Deliverance and the Purpose of Problems
In Philippians 1:19, Paul comments, “... for I know that WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME WILL TURN OUT FOR MY DELIVERANCE.” The word we want to look at here is “deliverance”. What is Paul wanting to convey? Does he believe that because of the Philippians’ prayers and the help of Jesus, he will be released from prison? Is that what he considers “deliverance”?
It is not! The Greek word he uses refers to SPIRITUAL DELIVERANCE and to SALVATION. It holds within it the ideas of safety, of preservation, of healing, and of soundness. For Paul has come to understand that as Tim Hansel has written in his book, Eating Problems for Breakfast, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift in it.”
Dwight Pentecost points out that Paul is speaking here of what this prison experience HAS DELIVERED him from. The experience has changed him. He has lost his freedom, lost his ministry, lost his ability to exercise the authority of an apostle. He has no money. He has to beg someone even to bring him a cloak. He has been charged with a capital crime and understands that when he finally comes to trial, he may well face execution.
Nevertheless, Paul realizes and communicates: I have not given myself to proclaiming the gospel of Christ because I love to minister. I have not given myself to ministry because I love its material rewards. I have not given myself to sharing the good news because I love the authority that comes with it. I have considered my motivation. I have examined my life and my conclusion is that the sufferings I have gone through have LET ME SEE that
JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONE THING THAT IS WORTHWHILE IN LIFE.
Paul’s sufferings clarified his motives. They led him to evaluate his life and to see what is most important. When he says, “I know that this will turn out to my benefit”, he is showing that he thoroughly understands the purpose of problems.
Often, we do not understand the potential purpose of our problems and until we struggle with this issue, we will be hard-pressed to deal with challenges throughout our life.
Tim Hansel lists three false ideas about problems that cause us to miss the creative purpose of tribulations:
1. We believe that there is something inherently bad about troubles because they often involve us in unpleasant pressures, distressing conflict, or an inconvenient interruption of our plans.
2. We think that a lack of problems should be a reward for hard work, careful planning, and clear thinking.
3. We think that if we love God, commit our lives to Him, and diligently serve Him, He will work things out so that everything will run smoothly for us.
But the Greek root of the word “PROBLEM” actually means:
“TO THROW" . . .
"TO DRIVE". . .
"TO THRUST FORWARD” . . .
Problems are the means by which God changes us, transforms us, and drives us forward!
Paul understands this and is saying here, “God is testing me, and the testing is for MY BENEFIT, not for God’s. He knew what was in my heart all along, but until the time of testing came, I did not know what was there. Yet now I know.”
As we think about Paul’s words found here, we realize that he is living our Romans 8:28-29:
“For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God; to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, those he did predestine to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”
We are struck by Paul’s quiet confidence. Swindoll writes, “Refusing to be crippled by other people’s words, refusing to submerge himself in self-pity, and refusing to take criticism and attacks personally, Paul remained strong, positive, and sure.”
How could Paul be so strong? There is no question about that. THE MAN WAS CONTENTED BECAUSE CHRIST WAS CENTRAL. Paul’s DELIVERANCE is that he has discovered that ONLY CHRIST CAN SATISFY!
Lord, teach me to lean into YOU when trials come and not run or tremble in fear nor roar against people or circumstances in anger and frustration. Thank you that as I look up in faith, You Yourself will quiet my heart, so that I may rejoice in YOU. For truly, ONLY YOU are my rock and my salvation . . . anywhere, anytime, and in the midst of literally anything!