in the Christian Library
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. Our lesson text speaks to the greatest enemy of joy
-- dire circumstances!
1. Who is there that has not sacrificed joy, contentment,
and happiness because he/she allowed circumstances to control them instead
of them controlling circumstances.
2. Who is there that fails to find joy because:
a. Friends have turned on them with bitter and hurting actions or words.
b. One's family may have acted in a way to bring shame and reproach.
c. One's husband or wife seems to love and care less than before.
d. The boss or fellow-workers make the daily job almost
3. Our text speaks clearly to all and encourages us not to succumb to the ever present threat posed by bad circumstances.
II. In our present text Paul shows us that whatever our
circumstances in life may be, we can overcome them.
1. Paul was in a terrible situation.
a. He was in prison, guarded 24 hours a day by a soldier who was constantly chained to him.
b. Nero reigned as Emperor and would soon pronounce a verdict upon Paul's life.
c. He was in Rome because of bitter hatred and had already spent two years in prison at Caesarea.
d. Yet Paul did not allow circumstances to him or weaken
2. Should one face financial catastrophe and all material
goods perish; should one's health suddenly turn bad; should one's employment
be quickly eliminated -- that one will need the counsel found in the lesson
3. We need this lesson to show us how we can accept and
face dire circumstances as Paul. IF we apply the points in this lesson,
then we will not lose joy when difficult situations arise.
I. As we read these verses we note Inspiration's advice
on how we can be joyful even in the face of bad circumstances.
A. By trusting in the knowledge that God's Will can never
hindered (v. 12-13, 19).
1. Paul could confidently look at life because of he trusted
God. Thus there is never a hint of anger, criticism, or impatience with
his lot in life -- he knew that God was in control (2 Cor. 11:23-27).
"Through all this, Paul had never once been forsaken by
the Lord. God's strength and power had accompanied Paul to endure and to
be delivered. And now in a Roman prison, he was convinced that God would
not forsake him"(Gene Getz, commenting on 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, A
Profile of Christian Maturity, page 64).
2. Note v. 16 -- "set" -- "appointed," "put here." He
stood there not from miscalculation, or chance, but by God's deliberate
3. Whenever one develops this steadfast trust and faith
in God's control, he will be able to accept life's ills much better!
B. By realizing that good will eventually result (v. 14).
1. Note Hebrews 12:11 -- "afterward" -- There is always
an afterward and this must be remembered.
2. In our context the good which resulted was seen in
the brethren's willingness to boldly preach and teach Christ!
3. No matter how great the problem appeared, Paul was
able to see some good which resulted.
4. Those who are caught up in circumstances often fail
to see any good because they are not looking for it -- they limit their
UNDERSTANDING THE PROVIDENCE OF OUR GOD
A man once visited one of the great museums desiring to
see a tapestry that was well known. As the man stood before the hanging
he could not make sense of the scene. He knew it was to depict a town scene
with men, horses, and roads, but to him it seemed a continuous nonsense.
There was neither head or foot and it seemed a total confusion of threads
and colors. But then it occurred to him that he was looking at it from
the wrong side. As he stepped around to look at the tapestry from the proper
perspective, what formerly was confused and meaningless became exact proportions.
Such is often true with the providential workings of God. If we look without
faith we see nothing but nonsense and disorder. But if we look from heaven's
perspective we will find that all events fit in exact proportion and a
beautiful history will unfold clearly depicting the great care and consideration
of the Almighty One above!
C. By resolving that we will not allow the petty actions
of others blind us to true joy (v. 15-18).
1. Paul had to deal with some pretty discouraging people.
a. They were mean and selfish, using Paul's problems to
b. They were envious of Paul and insincere.
c. "They were self-seeking opportunists, promoting themselves
at Paul's expense. Perhaps they had enjoyed some prominence in the church
before he arrived, but had been eclipsed since he came to the city. By
taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment, they may have hoped to recover
their former popularity. They may have supposed that he would bitterly
resent their success (just as they did his) and his imprisonment would
become all the more galling to him. If so, they failed to reckon with the
greatness of the man" (Kent).
2. But Paul refused to let such petty people rob him of
his joy -- He even still found good resulting from such actions (v.18).
3. How often have we lost hours of joy because we sat
and bemoaned what someone unjustly said about us! Let us look at Paul and
respond as he did!
D. By a stubborn refusal to allow circumstances to control
your life and thinking (v. 20).
1. Paul was confident that whatever happened, he would
make sure Christ was exalted!
2. Should we make this same resolve we will find joy and
happiness which has eluded us!
3. Whatever happens, let us use that to God's glory! Will
you accept this great challenge?
E. By developing the proper philosophy of life (v. 21-23).
1. Unhappiness often results when we forget our purpose
in living -- to serve and glorify God, not self!
2. Paul found life joyous because he focused everything
on Christ -- For him life held joy and death held joy (cf. Ro 14:8).
3. One's philosophy and goals of life determine how happy he is. For instance note v. 21 -- For many it is impossible to read it as Paul wrote it. They have to change it. . .
a. "For me to live is money and to die is dread."
b. "For me to live is fame and to die is to lose all."
c. "For me to live is entertainment and to die is great
4. The Christian has the philosophy of life which gives the best now and the best in the future. And this cannot be taken away no matter how bad things get for us!
F. By acknowledging your own personal worth and achievement
1. This is not pride or arrogance but a mature understanding
of one's worth and good.
2. It is a source of joy for each to know that he/she
is a factor of good for another.
II. Briefly note some practical lessons which arise from
A. One's attitude demonstrated in trials and troubles
will affect everyone around him (v. 14).
1. Had Paul become depressed by circumstances the brethren
would not have been so bold.
2. 1 Sa 14:6-23 -- Through Jonathan and his armor-bearer
Israel was encouraged to fight.
3. Remember that others are watching you and will take
courage in your actions to overcome trials of their own.
B. We note that one may react two ways to circumstances
in life: (1) Sit in self-pity; (2)Take advantage of every circumstance
1. Paul viewed his chains not as a curse but as an opportunity!
2. Sometimes God places "chains" on His people to get
them to do a particular chore.
a. An illness may be a chain to help one develop and mature
patience, trust, and confidence in God.
b. Young mothers may feel chained to the home, but the
care and love shown there will be used by God.
c. Circumstances can help us grow by humility, soul searching,
and making decisions.
d. Note: Whatever "chains" God places upon us we can use
them to His glory if we will search for the proper way!
3. "The secret is this: you look upon your circumstances
as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel, and you rejoice
at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not
C. We note the way to react to criticism.
1. Not with equal amounts of criticism and rebuttal.
2. There must be love, joy, and thanksgiving for any good
which is accomplished!
3. There must be willingness to put aside ourself and
stress only Christ Jesus!
I. We have only touched the depth of this passage which
tells us how we can be happy even in the face of dire ills.
1. I encourage you to review the lesson text and study
the points suggested.
2. God's message--We do not have to be controlled by circumstances,
we can be their masters and control how we act with them!
II. Perhaps the key factor which undergirds this entire
section is faith in God's Providence!
1. "All through the history of the world God has taken
what seemed to be a hindrance and obstacle, and, if only His servants were
patient and true to Him, has converted it into a pulpit from which they
can better preach the truth. Remember how Nebuchadnezzar harried the Jews.
It seemed as if the holy city was never again to wield an influence for
good over the world; but the chosen people were scattered with their Scriptures
throughout the world, and the word of God was magnified much more than
it could have been by their concentration in their own city. [The devil
stirred up the Jews to murder Christ, but the grain of wheat which fell
into the ground to die, no more abode alone, but has covered the world
with the harvests of rich grain. The Emperors persecuted the early Church,
but only drove the disciples everywhere preaching the Word"] (Meyer).
2. "So it will be in our life. Let us begin to rejoice
at difficulties, to rejoice when Satan rages. The power which is used against
us, God will convert for our good; only let us always cherish the eager
expectation and hope that Christ may be magnified in our body, whether
by life or by death, whether by joy or by shame, whether by good fortune
or by misfortune, whether by success or by failure" (Meyer).
Copyright 1998 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no
cost to others.