[forthright] Rejoicing in Trouble

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 06:23:53 -0800 (PST)
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

Rejoicing in Trouble
 by Barry Newton

Had Paul ever read the handbook ascribed to Demetrius
outlining the standardized techniques for shaping
behavior and communicating friendship through letters?
While we do not know the answer, we know the world in
which Paul lived, breathed, studied and interacted.

It was a world where professional scribes, who if
instructed to write a letter encouraging appropriate
behavior, would use personal examples from the author
to model the desired lifestyle. It was an environment
where pagan moralists taught others how to live by
calling them to "imitate" personal models.

In such a world, Paul opened his letter to the
Philippians with the typical flair and characteristics
of an ancient friendship letter, albeit in a
Christianized form. Accordingly, following his
thanksgiving for them Paul relieved any concern they
might have for him. However, this letter's purpose was
not merely: "I'm doing OK. How are you?"

Conflicts from without and within this church were
threatening their unity. (Philippians 1:27-28; 4:2)
Desiring to help his dear friends avoid the self-
centered mire of grumbling and disputing which normally
erupts when people feel attacked, his own prison
predicament could provide them with a wonderful
learning opportunity.

As Paul described his imprisonment he also unveiled his
mindset. His attitude illustrated how someone will live
when he or she looks not only to one's own interests,
but also to the interests of others.

Yes, he wore the shackles of a prisoner. Some were even
maliciously preaching Christ hoping to cause him
greater trouble. In spite of these circumstances, Paul
could rejoice. People were hearing what they needed
most; they were learning about Christ. Paul was focused
on their well-being!

Philippians 1:12-18 is biography with a purpose. Even
in the stress of conflict, rejoicing is possible if a
profound love would drive their lives. From the motives
of those outside of prison preaching Christ to the
example of his own mindset, Paul would repeatedly
contrast love against self-ambition throughout this
letter.

Paul's imprisonment provides one illustration for us
what it means for "love to abound more and more in
knowledge." (Philippians 1:9)

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