Sunday, April 14, 2013

Turning Your Weaknesses into Strength

Turning your weaknesses into strengths

Reading: Philippians 1:12-30

The Epistle to the Philippians is one of the Prison Epistles of Paul. He wrote it while in prison in Rome. It is also called the Epistle of Joy and Encouragement in the midst of adverse circumstances. How could Paul in prison write an epistle that expresses profound joy and effuses encouragement to its readers? The reason is that Paul discovered what most of us have never discovered – the secret of strength in weakness.

In my last discussions here with us, we asked and tried to answer two questions:

We first asked: “What is that in your hand?” and we agreed at the end of the discussion that every one of us has something in his hand which he can use to be of service here in this Church and for our God. Again what is that in your hand? – a rod; a needle, or a few stones and a catapult or a pot of alabaster oil? You can use it to serve God and be effective.

We then asked: "What is my excuse for not being effective?" We pinpointed a few things. Whatever may be our excuse, God has an answer. He had answers for all the excuses of Moses. We agreed that many are afraid of being a failure – but we also saw that whosoever God calls, He equips. God requires that we be faithful and available and willing to be used – He will then make us what He wants us to be.

One man who made himself available and was successful was Paul. How could he have done all he did in spite of all the obstacles that faced him? He discovered the secret of success, and followed it. Today, let us learn from the professional and be effective for our God.

1. Overcome Your Fear

Yes, every man, every woman, every child has something he/she is afraid of! Each time you remember it, you step back; but you can overcome that fear. Take a leaf from Ruth – She overcame all her obstacles. What is the secret of overcoming your fear? Let God power your drive! Look at Paul in Philippians 1:12-19, He was in prison and every moment he was chained to Roman soldiers. Stern looking and wicked! But Paul overcame the fear of the soldiers. What helped him to overcome? See it in verse 12: “Furtherance of the gospel”; in verse 13: “my chains are in Christ”; in verse 14: “most of the brethren are much more bold to speak the word without fear”; in verse 15: “some indeed preach Christ”; in verse 16: “the former preach Christ”; in verse 17: “I am appointed for the defense of the Gospel" and in verse 18: “Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yet and will rejoice”. His driving force or motivation force was Christ and Him preached!. Why do you do what you do? Is your driving force the love of Christ and His Gospel? If it is, then you can overcome your fears.

2. Overcome Your Sense of Guilt 

It is one of the greatest obstacles in being effective. Moses would have lost the chance of being used of God because he was thinking negatively – He was overcome by the guilt of the murder he committed before he was forty years old. Paul could have been hindered if he dwelt on his past life of persecuting the Church. In Philippians 3:3-12; “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” He listed those things in his past that could have held him on; but what did he do? In verses 7-12; he tells us what to do with our past in order to be an over-comer. Forget your past and look forward to the future – press on to the mark. Let me tell you one thing you know but which you tend to forget quite often. It is that every one of us has a guilty past! There is something in your past and in my past for which you can be ashamed. I once asked a congregation – suppose a new machine has been invented which can focus  your past on a screen and your thought on a screen as you enter this Church for all to see and read; how many will come to Church next Sunday? No one agreed he would come! Do not live in that guilt. Confess it to God and get done with it. If you have, then forgive yourself for God has already forgiven you. You can overcome your guilt and thus become effective for God.

3. Overcome Your Negative Thinking

Think more positively and act positively. Paul could have dwelt in the fact that he was incarcerated in Rome and therefore refuse to do anything. But see how he saw his imprisonment:
In verse 19: – For I know that this will turn out for my salvation
In verse 20: my earnest expectations and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed
In verse 20: Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death.
In verse 21: To live is Christ, to die is gain
In verse 22: This will mean more fruit for my labour
In verse 23: I am hard pressed between the two- not knowing to choose death or life
In verse 24:  You need me – so I choose to live
In verse 25: I know and am confident I shall remain for your progress and joy of faith.
In verse 26: I shall come to you again

Paul mastered the secret of overcoming whatever circumstances he finds himself and turning his weakness into strength. Let us restructure it again:

1. Overcome your fears by making Christ and His Gospel your driving force.

2. Overcome your guilty past by forgetting all that is behind and pressing forward to the mark – that you may lay hold on Christ Jesus and on that for which He has laid hold on you. Ask yourself why has Christ called me to be His disciple? Why am I a member of this Church? Why did God save me? Seek to lay hold on that.

3. Overcome negative thinking by seeing the reasons why whatever is in your life today is there. God has a purpose for your life and for whatever is happening in your life today. Ask yourself – why has God allowed this to come to my life? How can God be glorified and how can I use this situation to further the course of the Gospel?

Paul ends this beautiful chapter of Philippians by giving a few tips to you and I who are affected today. Let us learn from the professional:

a. Let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Do not suffer as an unbeliever or as a busy-body in other people’s affairs

b. Do not be terrified in any way by your adversaries. You have heard this expression often “Tough times never last; but tough people do”. Your present affliction is but for a moment.

c. Remember, it is a part of your calling not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake. If you are suffering for Christ then your calling is sure.

Overcome your present circumstances and soar with Christ.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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