Craig Smith - The Power of Perspective
Welcome to Mission Hills, so glad to have you with us this weekend. Who’s ready to hear some powerful life-changing truth from God’s Word? Well, I really believe God has something powerful in store for us today. For the last few weeks, we had been walking through the Book of Philippians, uncovering all the pieces to this thing that Paul calls the secret to being content in any and every situation. And today we’re gonna wrap it up by finding that one last piece of the puzzle. One of the things we’ve seen over the last several weeks is that we can’t look to our circumstances for contentment because, unfortunately, even if our circumstances are good, they’re also going to change. And so, if we look to circumstances for our contentment, as soon as our circumstances change, our contentment goes away. So, we can’t look to our circumstances for contentment. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible not to look at our circumstances, right?
I mean, they’re right in front of us, they surround us. So, how do we stop looking at our circumstance? And the answer is we don’t. What we’re gonna uncover today is this truth that the key isn’t to stop looking at our circumstances entirely, the key is to start looking at our circumstances through a particular perspective, through a particular lens, which is gonna allow us to see some things which lead to contentment regardless of the circumstances. And so, here’s just kind of the question that we need to ask ourselves today, “What perspective can I take? What perspective can I take on every situation that will allow me to be content in any situation?” That’s the big question we’re gonna ask and answer today.
Why don’t you go out and grab a Bible, so and making a way to the Book of Philippians, we’re gonna be picking up in chapter 4 starting in verse 10.
Now, while you’re making your way there, let me set the stage one last time. So, Paul is writing this from prison in Rome. And there’s an irony to that because Paul wanted to go to Rome, he had a dream to go to Rome. He had been praying to get to Rome and his dream was that he would preach the Gospel in Rome, that the Gospel would invade the capital of the Roman Empire. And as the Church was strengthened, as the Church grew, it will become kind of a launching pad for taking the Gospel out into the rest of the world. So that’s what Paul wanted, but that’s not what he got. Paul is writing this from Rome, but he’s writing this from prison in Rome. He’s not there as a preacher, he’s there as a prisoner, which really felt like, I’m sure, that it kind of was derailing his dream. It felt like an obstacle to what he was hoping he would see God do there in Rome.
Now, while he was in prison in Rome, some of his friends in the City of Philippi heard about it and they very graciously sent a gift with a man named Epaphroditus, who brought this financial gift to help support Paul in his imprisonment and maybe even to continue his ministry, assuming that everything kind of played out okay with his trial that he was waiting for. And it’s here, as he wraps up the letter, that he kind of really focuses in on this gift that they had sent and he wants to say thank you. But in the process of saying thank you, Paul actually gives us the punchline to the entire Book of Philippians. Why don’t you go ahead and look with me chapter 4 verse 10 he says this, he says, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, you’ve always been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.”
So, he’s not saying that they had made any kind of mistake here when he says they renewed their concern, he’s saying, “For a long time there was no tangible way for you to express your concern for me, but as soon as you heard that I had a tangible need, you immediately jumped in and you supplied that need. So, I’m just really grateful for you,” he says. Now, in verse 11 he says, “I’m not saying this because I’m in need.” In other words, “I’m not telling you thank you for the gift you’ve given because I need something more, right?” He’s saying, “No, I’m grateful but I’m not saying it’s because I’m in need for I have learned,” he says “the secret, I’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty, and I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all of this through him who gives me strength.”
That’s another one of those Christian catchphrases. We print it on things, Hobby Lobby is filled with items that have that verse on it, right? And maybe you’ve seen a different translation. Maybe you’ve seen a translation says, “I can do all things through him or through Christ who gives me strength.” And the only problem with saying, “I can do all things,” as opposed to what the NIV says here, “I can do all these things,” is if we see it as, “I can do anything,” we won’t have a problem because Paul’s not saying, “I can do anything imaginable.” He’s not saying, “If you can think it up, I can do it through Christ.” I mean, he’s not saying, for instance, you know, “I can walk through walls through the power of Jesus.” Because if that’s what he meant, he wouldn’t still be in jail, right?
He doesn’t mean, “I can do anything no matter,” what he means is, “I can do all the things that I’m telling you about here. I can do these things, even these things that seem impossible to you, because they’re so outside of your experience.” So contrary to our common sense, even what he’s saying is, “Hey, when I have plenty, I can be content.” You go, “Well, that’s not hard.” He says, “Yeah, but I also can be content when I’m in want.” Well, that’s a little trickier, right? He says, “I can be content when I’m well-fed, but I also can be content when I’m hungry.” He says, “I can do all of this through Christ who gives me strength.” That’s the him that he’s talking about.
And what Paul is saying here, this is so important, Church, what he’s saying is this, he’s saying that being content depends on our relationship with Jesus. You hear me? Being content in the way that Paul’s talking about depends on a relationship with Jesus. Apart from a relationship with Jesus, you cannot have the contentment that Paul’s talking about. You can have a circumstantial contentment. Apart from a relationship with Jesus, you can be content in this moment or that moment, but you cannot be content in every moment. You’ll be content when the circumstances are going your way, but as soon as those circumstances change, this content will go away with them. He says, “You can only be content in any and every situation because of a relationship with Jesus.”
Now, there’s three kinds of people that are hearing this message. Some of us have that relationship with Jesus. We don’t have a religion, we have a relationship with Jesus and we have learned to turn that relationship with Jesus into a lens or a perspective that allows us to see our situations differently and allows us to be contented in any and every situation. So, some of you have a relationship with Jesus and you’re looking at every situation through that relationship and, therefore, you’re content. How many would say that that’s you? Not a whole lot of hands, but some of you, that’s great. It’s possible to learn. And so, there’s no reason anybody should be hesitant to say, “Yeah, that relationship with Jesus is changing the way I think about my circumstance. That’s fantastic.”
Some people are in the category where have a relationship with Jesus. Again, it’s not a religion, it’s a real relationship, but you haven’t learned how to regularly turn that relationship into a perspective that changes the way you see your circumstances. And so, if you’re in that category, you have a relation with Jesus but your contentment is kind of up and down depending on the circumstances. How many of you would say that that’s you? Yeah, probably a few more hands there. I think I probably most often fit into that category.
There’s a third category of people listening right now and that’s people who would have to be honest and say, “I don’t have that relationship.” I mean, some of you, that’s an easy thing to say, you’ve never had the relationship, you’ve never even really understood what that was about and you’re not even entirely sure why you’re listening to this, maybe somebody dragged you or said, “You should listen to this,” and you’re like, “Yeah, it’s me, I don’t have a relationship.” And that’s fine, but you need to understand two things. Number one, you need to understand that apart from that relationship, you can never have true contentment. You’re always gonna be dependent on your circumstances for contentment.
The other thing you need to understand though is that you can have the relationship. God loves you so much, He sent his own Son to die for you. He raised him from the dead to prove that he had accomplished what he set out to do on the cross. And because of what Jesus did, you can have this relationship which can, in fact, transform the way you think about your circumstances.
Some of you also fit into that third category that you don’t have the relationship, but it’s not as obvious to you. And you may even think that you have the relationship, but it’s really, it’s rooted in your religion, it’s rooted in all the things you’re trying to do. You’re going to church regularly and you’re doing the good things, you’re trying to avoid doing the bad things. And, you know, where you do some of the bad things you try to make up for maybe with some extra generosity or something like that. And the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way. And that may be you, you know that’s you if actually…if when I said, “Do you have a relationship?” You find yourself going, “I hope I do.”
You don’t have to hope, it’s not the way it works, because you don’t have to earn a relationship by getting over a finish line of enough goodness. That’s not the way it works, none of us are good enough. But God loves you, he sent his Son to die for you. He raised him from the dead. And if we receive Christ by faith, we enter into that relationship and that relationship is what changes the way we live.
Some people go at it backwards, they’re like, “Well, if you have a relationship, it looks like you do these things. And so, maybe if I do these things then I’ll have a relationship.” And it’s not the way it works. And some of you find yourself in that category. But whether you’re in the first, or the second, or the third category, what we all need to recognize is that being content depends ultimately, it’s rooted in our relationship with Jesus. That’s a non-negotiable. It’s the foundation which everything else that Paul says here is based.
And what Paul is telling them is, “Hey, because I have Jesus, I am content. No, my circumstances aren’t great, but my contentment doesn’t depend on my circumstances. And so, I appreciate the gift you sent,” he’s basically saying, “I’m really grateful for it, but you understand that your gift might have changed my circumstances, but it didn’t change my contentment because I already had Jesus in the midst of that and that’s all that counted.”
And yet he says, verse 14, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. It was kind of you. I’m grateful for it. And moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only.” He says, “You guys have had a long history of doing this for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts.” Again, he’s trying to tell them, “Let’s be clear on this, I’m grateful for the gifts but I’m not saying thank you because I’m gonna ask you for more, right?” He’s not saying thank you for their gifts because there’s a support letter on its way, right?
He’s not saying, “I’m grateful for your generosity because we’re launching a new campaign.” No, no, he says that’s not the issue at all. “Not that I desire gifts, what I desire,” he says, “is that more be credited to your account?” That’s an interesting statement. He says, “I want you to continue to be generous so that more would be credited to your account.” What account is he talking about? Well, this is God’s account, okay? And think of this as basically the longest-term IRA you’ve ever heard of. You remember IRAs, they’re Individual Retirement Accounts, and you put your money into it, but you don’t get it out until you hit a certain age, right?
Well, this is the longest-term IRA you’ve ever seen. You don’t get this until you’re dead. And you’re like, “What good is it then?” Oh, it’s so good. What he’s talking about here is an account that God keeps, not an account of rights and wrongs, this is an account of joy. This is important you understand this, this is an account of God’s joy in you, that your generosity in spreading the Gospel and your generosity in advancing his influence in the world, that there’s an account and there’s a day coming you’re gonna walk into his presence and he’s gonna pull up that account, and he’s gonna pour out joy on you. For the ways that you’ve been on mission with him, is gonna be an incredible experience.
So Paul says, “I’m not saying thank you so you’ll keep giving to me, I’m saying thank you so that you keep being generous and advancing the Gospel, and that’s gonna be more and more and more credited to your account, and that’s gonna be an amazing moment when you stand in the presence of Jesus someday.” He says, “Listen, I’ve received full payment. I’ve got all I need.” He says, “I’ve got more than enough, I am amply supplied now that I have received, from Epaphroditus, the gifts that you sent.” He says, “I’m good.”
And he says, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God.” I love that. I love that he calls their generous gift a fragrant offering. You know fragrant, right? Smells good. It’s a smell-good gift. I love that. I mean, do something for me, think about your favorite smell. Can you do that for me? Maybe it’s bread in the oven. That’s good, right? Maybe it’s the vanilla going into the chocolate chip cookie batter. Oh, that’s good. Maybe it’s garlic in the pan with some butter and maybe a little olive oil.
Garlic is funny, isn’t it? Because like garlic in the pan is the most amazing smell ever, garlic in somebody’s mouth, like, the worst. I don’t know how that plays out, okay, but maybe in the pan and think about the pan or maybe, you know, it’s that time of year, maybe it’s pumpkin spice for you, maybe it’s cinnamon, right? What I want you to do is I want you to think about your favorite smell in the world. Now, I want you to imagine you come into a room that’s filled with that smell. Just the right amount though, right? Like, I kind of like the smell of cinnamon, but if you go into Michael’s right now, like, I get a nosebleed in Michael’s. It’s just way too much. I’m not talking that level, okay? Remember that perfect amount that hits you but it doesn’t knock you down, okay? Your favorite smell, you walk in and you smell it. How do you feel?
That’s what Paul says is how God feels when we’re generous to advance the Gospel. He says that God, God encounters our generosity like that, like that perfect smell. What he’s really saying is he’s saying, God…listen to me, God experiences joy when we’re generous in order to advance the Gospel. How incredible is that that we, by our generosity, can give the God of the universe joy? Isn’t that amazing?
You know at Mission Hills, one of our core values is crazy generosity. We make decisions through the lens of that core value. One of the things we say is we say, “We’re crazy generous,” meaning, we mirror God’s outrageous grace with our outrageous giving. And we do that because in part, how can we not be generous when God has been so generous to us? How can we be stingy in the way that we care for others, and give to others, and advance the Gospel into the world when he has given us the blood of his own Son to wipe away our sin? But also, we seek to be generous and to mirror his generosity because we know that when we’re generous, we actually give our God joy.
How incredible is it that by the simple act of generosity, you can make the Creator of the Universe get a little goosebump, right? Get a little joy, you know, that’s an incredible thing that we can have that impact on God. He says, “The fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice.” And he says this, he says, “And my God,” verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. You’ve been generous, but you need to understand that you can’t out generous God. He’ll take care of you. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
And he kind of wraps things up, he says, “Greet all of God’s people in Christ Jesus. Say hi to the brothers and sisters there in Philippi.” He says, “The brothers and sisters who are with me, the ones here in Rome, they send their greetings to you. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” And that’s the punchline to the whole book, “Especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” That’s the punchline.
Did you know that biblical books have punchlines? I didn’t, but I came to understand as I was studying this, that in a lot of ways, the entire Book of Philippians was a very long, slow setup for that phrase. Why do I say that? Here’s what you gotta understand. Paul’s in prison, it’s not the assignment he wanted, it’s the assignment he got. Probably feels like it’s an obstacle to what he wanted to see happen, what he really sincerely believes God wanted to do in Rome because he’s not out on the streets preaching, he’s in a small cell. He’s locked down 24/7, he’s guarded by Roman soldiers. And they are never lack in their duties, there’s no chance to slip out because these are the best of the best or the elite, they’re actually the palace guards watching him.
But somewhere in the midst of that difficult experience something changed for Paul. He began to look at his circumstances through a slightly different perspective. And from that new perspective, he saw something that he hadn’t seen. And I don’t know if he was praying for it, I’d like to think that he might have been, that he might have, at some point, kind of woken up and gone, “God, I hate these circumstances, but you know what?” Maybe he started praying the way you and I often pray in difficult things, maybe he just said, “God, what are you doing?” And then maybe he progressed to God, “Would you show me what you’re doing? I need to see it.” And in that something happened, he had a new perspective. He noticed something he hadn’t noticed, the thought occurred to him, “You know, yeah, I am locked up 24/7. I’m one guy, I’m definitely a captive. But in order for me to be a captive, these guards have to stay here, which means, yeah, I’m a captive, but it also means I’ve got a captive audience.”
And so, he started preaching. He started talking to the guard, he says, “Can I tell you why I’m here?” And they’re like, “Whatever, dude.” Something to pass the time, right? And so, he began to tell them about the Good News of Jesus Christ. And all the way back at the beginning of our series in Philippians 1:13, Paul actually hinted at the result of that. He said this, Philippians 1:13 he says, “As a result of preaching to these guards, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else.” And we said several years ago that everyone else is almost certainly everyone else in the palace. “It’s become clear to the whole palace guard and to everyone else in the palace that I’m in chains for Christ.” He says, “They know the Gospel, not just the guards, they did their duty, they heard the Gospel they went back to the palace and they told people about this guy who was in prison. They told people about this story of the crucified and risen Savior.”
They told people that he’s preaching this Good News, that we can have a relationship with God by faith in what Jesus himself did. That it’s not a question of earning it, it’s not about doing all the right things, and avoiding the wrong things, and trying to get the scales balanced, that it’s simply by saying, “Yes, Jesus, I’ve done wrong, but you paid for all of it. Thank you. I trust you and you alone.” And that we have this relation with God. They started telling people about that. And you know what happened? Some of them believed, some of the people in the palace guard believed and some of the people in the palace believed.
And, by the way, you know whose palace it was? It was Caesar’s palace. And I know some of you were thinking about a very different place right now. Just put that aside. We’re talking about the original Caesar’s palace here, okay? And you know who lives in Caesar’s palace? Caesar’s family, the Royal family. Some of the most influential people in all of Rome, some of them came to believe. How do I know that? It’s the punchline, right?
“All God’s people here sends you greetings, especially those,” he’s been waiting a long time to say this, “especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” What? Yeah. See, his imprisonment didn’t…it didn’t derail the dream. His imprisonment didn’t become an obstacle that kept the Gospel from invading Rome. His imprisonment actually became the opportunity for the Gospel to invade the Roman palace, the most influential people in the entire empire. See, that’s our God, right? This is a God who looks at what we think are our obstacles and goes, “No, no, no, no, those are opportunities, you just didn’t even imagine.” This is a God who looks at what looked like roadblocks and goes, “No, no, no, I can turn that into a result you wouldn’t have even dared to pray for.”
You know, and I wonder too, I wonder if Paul, as he was praying about going to Rome, I wonder if he wasn’t pretty bold in his prayers. I can imagine Paul going, “Hey, God, would you give me a chance to go to Rome? It’s such an influential place. God, would you open doors for me to be able to preach the Gospel in the City of Rome? God, would you bring many people to know you and love you in the City of Rome? God, would you raise up people who are generous in their support of advancing the Gospel and your influence around the city. God, would you do that?” And maybe even it occurred to him briefly, he started, “Hey, God, would you allow me to get into the palace? Well never mind. Okay, I know, I went too far. I know, I know, I know.” He probably never even dared to dream about that, let alone to ask God for that just seemed like a little bit too much and yet now he says, “Yeah, because of my imprisonment, there are people in God’s family in the palace itself.” This is the punchline of the entire Book of Philippians.
Well, what Paul’s basically teaching us is this, he’s teaching us that the secret to contentment is having the perspective to see and to seize every situation’s unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus. You see that? That’s the whole book right there. It’s a lot of words, I feel bad about that. I usually try to make my summary statements really kind of tight and portable, but I’m summarizing the entire book, so hope you’ll give me a little bit of grace. I needed a couple extra words this time, but this is the whole book. The secret to the contentment that Paul is talking about, the contentment that isn’t based on circumstances, that contentment that can happen in any and every situation, he says the secret contentment is having the perspective to see and then to seize every situation’s unique opportunities to be on mission with Jesus.
Let me tell you four quick things about perspective and the power of perspective. The first one we’ve already touched on. It’s this, it’s who we face circumstances with determines our perspective on them. What did Paul say? He said, “I can do all these things that I’m talking about, all these crazy counterintuitive things, I can have contentment in every situation through him who gives me strength, through Christ.” See, facing circumstances with Jesus changes our perspective on them because that’s the way it always works. Who we face circumstances with changes our perspective on them.
You can think about this in very simple everyday terms. Let’s do something…I probably shouldn’t do this in church, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I want you to think right now of the person in your life that just annoys the bejeebers out of you. Think about the most annoying person you know. Now, imagine you get a phone call tomorrow and the phone call is, “Hey, congratulations. You’ve won an all-expenses-paid top-of-the-line luxury cruise.” It’s the best cruise line, it’s the best food, it’s the best shore excursions, it’s the best. One catch, you gotta go on it with that person, you gotta stay in the same cabin with that person, you have to spend all your free time with that person, there’s two deck chairs arranged just for the two of you, you have to eat all your meals with that person, you gotta go on all the shore excursions with that person. And some of you were like, “No, thank you.” Right? Because suddenly it doesn’t sound so much like a prize, it sounds a lot more like a punishment, doesn’t it? Who we face circumstances with changes our perspective on them.
The good news is it also works the other way around, right? You can have circumstances that aren’t necessarily pleasant, but if you face them with the right people it changes your perspective. I’m going to a conference this weekend or this week. I’ll actually be back next weekend and I’m really excited, by the way, next weekend I’m gonna teach a message that God’s really been using in my life in some very powerful ways, I’m gonna call it the Power of Praise. And I really believe that God’s got some powerful things for you next weekend. It’d be a great message not only for you to be at, but it could be a great message to bring people who don’t normally come to church. I guarantee you, God’s gonna do something very special next weekend.
But between now and then, I’m going to a conference this next weekend. And it’s not a conference I’m super excited about, I only go every few years, I think it’s good to connect, but it’s just not a super exciting conference. I’ll tell you, here’s the name of the conference is The Annual Gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society, so you can imagine the good times, right? I think it’s good to reconnect with a scholarly community occasionally, but I’m not super excited about it. But Coletta is going with me, my wife’s going with me, and that totally changes it.
I’m not really super excited about the conference, but I’m really excited about my wife. So, I’m really excited about some time that I get to spend with her. I’m already making some preparations. I’ve, like, been online and I’ve been finding some really good discussion starters and some questions that we’re gonna talk about. We’ll make the most of all. I’m really excited about that. Not because of the circumstances but because of who I get to face it with. And how much more is that gonna be true when we face circumstances with Jesus, right? That’s why he says that a relationship with Jesus is the foundation for contentment. That’s truth number one that who we face circumstances with determines our perspective on them.
Here’s the second truth, our perspective on our circumstance or circumstances determines what we see in them. Our perspective on our circumstances determines what we see in them. Because how we look at something determines what we notice or don’t notice, what we’re able to perceive and what we’re not able to perceive. I mean, for instance, all of you are looking straight at me even those of you watching online, you’re looking at me through the screen, and I have a different perspective than any of you and that is I can actually see the faces of the camera operators. You can’t do that because you’re not looking from that perspective. I can see something you can’t because the perspective that we have actually determines what we can or can’t see.
I remember when I was little, one of my favorite things is my dad sometimes would grab me and he’d pick me up and he’d throw me into the air and then catch me obviously, right? This is important to say, I guess. And I loved that moment and part of it was just the sensation sort of flying from him. But some of it too was, you know, like normally my perspective was down here. And in that moment I got to see, I was like, “This is what adults see.” I saw the world from a different…and I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. See, when we face circumstances with Jesus, Jesus has a perspective that you and I can’t possibly. He sees it from above and he sees things that we would never have noticed. But in that relationship with Jesus, we can actually ask for it and Jesus will give us a little bit of his perspective and we’ll begin to notice things we would not have otherwise noticed.
See, Paul, I don’t know if he asked for it, my guess is he probably did. He said, “God, don’t just show me what you’re doing here but show me what’s going on here that you think is so important.” And the Holy Spirit began to give and he saw, “Yeah, I’m not just a captive, I’ve got a captive audience.” He saw something he hadn’t seen before. And here’s what you need to understand, Church, this is a truth, you need to understand. Every circumstance, every circumstance has unique opportunities for living on mission. Whatever circumstances you’re in right now, there are some opportunities to live on mission with Jesus to extend God’s influence or that are unique to that situation. That’s true in good circumstances, and it’s especially true in difficult circumstances. Every circumstance that you will ever face has some unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus. The question is whether or not you will have the perspective to see them.
And here’s why that matters, truth number three, what we see in our circumstances determines how we will respond to them. If we see only obstacles, we will respond only with frustration. But when we see opportunities, there’s another response that gets opened up, right? Another possible way of responding to our circumstances, which is the possibility of seizing those opportunities. What we see in our circumstances determines how we respond to them.
And truth number four, how we respond to our circumstances determines what we will receive from them. It’s interesting to me, some people go in the difficult circumstances and they leave those circumstances broken and battered. And other people go into the same circumstances and they leave almost as though they’ve been blessed. What’s the difference? The difference is the perspective they took, which allowed them to see things and whether or not they seized those things, how they responded determined what they received.
What did Paul receive? Listen, he went into a very difficult circumstance, but he went into it with Jesus. And Jesus gave him a little bit of a new perspective on a circumstance, he saw something he hadn’t seen before. He saw an opportunity and not just an obstacle, and then he seized that opportunity. He began to preach the Gospel and that Gospel went out from that little cell and it went into the palace and invaded the hearts and the minds, even if some of Caesar’s own family. And so, now, what has Paul received? Now, as he closes his letter to his friends back in Philippi, he says, “All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.”
That’s incredible, isn’t it? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, not just the grace and salvation, but the grace to give opportunities that are unique even in the most difficult of situations. The grace to have the perspective to see them, the grace to have the courage to seize them, the grace to have the opportunity to receive the blessing that comes when we’ve lived our mission, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit. Amen. That’s the whole book. The secret to contentment is having the perspective to see and to seize every situation’s unique opportunities for living on mission with Jesus.
Four quick questions for you as we wrap up the study. I want you to think about the most difficult situation that you’re facing right now. Think about the one situation that you most are tempted to pray to be getting out of, right? That’s the one. Think about that one, and ask yourself this question, number one, “Am I facing this situation with Jesus?” If you’re those first two categories of people, you have the relationship, the question really is, “But are you leveraging that relationship into a perspective that allows you to see, in your situation, something very different than you would have otherwise seen?” And if you don’t have that relationship, in just a moment, I’m gonna give you the opportunity to fix that because you can have it before we leave today. “Am I facing this situation with Jesus?”
Question number two, “What unique opportunities for living on mission do I see in this situation?” And some of you may go, “Yeah, I see them, they’re obvious.” And maybe they’re not obvious to you. But you can, if you’re facing the situation with Jesus, you can pray for the perspective. You can say, “Jesus, throw me up. Give me a second to just glimpse things the way you see it. Let me see those things that you see,” and I believe that he will answer that prayer. What unique opportunities for living a mission do you see in that situation?
Question number three, “What would it look like to seize those opportunities?” It doesn’t always have to be something big and huge. Sometimes it’s pretty small thing, honestly, to seize those opportunities. I’ve shared several times over the last couple of years, my youngest daughter is struggling with chronic abdominal pain. We spent a lot of time, different things. A couple of weeks ago she had another surgery that we’re hoping is gonna be really helpful to her, but right before she went into the surgery we saw an opportunity and we seize it. It’s very small and we just…before we allowed them to take her, we stopped and we said, “Hey, can we pray?” And so Coletta and I, we just prayed. We prayed for, you know, for healing, for God to be present. We prayed and said, “Thank you for the doctors.”
We also said, “Hey, thank you for the nurses. Thank you for the skills that you’ve given them. Thank you for the care that they have for the patients. Please give them wisdom and strength. Thank you for the nurses and amen.” And I looked up and I realized that there was a nurse kind of had, she was standing at the edge waiting to take us in. And as I looked up from the prayer, she kind of looked at me and she said, “Wow, thank you.” Then I thought, “You know, that might be the first time she’s ever heard anybody thank the God of the universe for her. Thank the God of all creation for her skills and for her obvious care and expertise that she shows.”
I don’t know what God will do with it, but I’m really glad that I didn’t miss that moment. I received a blessing in seeing that I had been a blessing even to her. And maybe God planted a seed in her life there that’ll grow into eternal salvation if she doesn’t already have it. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. “What would it look like for you to seize those unique opportunities in that situation?”
And then question number four and this is probably the hardest question, but in some ways is the most important question as we finish the Boundless Series, “Am I willing to trust God to use me in this situation rather than just release me from it?” Because, friends, it may be that you’re in a difficult circumstance and God hasn’t released you from it because he has a blessing for you in it. Because God loves you too much to allow you to miss out on being a part of what he wants to do in and through you in that circumstance. And so, maybe you haven’t been released, not because God’s not listening, not because God’s not good, but because he’s too good for him to want you to or be okay with you missing that opportunity that’s unique in that particular situation. Would you pray with me?
God, on behalf of the followers of Jesus, we confess we often look with our eyes and our very, very immature hearts that our circumstances and we don’t see the opportunities that are there. And because of that, we often just so frustrated and tied up in knots, and we spend a lot of time praying for you to get us out of the circumstances. But, Lord, we thank you for the wisdom of your servant, Paul, who’s told us that we desperately need to stand on your shoulders and see these situations from your perspective and in that way to see some things, some opportunities we wouldn’t have seen, and then to seize those in that season to be blessed in a way we would never expected possible. Forgive us for all the ways we’ve failed to do that. Give us the strength and the courage to seek that perspective and to act in light of it.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just take a moment right now, just begin praying for the people around you, all the people watching online from all over the world. And if you’re listening to this and you’re in that third category we talked about, you’re the people who would say, “I don’t have a relationship with Jesus.” Maybe you knew coming in you didn’t, or maybe those words about it’s not about religion, it’s not about doing and don’ts, it’s about that relationship by faith, maybe that really cut to the quick and you realized, “Yeah, I don’t have a relationship. I’ve been depending on our religion.” Maybe that’s you, but for whatever reason you realized you don’t have a relationship, you need to understand you can have that relationship. You don’t have to earn it, it is yours for the taking. It’s a gift that’s being offered to you.
God loves you so much, He sent his own Son who lived the perfect life with no sin to pay for, but he went to the cross in order to pay for your sin. You were on his heart and mind as he laid there before the cross as they beat him, and then as he lay there upon the cross as they put the nails in, and then as he hung there on the cross as they held him, you were on his mind, his love for you was driving that. He died on the cross to pay for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history. And he is now offering you a relationship with God that’s free from guilt and shame for any wrong you’ve ever done because it’s forgiven. All you have to do is say yes to a relationship with him. And if you’re ready to say yes to be forgiven, to be free, and to have this relationship with your Creator, here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you just have this conversation with God, say:
God, I’ve done wrong and I understand that it’s my sin that got in the way of our relationship. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, and a relationship with my God. I’m ready to say yes. Right here right now, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you, Jesus. Come into my life. My faith is in you and I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.