Paul is separated from his friends and facing the worst punishment of his day. He is sitting in a Roman prison, possibly in stockades, and as far as he knows, awaiting death...and he tells us to rejoice.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
The text goes on to tell us that some of Paul’s comrades and converts were given greater courage to preach because they saw Paul’s bold stand. And others, trying to make Paul jealous or trying to stir up trouble for him began preaching too.
“I don’t care why they are doing it. The fact is that the Gospel is being spread, and in this I rejoice!”
Paul’s not being a hypocrite here when he tells us to rejoice. He knew what hard times were, and he knew that the right way to react to was not with fear or anger…but with joy.
Then Paul said, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”
But, That's not how we usually roll, is it?
We are so focused on our rightness and getting our way; being first, being best (or at least better than). Everyone wants the right of way, but we can't all have it. This is true whether we are talking about being the next car to go at a 4-way stop, or letting our tempers flare because somebody else got that perfect parking spot right in front of Wal-mart or getting to the shortest check-out line before the next guy cuts us off.
We are constantly afraid that other people will interpret our kindness as a sign of weakness. We are afraid to be gentle.
We want control, and we think that this is the only way that we are going to get any peace.
But Paul tells us that it is by gentleness – not by bullying our way through, not fighting for our own rights, but it is by turning over control of our lives that we can find real peace.
But, before we move on, let's try to get a handle on this.
We are all amazingly good at something, maybe even several things. You are!
Now, this thing that you are great at doing, do you share?
Do you make yourself available?
Do you teach others?
Or do you hide your gift and try to make sure you are the only one who excels at this?
Are you so focused on being at the top of your game, that you shut others down and out?
Are you so busy controlling your life and keeping your great skill to yourself that you cannot find peace?
Do you live in fear that someone will be as good as you? or better?
Good leaders make leaders!
* * * * *
This brings to mind another very familiar story from the New Testament.
There is an event from the life of Peter while Jesus was still with him. Peter and the other disciples were out in a boat on the sea when a huge storm came up. In the middle of the storm, they saw Jesus walking on the water. Peter asked Jesus if he could come out there and walk with Jesus. Jesus said yes, so Peter stepped out of the boat.
Somewhere between the boat and Jesus, Peter started paying attention to the waves and the wind, instead of keeping his focus on Jesus. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink into the water.
All of us fit into that story at some point.
Some of us are still in the boat.
Even though things may be a little rocky, we are trying our best to maintain control of our lives in the best way that we know how.
Some of us have made it across the sea and are walking on the top of the water in the middle of the storm because we have our eyes on Jesus, and we are holding His hand.
But then there are the majority of us…