“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.”
Have you ever had anyone…
- lie about you
- put words in your mouth
- take apart years of work by their “progress”
- hate you – because
- put you in the worst light possible
- ridicule your every move
- stir up trouble around you
- rejoice in your failure
- point out everything negative about you
- be the voice of non-support
- and have the ministry of ridicule?
Would you like a list of names? We all have difficult individuals who intersect our lives. We could pen up the hard feelings, animosity, anger, rage and get an ulcer, or we can forgive! Here is the gold standard – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this – while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Even in the model prayer, we have the counsel, “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In 1976, Contemporary Christian Artist, Larry Norman, recorded “Shot Down” on his album “In Another Land.” If you like classic rock, you may want to find his music. The first lines of the song are,
“I’ve been shot down, talked about
Some people scandalize my name
But here I am, talkin’ ’bout Jesus just the same
I’ve been knocked down, kicked around
But like a moth drawn to the flame
Here I am, talkin’ ’bout Jesus just the same”
Here is a demanding, long-range, humbling challenge for you. Pick a difficult person in your life and be Jesus to them. Minister to their needs, ask about theirs struggles, pray for them, and steer your ship around them to focus on the ministry God has given you.
My mentor, Derric Johnson says, “Bitterness demands that you live in the past. Forgiveness allows you to change your future.”
- Do you have a critical person in your life that matches the description above?
- How have you responded to their hurtful words and actions?
- In what ways does today’s reading challenge you to respond differently?
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you
Explain – what does the passage mean?
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today?
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?