The atrocities in the Russian-Ukraine conflict, One million lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation at record highs, shootings throughout America, our nation more politically divided than ever. Where is God? Has he left us?
I want to share a few encouraging words about the Apostle Paul, which I hope you will find relevant to our lives today. In Philippians Chapter 1 verses 1 through 18, Paul displays his mutual relationship and connection to the people of Philippi. He writes of his love and care for them. Paul expresses a high amount of gratitude for their willingness to place faith in Christ, for sharing in the gospel. He shows appreciation for how far the people of Philippi have progressed in their lives as Christians, and is hopeful that they will continue to grow as individuals. In this text, Paul also mentions the care which they hold deeply for him. By looking at these Bible verses, we can see a long lasting, strong friendship between the Philippians and Paul. One might wonder how this relationship originated?
As we know from Acts, Paul and Silas were spreading God’s word throughout Philippi. They devoted and committed their lives to serving God, hoping to enlighten others of the Gospel. Yet, they were both violently attacked by a mob, stripped of their clothing, beaten with rods and thrown into prison. Paul and Silas had many reasons to be sour for the way they had been treated and abused. At this point, they could have even questioned their faith. Paul and Silas could have asked God, “We do nothing but serve you Lord. Why have you let these things happen to us?” In spite of everything they endured, Paul and Silas did not carry themselves out in this way. Instead, they chose to sing hymns to God for other prisoners to hear. Even when the Earthquake opened the prison doors and unfastened their chains, Paul and Silas chose not to leave the prison. They stopped the prisoner guard from ending his life. At the guards request, Paul and Silas taught the Gospel to him and his family, who were then baptized.
Fast forward from Acts, ten years later after Paul’s first trip to Philippi, Christianity was flourishing throughout the community. The people who once beat and punished Paul had built a friendship with him and were also striving to spread the word of God. The people of Philippi became followers of Christ. Over time, Philippi transitioned from a city which persecuted followers of our God, to a Christian based community spreading his love and word, and this all happened because Paul and Silas took their unfortunate circumstances, and used them to spread the word of God, trusting that he was using them for the greater good.
As Christians, we are not guaranteed a life without challenges. Across life’s journey, we all face trials and tribulations. The hardships that we endure may last weeks, months, years or a lifetime. The trials we face may have a minor impact, or be life changing. While these challenges may not necessarily be beneficial short-term, there is great comfort in knowing that they serve a purpose used by God. I would like to cite Philippians Chapter 1 verse 12: “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel.” Paul is saying that even though he was persecuted while visiting Philippi, God was able to use his hardships to spread Christianity.
We all have experienced circumstances where we showed others kindness, but did not get the response we had hoped for. Or maybe, we were trying to share the word of God and we were rejected. I would like to share a similar situation which has occurred in my own life. As a Christian, I strive to show kindness towards others and offer them help when they are struggling with work in school. However, I have noticed that not everyone responds with gratitude. Some individuals say rude or hurtful things, seeming to forget the caring attitude I have shown them. While I could retaliate or say something hurtful back, I choose not to. There are many times when my peers ask me, “Why are you always so nice? Why don’t you ever get mad?.” I answer them “I don’t feel the need to be mean to others.” I continue to show kindness, with hopes that the individuals who wronged me will one day reflect upon my kindness, and will come to know God. I find peace in knowing that God uses my trials as a tool to spread his word. Because I know God’s Love, I persevere by keeping the faith during hardships.
The atrocities in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, one million lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation at record highs, shootings throughout America, our nation more politically divided than ever. Where is God? Has he left us? Is it possible that God could use these events to spread the Gospel? Paul says that even though we as Christians will have to walk through many challenging circumstances, God is with us and will use our hardships and challenges to spread the Gospel. May it be so. Amen.
Andrew is a member of St.Paul’s UCC, where he helps with the Junior Choir, and serves on the Consistory. He attends Central High School where he serves as vice-president of the Junior Class. Andrew is a member of the Scholastic Bowl team, Concert Choir, Select Chorus, Earth Club, SCA, and Tri-M Music Honors Society.