Scott McVey, associate pastor
Northside Baptist Church, Brunswick
I like cake. To make a good cake requires the right ingredients mixed together in the right proportions and baked in the oven at the right temperature for the right amount of time. The process necessary for you to become what God intends you to be is similar to that of making a cake. As a master chef, God knows how to do this.
Just as a chef mixes different ingredients together to make a cake, your life is filled with many different circumstances and people. Not all cake ingredients, if eaten alone, taste good. So also, not all circumstances and people that come into your life leave a good taste in your mouth.
Next, the ingredients have to be mixed. Often, the events and people that are part of your life leave you mixed up and battered like a cake mix. Just when you think the process is ending, the Master Chef turns up the heat and puts your life into the oven. Nothing about this seems good until you consider the product, i.e. cake.
Note one final consideration. Cake is made by the chef for the enjoyment of others. God uses such a process to make your life into something that appeals to lost people.
This brings to mind Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes most things to work together for good.” Is that how Romans 8:28 reads? No, Paul states that God causes all things to work together for good.
The operative word is “together.” Knowing this, we can share Christ with joy in spite of circumstances and critics and in both life and death.
In spite of circumstances – Philippians 1:12-14
Paul viewed his circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty. God turned Paul’s bad circumstances into something good – the spreading of the gospel. Paul knew that God was wise enough, powerful enough, and loved him enough to orchestrate seemingly random and uncontrollable circumstances into something good. All things worked together for good because God was doing the working.
Paul gives an example concerning the spreading of the gospel in Rome. One might have considered Paul to be the one in chains, when in truth, the imperial guards were the ones in chains. They were chained to Paul 24/7 while he shared the gospel with them over and over. They couldn’t escape.
Paul shared the gospel with everyone with whom he came into contact. Instead of imprisoning the gospel, his chains emancipated the gospel to spread all over Rome.
As a further example, Paul writes about the speaking of the brothers. Because of Paul’s inspiring testimony, those who had been cowardly Christians became confident Christians. The fearful became the fearless. God used Paul’s circumstances for something that was definitely good – the advancement of the gospel. The devil, however, had another tactic to dissuade Paul from sharing the gospel.
In spite of critics – Philippians 1:15-19
Like he did with Job, the devil brought terrible circumstances into Paul’s life. When this strategy didn’t work, the devil implemented a new strategy against Job and Paul. He brought terrible critics into their life. Paul did better with the critics than Job.
Even though there were a number of people who, like Paul, spoke motivated by goodwill, sincerity and love, there were others who had wicked motives. They were envious, wanting to cause Paul strife and anxiety in his imprisonment due to insincerity and a rivalry with Paul.
It didn’t work. Why? It didn’t work because of what mattered to Paul.
At the top of the list of what mattered to Paul was the proclamation of Christ. He didn’t care who did it or why they did it, as long as Christ was proclaimed in every way. Is that at the top of the list of things that matter to you?
Another thing that mattered to Paul was the praise of Christ. Paul praised the Lord by continuously rejoicing in Christ’s proclamation. Are you like Paul? Do you rejoice when men and women hear Christ proclaimed?
Prayers to Christ mattered to Paul. He was convinced that through the prayers of the Philippians and the help of Christ, he would be delivered from prison.
Share Christ with joy in both life and death – Philippians 1:20-21
Paul’s concern was expressed as both an expectation and a hope. His expectation was centered on four hopes. Paul hoped he would not stand before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ ashamed. He wanted to live a life that was consistently and completely bold for the Lord.
Above all, Paul wanted to honor Christ in his body in whatever way was best; whether by his life or by his death. He expected these things to happen and hoped they would.
The reason Paul had these concerns is because of his convictions. Paul’s convictions were personal. Paul said, “For me.” Paul did not base his convictions on what others thought or did. He had his own convictions. His convictions were also permanent. Like his concerns, his convictions were “now and always.” These convictions were purposeful. They centered on how he lived and how he would die.
His convictions were profitable. He was more interested in gaining Christ than in gaining the world.
When you, like Paul, say “to live is Christ,” you can also say with full conviction, “to die is gain.”
As you look to the Lord, the Master Chef, He will make the circumstances and critics in your life into something desirable, like cake. And one day when you go to heaven to be with the Lord and all Christians, forever, that will certainly be the icing on the cake.