Maybe the way we are living is ruining us. Maybe the way the Apostle Paul lived would bring us to life. Today I want to share with you ‘the secret’ to living a life that is content. To do this, I want to share with you what Paul wrote. Who is Paul? Paul comes from a violent life. The closest understanding we have of who Paul was; is a mafia hit man. Our introduction to Paul was a young man who held the clothes of the man who was being stoned to death. He grows up and becomes the number one man who hunted and killed Christians. No remorse, just pure passion to kill. Violence was a normal way of living. And get this, he thought he was living out what it meant to be godly.
As his story unfolds, Paul goes through a radical conversion and becomes the person who takes the Jesus message into the world. What does he face as he advances God’s kingdom? Violence. He was beaten. Whipped. Jailed. He was hunted by mobs of men who hated him.
Then Paul writes this in a letter to the church in Philippi. 10 How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. 14 But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. NLT Philippians 4:10-14
He claims to know the secret to being content in life regardless of his situation. How is that even possible? He says that he can do anything with the help of Christ. What does that mean? An invisible God gives him strength? What is he talking about?
As he nears the end of his life, he is heading to Jerusalem. He knows that when he goes to Jerusalem he will go to jail and probably face death. This is what he tells those around him. I think he reveals his secret to being content as he walks through a violent life.
22 And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love. NLT Acts 20:22-24
Paul is saying, I know what is ahead for me. Pain and suffering. And that’s exactly where I am going. By the way, how do most people pray for direction in their lives? They say, “If it’s God’s will… please open the door for me.” This is an okay way to pray but for Paul, he is going into the teeth of his enemy and is facing death. Sometimes the door isn’t open, in fact, the door is closed but God wants you to go anyway.
Paul then he shares how he can face violence with courage. …My life is worth nothing… He wasn’t saying he didn’t have value. He was communicating that anything he could accomplish with his life was worth nothing. Isn’t your life the most important thing to you? To Paul, his life is worth nothing – again, not his value, what he could accomplish. All of it, worthless. All his awards, achievements, all of it, worth nothing to him. This is strange for us. Everything we do, every decision we make has to do with our life. We are busy building our lives and preserving our lives and we are scared to death to lose it.
We pursue fun and pleasure at all costs. God said, I made sex and it’s great in the context of marriage between a man and women for life. What does our culture do with it? Culture reaching into marriage, takes sex out and says, it’s for everyone to experience with no boundaries. And if you talk about any boundaries about sex, you are hateful and insensitive. Our culture takes what was holy and now it’s nothing more than a second date event or a college hook up. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
If we are married, we want happiness. So we focus on how our spouse has disappointed us. I have never received a call that goes like this, “Ken, I have to meet you, it’s an emergency. What’s going on? I know what my spouse needs to bring them to life and I am refusing to reorganize my life to love them. Could you please pray for me, help me learn how to love them the way God has loved me.” Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
We work hard for money and it begins to own us. We either have too much and don’t give it leading to greed; or, we have too little and are envious of others and we need to have more. Money isn’t bad, money is a good tool to help you. It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
We want revenge and justice from people who have hurt us. We live tit for tat lives. You did this so I’m to do that. Jesus said, turn the other cheek. We struggle to absorb hurt and give back love, just like Jesus did for us. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
We crave the validation from others. We want so desperately want others celebrate us and our greatness. If we get to many compliments we become prideful. If no one notices us, we become the whiney victim. Jesus said to be great you serve. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
We can go to church, know and follow the rules and fail to be in a life giving, grace relationship with God. We can begin to judgmental of others and refuse to deal with our junk. Knowing our sinful state, our desperate need of God, how can we become so judgmental? Someone with pride with never understand that. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
We can thank God for forgiving our sin, healing us, getting us into heaven, but we don’t trust that He will help us through this week. We are so paralyzed with fear about today and tomorrow we have to control everyone. We want to control and change our husbands. We want to control our kids. We want to control every part of our lives. Thank you God for heaven, but I don’t think I can trust with today. Why do we live like this? It’s my life and I will determine how to live it, not God.
Why do we live like this? We are focused on our life. We build it. We preserve it. We are scared to death to lose it. Our life is the most important thing to us.
Paul says, I found the secret! My life is worth nothing. We read that and think, “You’re wacked.” What Paul said, actually sounds weird to us but think about it. So let me ask you; What do you stress over? What are you anxious about? What are you angry about? Who do you need to validate your greatness? Why are you the victim? Probably, maybe, it’s because your life is yours and it’s the thing that you have to build it and preserve it and you’re scared to death to lose it.
We live this do-it-yourself kind of life. Are you tired yet? Has serving this do-it-yourself kind of life worn you down? Does serving this do-it-yourself kind of life bring you joy and passion?
We read Paul’s words and think, the dude is a Jesus freak. Jesus taught, If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. MSG Luke 17:33 It sounds like Paul is living out what Jesus taught. And actually, I think our lives would seem crazy to Paul and Jesus. They live lives that are able to walk through violence. We are stressed and freak if it snows two inches, if the kids don’t show up for dinner at 5 pm, or if we can’t afford the new iphone 5. I need to facebook about my misery!
So Paul’s life is worthless to him. Then he says something even more interesting, …my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love. The only thing in my life that has any value, is living a life that tells others about God’s grace. Now he is on the mission to tell others about the God who radically changed his life. This makes sense coming from a man who is an ex mafia hit man who lived in violence. Paul is saying, the only value of my life is living out the mission Jesus has given me.
You can live a life that is content in all situations. Paul said, 12 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13 There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” 16 God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! MSG Romans 8:12-17
Maybe the way we live life is ruining us. Maybe the way Paul lives life would bring us to life.
I want to invite you today, to give your life to God. Realize, all your attempts to find joy and mean in this life without God, is worthless. That way of living is do-it-yourself kind of life and it’s a dead end. Jesus said this about that way of living, If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it.
When you give your live to God, Jesus said, …if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. Jesus didn’t say it was pain free, He said, you get life on God’s terms.
I want to end with this scripture 4 If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. 5 But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it – you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked – well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift. MSG Romans 4:4-5
We invite you leave a do-it-yourself life for a trusting-in-him-to-do-it life.