Last week we looked at the first “faith lever” of our 60-Day Spiritual Growth Challenge: Be Confident. This week we turn our attention to faith lever number two: Be Hopeful. Paul’s enduring hope was a significant quality in his life. His perspective and approach were hope-filled. Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire” that is somewhere north of normal. As Christians, we, like Paul, should be people of hope – because our hope is in the Lord!
Paul was in prison and knew he could be executed at any moment. That’s enough to grind anybody down, but Paul didn’t allow his circumstances get him down. He was not devastated. He did not throw his hands up in despair. Instead, as we’ll see in our key passage today (Philippians 1:12-30), he used the faith lever of HOPE to RISE ABOVE his circumstances, not sink below them. Most of us are not in prison or facing execution like Paul was, but adversity still exists and can threaten our hope: terminal cancer with a sobering prognosis, financial impossibilities, a lost job or long-term joblessness without any prospects, a spouse who has walked out, or any number of other things. How, given all we potentially face, do we exercise the faith lever of hope like Paul did?
There are six key principles, or as I like to call them, underpinnings, that are key to living a hope-filled life. An underpinning is “a solid foundation laid below ground level to support or strengthen a building.” These six underpinnings form a solid foundation in your heart and soul and can help you live an overcoming, hope-oriented life so that when tragedy and adversity strike, you are not destroyed. Rocked maybe, but not destroyed – because you know in whom you believe… Jesus Christ!
6 Principles to Living a Life of Hope
Principle 1: God is always at work in my life and wants to work through my life (Phil. 1:6).
- It is vital to know that God is always at work in our lives, that the work is for His good purposes, and that He wants to complete the work in us. He will use the raw materials of our circumstances to mature and complete us.
- James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We have hope that God is at work in us. We trust His goodness and believe in His love.
Principle 2: God can turn evil into good (Phil 1:12-14).
- In this world, bad things happen to good people – but God can take the bad and turn it into good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:10; Philippians 1:12-14)!
- God turned Paul’s adversity into advancement. Paul understood that God could turn evil into good and it gave him overflowing hope. Christ’s crucifixion was bad, but from it God brought a mighty resurrection and, with that, salvation to all who believe.
- Life doesn’t always turn out how we want it to. We might be unjustly treated, become ill, experience heartbreak, deep disappointment, loss and grief and more. But God is never surprised and He is not the author of evil. He will take us through it all and build us up.
Principle 3: It is not about me – I am His servant and it is always about Him (Philippians 1:15-18).
- Phil 1:15-18a says, ”It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
- There were two groups: those who were sincere and loved Paul and those who were self-serving.
- There was no resentment on the part of Paul. He saw the big picture and wasn’t interested in personal credit. All that mattered to him was Christ.
- Paul chose not to take anything personally. He lifted the matter above personality because his hope was in Christ. There was no time for pettiness or small-minded stuff. My prayer for us is similar: “God, help us to be less preoccupied with ourselves. May our thoughts and life attitudes be centered on Christ and His will for our lives.”
- Sometimes we may wonder how/why we have ended up where we are, and sometimes it’s good to know that we may be right where we’re supposed to be. Like Paul, be a blessing even in bondage. Be Christ-like even though captured because it really isn’t about us. It’s about Christ!
Principle 4: God has my best interest at heart even when I don’t understand it (Philippians 1:19-20).
- Phil 1:18b-20 says, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
- Notice Paul’s enduring hope and how he continued to rejoice. Joy and hope are linked. When we have hope, we have joy. We have joy because our hope is in Christ. This hope is incredibly personal, especially when facing adversity and difficult times.
- What about Paul’s deliverance? His attitude was one of hope and conviction. He knew God had his best interest at heart and so must we, even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment.
- In the midst of his circumstances Paul seized the opportunity to glorify Christ. Whether by life or death his prayer was that he represent Christ well. If he lived, he could continue to preach Christ. If he died, there would be a martyr’s crown waiting for him.
Principle 5: I will live life with an eternal perspective (Philippians 1:21-26).
- Phil 1:21-26 says, ”For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
- Hope regardless. Serving Christ was Paul’s priority, not life or death. He knew his days on Earth were limited, regardless of what happened. He wanted to live life to the full in this life, knowing that he would experience life to full in the next (Heaven).
- If you knew you had only a few months to live, how would you spend your time? Paul was essentially reminding us that we all only have a few years to live – so maximize it by placing your Christ at the center of your heart, affections, and pursuits!
- Paul was saying, Christ is All-in-All to me.
- He is my beginning in life.
- He is my end of life.
- He is my inspiration for life.
- He is my strength for life.
- Paul was saying that death was gain. Can you say that?
- “I desire to depart…” The Greek word here is interesting. It means:
- Loosening the mooring ropes, pulling up anchors and setting sail.
- Breaking camp, pulling up the tent pegs.
- It’s also the word for solving problems. Death brings life’s solutions; after death, we have the answers to all the “why” questions and peace for all the responsibilities.
- Yet, to remain meant the opportunity to bless and strengthen his friends and others and to preach Christ. Paul had hope regardless of the result. To live is Christ, to die is gain.
Principle 6: I will stand firm, persevere, and live my life to honor Christ in all circumstances (Philippians 1:27-30).
- Phil 1:27-30 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
- Paul admonished his friends in Philippi to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of Christ. Philippi was a Roman colony and these were Roman citizens. There were reminders of Rome everywhere; no one could forget they were Roman. Yet Paul was reminding them that they are Christians first. Remember, more than anything else in all the world, that you are a Christian, a Christ-follower! Live and share this message of HOPE to the fullest! Celebrate it as long as you have life because life is short. Times will be tough but stand firm.
- We tend to live this life as it is the end game. Paul knew that Heaven was the reward, the prize. This life, with all the good and the difficult, is a time for us to shine for Christ and glorify Him with our thoughts, lives, actions, and attitudes.
These six principles are how Paul exercised the faith lever of HOPE, and allowed this HOPE to lift him above his circumstances. Let’s all work to apply these same principles to our own lives so we too can RISE ABOVE.