What do you see to the left? I still can’t make it out. Back in the ’90’s these things were all over the place. I couldn’t make it out. You’re supposed to do something with your eyes and then it makes it into a 3-D picture, right? All I get is a headache.
Right now I’m meditating on the fist chapter of Philippians. Paul is in jail in Rome and has heard great things about the church in Philippi. The church there was started by a woman named Lydia and a jailer who had rescued Paul and his traveling companion Silas from jail (You can read about it more in Acts 16). It was a church that gave generously to the poor in Jerusalem. It was in short an amazing church. The letter to this church is also a letter filled with joy. In fact the word joy or rejoice occurs 19 times in the letter.
So what does this have to do with the magic eye thingy? It’s all about perspective. Paul is in prison. He’s been falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He’s appealed his case to the highest court of the time–to Caesar himself. So he’s being watched on house arrest by Roman guards and people come in to see him and there he freely preaches the gospel while waiting to hear from the court (see Acts 28).
To be honest, he has every reason to be upset. He has every reason to be angry. He’s been beaten, falsely accused, shipwrecked and now under arrest. Yet even though he’s in chains, he’s not upset. In fact he’s joyful.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel form the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5
Though he is in chains he prays with joy for this church. More than that, he even encourages them in the faith to continue their ministry in Philippi.
In fact, he states that because he is in chains, people are being encouraged more and more to preach the gospel without fear.
He sees things from a different perspective. To tell the truth, he could die. The outcome of the trial is freedom or death. That can make anyone cynical to tell the truth. Yet he says something so amazing
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
For him, he’s in a win/win situation here. If he stays, then he continues his ministry. To tell the truth, who’s the one really imprisoned. He has a captive audience of Roman guards 24/7 that he preaches to. He’s in a region where it is literally the hub of the world. All roads lead to Rome. He’s in the prime spot to preach the gospel. Does it matter that he’s in chains? No.
So what do we do? What do we do when bad things happen? What do we do when thing look tough? When we’re afraid of moving forward in following Jesus? Change our perspective. Paul’s perspective is amazing. He sees things from a completely point of view than I know I would in his situation.
What are you going through right now? What are your struggles? Think about it this way–we all have a what going on in our lives. Something is going on in our lives. Paul was imprisoned. What’s your what? Know this: we all have a what and don’t understand the why? Why does this happen? Why are we going through this what?
Know this: God always has a why behind the what. We don’t know why but we do know that there is something behind it. God knows the full story. God knows the bigger picture. God knows what’s going on.
Know this: You don’t have to understand the why to trust God in the what.
This is what Paul says
“Now, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12
Wow. Paul is in the middle of the what and he is seeing that God has a why. The gospel is being advanced in his what.
So what does it matter right now what you’re going through? You’re going through a what right now. Trust God in the what because he has a why. Change your perspective. Think about it. What will matter in 100 years from now? Will it matter that you had a flat tire or car problems? Will it matter that you were struggling with medical bills? Will it matter that the government shut down?
Then what does matter? People matter! Eternity matters! There is a bigger picture going on right now. Change your perspective and trust God in the why in your what. Remember, to live is Christ, to die is gain. Some things just don’t matter. Other things truly do.
Change your perspective. Look at it from God’ point of view. And you’ll see the why in the what and you’ll know that God is in control.