16: When Paul Sounds Like A Jedi
**To kick off our Daniel series, and in preparation for moving into our new home on October 18th, the elders have invited our church family to a 28-day season of prayer and fasting. These daily devotionals correspond with the 28-day Bible reading countdown to the day we celebrate our soft opening.**
Do you remember the scene in the first Star Wars film, A New Hope (technically episode 4 for all the Force Fanatics among us), where Obi-Wan Kenobi is fighting Darth Vader? It’s actually the first lightsaber duel in Star Wars franchise history. There’s this great moment in the fight where Obi-Wan, in true Jedi form, drops an epic line of mystical dialogue, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Well, spoiler alert (But is it really? Afterall, it’s been 43 years), Darth Vader does in fact strike him down. Why is this scene in the movie? I think one of the reasons is to plant the idea of hope into the story, which gives us as we watch the movie, the feeling that even when it appears that the good guys are losing, Evil will never be powerful enough to win in the end.
When I read the first chapter of Philippians, sometimes I imagine the Apostle Paul as Jedi Paul, especially when he says things like, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(vs.21) And if I’m being honest, while part of me loves Paul for writing epic lines like this, there is also part of me that tends to go, “Well that’s great for you, Paul, but what about the rest of us non-Jedi Christians? You got anything for those of us who don’t float six inches above the ground?”
Well, if Paul had the opportunity to answer my inner cynic directly, I think he would say something like this, “As a matter of fact, yes, I do have something for you...and by the time I’m done you’ll not only have enough confidence to agree with everything I’ve said, but you’ll be saying it right along with me.”
Let’s give Paul a fair chance. Look at the incredible promise that comes in verse 6 of Philippians chapter 1:
”...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God knows you’re a work in progress. So right now, take a minute to rest in the presence of your Heavenly Father. He knows you, He’s called you, He’s for you, He sees you, He loves you, and He is pleased with you.
And this is where the inner cynic rebutts, “Yeah, but I’m not where I should be. I keep failing. I’m not the man or woman I should be. I should be further ahead in life. I shouldn’t struggle so much. I should be ‘crushing it’ but most of the time I feel like I’m being crushed.”
Friend, if this sounds like the frequent voice of your inner cynic, allow me to be extremely blunt: Stop making it all about you. Who began a good work in you? God did. Who will bring it to completion? God will. You are not the main character in your redemption story; Jesus is. If you have lost hope for change or growth in your life, there’s a good chance you’re trying to take too much credit rather than being fully dependent on the grace of God. Let the past, present, and future reality of the gospel sink in:
Past - God has finished His work for you. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He died for your sins and rose for your justification.
Present - God is finishing His work in you. The Holy Spirit lives in you, encouraging, convicting, assuring, leading, and sanctifying you.
Future - God will perfect you as a finished work of His grace. There will come a day when you will never again struggle with sin, shame, or disappointment. When Christ returns, you will rise with a new body and be perfect forever.
When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant in His first coming, He left the Church with a “New Hope” (see what I did there) for His second coming. One theologian said that the Church lives “between memory and hope.” The memory of what Jesus has already done in his life, death, and resurrection, fills us with hope for His return. This is no cliche, reality-denying optimism. This is concrete, reality-embracing faith that is available for every Christian to walk in. And look at how Paul applied this gospel hope to very hard and very real-life circumstances right here in Philippians chapter one:
- Throw him in prison and he’ll thank you for advancing the gospel even more (vs.12-14).
- Take advantage of Paul’s imprisonment to compete with his ministry and start preaching the gospel for selfish gain, and he’ll thank you for preaching the gospel (vs.15-18).
- Threaten to kill him, and he’ll thank you for sending him to be with Jesus (vs.19-21).
- Keep him alive in jail and he’ll thank you for the privilege of continuing in fruitful ministry (vs.22-26).
Make no mistake, Paul was not a preacher of platitudes, he was a preacher of reality, and according to Paul, the center of reality is Jesus Christ. The main character of your redemption story is Jesus, and He has given you the undeniable promise that He will finish the work He started in you. You can have the same hope that Paul had.
So where are you failing? Where are you struggling? Where are you being attacked? Where are you not where you should be? Where are you discouraged, disappointed, depressed? Where are you giving up? Where are you being crushed? Where does it seem like you are ultimately going to lose? Let me simply remind you of your hope: Jesus wins, and you’re in Christ, which means you win too. So today, may you experience the joy of moving forward in the power of His grace.
Pastor Kyle McMullen