedly known how very cold, dark, damp, and dangerous these surroundings could be.

You see, to be a prisoner in first century Rome was nothing like enduring the conditions of our modern prisons today. There were no parole hearings, no indoor plumbing options, no balanced meals or private cells equipped with comfortable beds. No, imprisonment in that era was viewed to be pretty much the same as death, or worse.

Prisoners would suffer from extreme dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of adequate ventilation. They would face neglect, abuse, disease, and even torture from those entrusted to guard them. There were usually no means to bathe or care for themselves, so inmates would live with unkempt matted hair filled with flees and lice. Their clothes would be soiled to the point of disintegration. Their minds stretched to insanity. In fact, many could not endure the harsh conditions and would often commit suicide. And since their living conditions were already over capacity, remaining prisoners would stack their dead in nearby corners to be collected later by guards. Indeed, the constant physical and psychological distress that was imposed upon those in prison caused many who were sentenced to chose death over incarceration.

And yet, here we see Paul writing the church at Philippi, Telling his fellow Christian brothers and sisters to rejoice, to be gentle, to avoid being anxious about anything. Familiar with wearing chains because he shared his faith, we read the words of a man so deeply in love with his Savior that he actually expresses thankfulness. Why? Because he is free to approach the throne of his King in prayer and petition. Access to his Savior remains most important to Paul - even more than his own life. Yes, with the most unimaginable and horrific conditions ahead, this formerly devout Jewish leader, renowned soldier, and Roman citizen of great stature... who in earthly terms lost all his marbles when he began promoting the Name of Jesus, awaited his trial... awaited standing once again in the midst of human filth alongside criminals and murderers. And in these moments of uncertainty, Paul still instructs his fellow believers to not be anxious about anything.

Now that's truly remarkable peace, isn't it?

That's the faith of someone who trusts that the Lord is nearby and intimately overseeing every detail of his life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to look past his circumstance and believe that God's promises remain forever true. Paul welcomed his Master's perfect presence to dominate over his immense trial and, in turn, enjoyed the honor of being used to share the good news of his Redeemer to this very day.

Only God is able to accomplish such a miracle. Only Jesus can replace immediate hopelessness with eternal, unchanging hope. That is definitely the kind of peace mankind cannot comprehend without the aid of the Savior, isn't it? Yes, that is the love of God that surpasses all human understanding.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Ladies, this peace of which Paul speaks of in these verses is indeed knowable, obtainable, and eternally available to those who follow Jesus. No matter what unspeakable trials we must face in this lifetime, God is still faithful and madly in love with His beloved. He will always prevail. His kingdom will forever reign eternal. His promises will free us of every burden.

Yes, salvation in Christ is very real. So, why allow your heart to be stuck in spiritual prison when you have claimed Jesus? Why be anxious or worried about anything? Instead, come and trust the One who brings true rest. This is why Christians are compelled to rejoice! For nothing on this earth can remove the glory that awaits us in our Messiah's kingdom! This is why we are to learn from Him and adopt his gentleness. This is why Jesus' holy yoke is so wonderfully refreshing and remarkably easy to enjoy. With Him, we can know peace because nothing - not even prison, or sickness, or poverty, or human betrayal, or loneliness, or depression, or brokenness, or loss, or even death... no, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Paul teaches in accordance to God's Word... do not be anxious about anything. For there is a better way... JESUS! Trust that He will provide and protect you. Ask Him to give you whatever you need to fulfill His purpose. Seek Him first in everything, and live forever thankful of His many blessings and loving sacrifice.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

So today, let's rejoice in the Lord always, Ladies! Let me say it again... let's REJOICE! For those who know the Savior are free! Free to enjoy full access to His mighty throne. Free to snuggle in close and enjoy the endless warmth and love of a holy, gentle King. Hallelujah for God's wonderful peace! May we each enjoy the honor to share this good news of our Redeemer to everyone we encounter.



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