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Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Toward a “Whole Story” Perspective

Philippians 1:12-30   Ezekiel 19   Isaiah 48

“What has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). The words are those of the apostle Paul, who happens to be a prisoner of the imperial guard (v.13,14).  And alongside his reflections we continue to hear the prophets speak to God’s exiled people, who have been “transplanted into the wilderness” (Ezekiel 19:13) in order to be “tested” by God “in the furnace of adversity” (Isaiah 48:10) . . . The circumstances addressed in today’s readings remind us that being part of God’s story is no guarantee that things will always “go well.” They also call us to a larger, “whole story” perspective . . .

“Whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Whatever his situation, be it imprisonment, opposition, life, or death, from Paul’s perspective the only thing that matters is that the story will be “spread” and Christ will be “proclaimed” and “exalted” (v.12,18,20). In this he echoes the prophets, who hold that even the lamentable situation of exile can — and will — lead to God’s glory, as the faithful proclaim, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!” (Isaiah 48:20) . . . In fact, Paul goes so far as to call it a “privilege” to not only believe in Christ, but to suffer for him as well (Philippians 1:29). Well. It is perspective that requires a vision beyond ourselves; an approach that focuses on the “greater good” and places self in the role of contributing to a story that is larger that any one of us . . .

“Only live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). As the exiles demonstrate, God is more than capable and willing to use our disobedience to teach, lead, and redeem, thereby advancing the story of amazing love (Isaiah 48). But Paul’s model of a worthy life is to be preferred: “For me living is Christ and dying is gain” (v.21). In such intentionality and perspective is found great purpose and, yes,  joy (v.18,25). May we see beyond ourselves. May we always place our circumstances in the context of the whole story of God. And may we live lives worthy of that story, knowing that just being a part of it is a profound privilege.

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel;
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your own good,
who leads you in the way you should go.”
— Isaiah 48:17


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