It hurts. It hurts to be ignored. It hurts to be humiliated. It hurts to be physically assaulted. It hurts to be booed at by crowds of people. It hurts to be imprisoned unlawfully. It could make one bitter and twisted, thinking the worst about those who did it to you. You certainly wouldn’t write nice encouraging letters to those responsible. But St Paul did. His letter to the Philippians shows how he was able to forgive those who had brought such hurt to him. It shows how he even came to have love and deep affection for them. It shows how we can be helped to deal with all the hurts we have suffered in the past.
1). THE HURT PAUL ENDURED IN PHILIPPI
i. The Hurt From Physical And Emotional Distress. Paul had come into Philippi to preach the gospel. There he met a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune‑telling. She followed Paul for a few days, shouting out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Finally Paul turned around and told the spirit to come out of her, which it did. We read what happened in Acts 16:19-22, as the owners of the girl realised that their hope of making money was gone as she no longer had that ability to foretell the future.
They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. … The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. No wonder Paul wrote in 1 Thess 2:2 that in Philippi they had suffered and been shamefully mistreated. The word for “shamefully mistreated” (hubrizo) describes great violence.
- There was a 2 fold suffering involved for them.
- One was the physical pain that came from the severe flogging.
- The other was the public humiliation and shame that was forced on them as they were arrested, stripped and beaten.
Ourselves? Perhaps some of us can begin to identify with St Paul in the hurt he suffered. There may have been those who inflicted upon us physical hurt so that we were deeply wounded physically and scarred emotionally. Or it may have been a sense of being deeply humiliated publicly, so that we were left with an acute sense of embarrassment and shame. Today even the memory of that incident brings us a renewed sense of shame.
ii. The Hurt From Being Let Down By Others. Paul had been let down by those who had promised to support him in his ministry. At first the church in Philippi had supported him, (Phil 4:15). But after some time, the support had dropped off. But he was able to write in Phil 4:10, I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your concern for me. It was hurtful for Paul to have support promised and then for that support to dry up. How did Paul deal with the hurt?Paul had come to know the freedom that comes from forgiving others of the hurt they inflicted on him. He had been able to pray a blessing on them as he does in this letter.
Ourselves? Many of us know what it’s like to be disappointed by people who promised to be there for us. But when we needed them they weren’t there for us. It hurt deeply. One can only imagine the deep hurt of those whose marriages ended because one of the partners betrayed the trust of his or her spouse by walking out of the marriage to begin a relationship with another person. What ongoing hurt and pain that must bring.
2). THE GRATITUDE HE FELT TO GOD. 1:3-7. He expressed it in 1:3. “I keep on thanking my God”. In other words, he was so grateful to God for all His blessings to Him that it had become a habit for Paul to pray with thanksgiving as he prayed (as he advises his readers to do in Chapter 4). He tells us why He was thankful to God. In v. 5. it was for their fellowship, their appreciation of the Gospel message he had shared with them. In v.6, because God had touched the lives of the Christians in Philippi, and would continue His work of transformation in them for as long as they lived. In v.7 that he and they were the recipients of grace, of God’s unmerited favour. That grace had come to him when he was free to go around preaching the Gospel. It came to him even when he was shut up in prison. That grace had come to them as they heard about Jesus and invited Him into their lives. Prison doors couldn’t shut out the grace of God. Neither can cement or steel. (It is only hardened hearts, hearts of stone towards God, that can keep out the grace of God from any person.) Paul looked beyond the hurts he had suffered, to the God who could heal him and transform him.
Ourselves? Where is our focus in life? Is it still on the hurts we have received? Is it on the people who hurt us? There is no healing in having a wrong focus in life. Healing comes as we lift our eyes from the hurts and from the people who hurt us, to the Lord who alone can bring the healing.
3). THE GRATITUDE HE FELT FOR INDIVIDUALS. Paul was filled with gratitude to God for His blessings to him. But he was also deeply grateful to the human instruments God had used, to bring that help to him. The Philippians featured in his prayer life as we see in verses 3 to 9. Notice the number of times he says “all” or “every” in these eleven verses. He thanked God for:-v.3 every remembrance of them. v. 4. always, in every prayer for them. v.7 that they had all been partakers with him of God’s grace. His attitude to them was so healthy. He prayed for them with a yearning for them all with the affection of Christ Jesus, verse8. In verse 9 he prayed that their love might abound with all knowledge and all discernment.
Paul’s gratitude, love and concern were not selective as sometimes ours becomes. We love those who love us. We accept those who accept us. We honour those who honour us. We prefer those who have the same views as we do. By contrast, Paul’s love and concern was for all of them: All, including those who had shouted with the crowd against him and Silas when he first came to Philippi. All of those who had been responsible for his being beaten up in Philippi and had now been converted to Christ. All those who had supported him and then had withdrawn their support. All, including the two women who had laboured side by side with Paul in the Gospel, Euodia and Syntyche (chapter 4), who had had words and were playing “no speaks”. Paul prayed for and was thankful for all of these people, with all their hang‑ups and faults.
Just after Paul was beaten up and imprisoned on his first visit to Philippi, he brought his God into the equation. Acts 16:24 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison. How did Paul react? We read in (Acts 16:25) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. The situation around them might be horrible but Paul and Silas in pain would still give glory to God and praise Him in song. They practised the presence of God with them in the prison. They turned their focus from their hurts and from those who had hurt them to focus on God Himself.
Ourselves? Giving Praise and thanksgiving to God can release us emotionally. It gets our focus right. It rids us of the poison of bitterness and resentment that destroys us inwardly, that distorts our vision of reality, that reads wrong motives into innocent statements or actions. In worship we invite the Lord to be seated on our praises, the concept seen in Psalm 22:3, Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Praise invites the Lord to take His rightful place in our lives and to establish His will in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we pray.
Gratitude to God releases us to love, with the love of Jesus. That’s what Paul told them in verse 8, “I’m loving you with Jesus’ love”. What an incredible release, what an improvement in our mental and physical health, comes when we become grateful people. One final thing. This gratitude needs to be expressed.
4). THE GRATITUDE HE EXPRESSED TO OTHERS. In these verses Paul is telling his friends why he is grateful to God for them. He also tells them what he is praying for them. If he had not bothered to write to them, they would never have known. Now he is blessing them, helping build up their emotional, physical and spiritual well‑being, by sharing his gratitude for what God means to him, and what they meant to him.
Ourselves? Is our gratitude being expressed in love, adoration and praise to God? If not our focus in life is wrong. Are there people to whom we need to communicate our gratitude, even for little things?
This passage forces us to consider some questions. Are you a grateful person? Are you thanking God for all the blessings He showers upon you day by day? Are you resentful because you feel as though He has let you down? Do you grumble at your circumstances in life? God hates grumbling because He knows what it does to us, rather than what it does to Him.
Gratitude opens us to receive the grace of God, the love and peace of God, to become more whole. Ingratitude closes the door to God’s grace. Paul wrote in 1 Thess 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To be ungrateful, is to be out of the will of God.
THE HEALING OF DEEP HURTS. Jesus spoke about the need to forgive those who hurt us and to bless those who despitefully use us or persecute us. He demonstrated that in His own life on the cross as He prayed for those who had hurt Him physically and who had publicly humiliated Him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
St Paul demonstrated the same attitude in His life. He wrote in Col 3:13 … forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. He knew that he had been marvellously forgiven by God of all his sins, even his sins of persecution against Christians. He had learned to forgive those who had sinned against Him. He encouraged his readers to forgive in the same way. The word used here to forgive is charizomai which comes from charis grace. Forgiveness is extending grace to those who don’t deserve it.
Ourselves? What are we going to do about those who hurt or humiliated us? Will we keep thinking about those hurts and about the hurtful people? Or will we be like Jesus and St Paul, and turn from those hurts, that humiliation, and let God free us from the pain of those things, and bring us healing? Remember, when God forgave you, you didn’t deserve it. You could have done nothing to earn it. It came when you received Christ into your lives. In Him we have forgiveness of our sins and redemption through His blood. The people you need to forgive can never deserve your forgiveness. Forgiving someone is gracing them with something they could never earn.
Today as you think about this passage from Phil 1,
- where is your focus? Is it on the hurts you have received and the people who hurt you? Or is it on the Lord who forgives you in Christ and wants you to forgive others? Some of us may need to change our focus because dwelling on our hurts or on those responsible for them doesn’t get us anywhere. We’ve got to let them go. We let them go through forgiveness.
- Who hurt you? I want us to think of just one person whom we may need to forgive for hurting us in any way. It doesn’t have to be the person who hurt you the most. It can be anyone at all. Let’s go through the process of forgiving such a person through prayer. As we do so we need to know that we are forgiven by God so that we can really forgive others. Only forgiven people can really forgive.
Almighty God, I recognise that I am a sinner needing your forgiveness. I thank you that Your Son Jesus came to take away my sin by dying for me on the cross. I thank You that I can have forgiveness by receiving it in Jesus. Lord Jesus come into my life to be my Saviour from sin. I thank You for the forgiveness I now have in You.
Lord, You have told us to forgive one another as You have forgiven us in Your Son. I choose now to forgive this person (xxxxxxxx) for their sins against me. I know they don’t deserve my forgiveness but I choose to “grace” them with my forgiveness. I ask that You would bless them especially by bringing them to Yourself. As I forgive that person and let the sin go, please heal me of the damage from the hurt that person brought into my life. I want to be always in the centre of Your will. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.
Blog No.060. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 22nd February 2012