In His Letter to the Philippians (continued)
Triumph In Paul's Own Spiritual History
Paul then comes in himself, and gives us in this letter quite a bit of autobiography. He tells us something of his own history before his conversion, as to who he was and what he was, and where he was, and what he had. Of course, it was nothing to be compared with what his Lord had and had let go. But Paul himself, as Saul of Tarsus, had a great deal by birth, by inheritance, by upbringing, by education, by status, prestige and so on. He had quite a lot. He tells us about it here. All that men would boast of - he had it. And then he met Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ met him; and the whole thing, he said - all that he had and possessed - became in his hands, like ashes, like refuse! "I do count them but refuse."
Many people have this false idea about the gospel, that, if you embrace the gospel, if you become a Christian, if you are converted, or however you like to put it, you are going to have to lose or give up everything, you have to give up this and that. If you become a Christian, it will be just one long story of giving up, giving up, giving up, until sooner or later you are skinned of everything. Listen! Here is a man who had far more than you or I ever had. We cannot stand in the same street with this man in his natural life, in all that he was and all that he had, and all the prospects that were before him as a young man. There is very little doubt that, if Paul had not become a Christian, his name would have gone down in history among some other very famous names of his time.But he says - not in these words, but in many more words than these: 'When I met the Lord Jesus, that whole thing became to me like refuse.' Give it up? Who will find any sacrifice in giving up a candle when they have found the sun? Sacrifice in that? Oh, no! 'In comparison with Christ, I just count it the veriest refuse.'
What a victory! What a triumph! You see, this giving up - well, put it like that, if you life - but Paul is very happy about it. That is the point. It is Paul's joy, the joy of a tremendous victory in himself.
Triumph In Paul's Ministry
But further, here it is the story of the great victory in his ministry, in his work. We recall the story of how he went to Philippi. He had set out to go into Asia, to preach the gospel there, and was on his way, when, in that mysterious providence of God which only explains itself afterward and never before , he was forbidden, checked, prevented, stopped. The day closed with a closed way, a halted journey. He was in perplexity as to the meaning of this; he did not understand it. Waiting on God during that night, he had a vision. He saw a man of Macedonia - Philippi is in Macedonia - saying: "Come over into Macedonia, and help us" (Acts 16:9). And Paul said, "We sought to go forth ... concluding that God had called us for to preach the gospel unto them." So, turning away from Asia, he turned towards Europe, and came to Philippi.
Sometimes disappointment and upsetting of plans can be the very ground of a great victory.
(continued with # 28)