Expectations! We all have them. We expect that people will be nice to us, that we’ll have good health, great marriages, faithful friends, successful careers. But what do we do when life doesn’t live up to our expectations? In Philippians 1, Paul shows us the way. He faced broken expectations of place, people, and the future, yet he remained surprisingly upbeat.
Paul was stuck in prison—not a great place to be! When we get stuck in a tough marriage, an unrewarding job, or a challenging neighborhood, it’s easy to get discouraged. But Paul was wonderfully positive. He said that his suffering helped to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12).
Maybe people haven’t lived up to our expectations. Paul likely expected other believers to encourage him. Instead, some were actually glad he was in jail and were preaching out of “envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15). Paul’s response? “Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).
Maybe it’s an uncertain future—the loss of a spouse, a job transfer, or a health crisis. Paul knew that at any moment Nero might give the order for his execution, yet he declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
Adopt Paul’s only expectation—for Christ to be honored no matter what!
You can expect to enjoy God’s presence when you honor Him with your life.
If we walk in the light as He is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin —1 John 1:7
The Holy Spirit applies or administers the work of the atonement to us in the deep unconscious realm as well as in the conscious realm. And it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse does not refer only to conscious sin, but also to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish.
I must “walk in the light as He is in the light . . .”— not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. If I will walk there, with nothing held back or hidden, then this amazing truth is revealed to me: “. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [me] from all sin” so that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke in me. On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is. The love of God working in me causes me to hate, with the Holy Spirit’s hatred for sin, anything that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.
There is endless talk these days about the looming “fiscal cliff,” the catastrophic economic nightmare that many predict will befall the United States if taxes go up and government spending is significantly cut come January 2, 2013, as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
To be sure, the stakes are high.
But all this conversation about an economic cliff has got me thinking:
Is there a moral cliff? And have we already reached it – or are we walking dangerously close to the edge?
Ironically, one of the reasons we’re on the verge of this fiscal cliff in the first place is that too many have believed for too long that moral problems can be solved or managed through fiscal policy.
In other words, we believe that almost every problem can be fixed by spending money on it.
To be clear, I believe that government can and does provide noble services for the common good. I also believe it can, in certain circumstances, provide an appropriate safety net that prevents an individual or family from spiraling down to a point of no return.
But I also believe that the root of most of our problems is not money. It’s sin and the fallen nature of mankind.
Throw all the government money you have at the problem of abortion and you’ll never get down to the root cause of what prompts a woman to abort her own flesh and blood.
Throw all the money at the plague of poverty and you’ll never get down to solving the most common foundational problems that send someone into it in the first place, which in western nations is usually tied to family breakdown.
There are always going to be consequences to our decisions – and our priorities.
What will come of the fiscal cliff negotiations remains to be seen. What I do know, though, is that if we spent as much time as a nation working and worrying about our moral code as we do our economic well-being, we wouldn’t be standing on the edge of either cliff.
“Then Jacob called for his sons and said: ‘Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.’”—Genesis 49:1
Jewish tradition teaches that when Jacob called his sons around his bed as he was dying, he wanted to reveal to them the secrets about the End of Days. The Sages read Jacob’s words this way: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen in the End Days.” But then, in a staggering anticlimax, what follows is no sort of revelation at all! Jacob proceeds to bless his children and share his dreams for them just as any other parent would.
The Sages suggest that Jacob had wanted to reveal to his children secrets regarding the End Times, but it was not the will of God and so God made him forget them. But if we look closer at the text, perhaps there is a message there after all.
The Talmud tells a story about Rabbi Yehoshuah who asked Elijah the prophet when the Messiah would come. Elijah suggests that he ask the Messiah himself and gives him directions for where to find him. Rabbi Yehoshuah does indeed find the Messiah and he asks his question: “When will you come?” The Messiah replies, “Today!”
The Messiah did not come on that particular day and when Yehoshuah next meets Elijah, he complains that the Messiah lied to him. “He told me that he would come today!” Yehoshuah explains. “He told you the truth!” claims Elijah. “He will come today, ‘Today, if only you would hear his voice’ (Psalms 95:7).” The Messiah is ready to come today – if only we would listen to God’s Word and obey His commands.
Now let’s revisit Jacob’s final message to his children. He wanted to tell them when the Messiah will come and he said, “Assembleand listen, sons of Jacob” (Genesis 49:2). Perhaps Jacob was giving generations to come the following message: If you learn how to unite together and listen to the Word of God, the Messiah will come.
But Jacob’s advice is also helpful for us to weather these turbulent times. First, come together. Unite with Israel and with people who share our common biblical values. Second, listen to His voice. What is God’s voice telling you today? What do you feel in your heart is His will for you? We need to remain steadfast in our commitment to our values and act according to our faith.
Jephthah, the Gileadite, was an able warrior, but he was the son of a wicked woman, and had fled from his relatives and lived in the land of Tob. There certain rascals gathered about him, and they used to go out on raids with him.
After a time the Ammonites made war against the Israelites. Then the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob, and they said to him, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Are you not the men who hated me and drove me out of my father’s house? Why then do you come to me now when you are in trouble?” But the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “This is why we have now turned to you, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites, and you shall be our chief, even over all the people who live in Gilead.” Then Jephthah said to the rulers of Gilead, “If you take me back to fight against the Ammonites and Jehovah gives me the victory over them, I shall be your chief.” The elders of Gilead replied, “Jehovah shall be a witness between us; we swear to do as you say.”
Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him chief and commander over them. Jephthah also made this vow to Jehovah: “If thou wilt deliver the Ammonites into my power, then whoever comes out of the door of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be Jehovah’s, and I will offer that one as an offering to be burned with fire.”
So Jephthah went out to fight against the Ammonites; and Jehovah gave him the victory over them, and delivered them into his hands. But when he came home to Mizpah, his daughter was just coming out to meet him with tambourines and choral dances. She was his only child; besides this one he had neither son nor daughter. So when he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Oh, my daughter, you have stricken me! It is you who are the cause of my woe! for I have made a solemn vow to Jehovah and cannot break it.” She said to him, “My father, you have made a solemn vow to Jehovah; do to me what you have promised, since Jehovah has punished your enemies the Ammonites. But let this favor be granted me: spare me two months that I may go out upon the mountains with those who would have been my bridesmaids and lament because I will never become a wife and mother.” He said, “Go.”
So he sent her away for two months with her friends, and she mourned on the mountains because she would never become a wife and mother. At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did what he had vowed to do, even though she had never been married. So it became a custom in Israel: each year the women of Israel go out for four days to bewail the death of the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.