You can’t prevent all the problems of life, but you can praise God in the midst of them.
I heard the former Senate chaplain, Lloyd Ogilvie, once tell about a conference where he spoke. All the conferees were given a button that read: “I’ve got one and you’ve got one too.”
Throughout the conference curiosity grew – what is it that everyone has? Finally, the conference leaders revealed the answer: a problem.
Ogilvie chuckled and said that sometimes he’d meet an acquaintance that he hadn’t seen in quite some time and interject a question in the conversation: “Say, how’d everything work out in that situation you were dealing with?” The other person always responded with an explanation because everyone has “situations.”
The Apostle Paul is so victorious in his spirit that, at times, I forget the breadth and depth of the problems that he faced. In verses 19-30 of Philippians 2, Paul offers what, at first, seem to be rambling comments of affection for Timothy and Epaphroditus. But, upon a slower look, I realize that Paul is doing much more – he’s transparently sharing about the problems he is facing.
He would like to send Timothy to the Philippian church, but honestly, Paul just can’t spare him. Paul needs the comfort and help of his spiritual son nearby. Maybe he should send Timothy – but he just can’t.
It was also a problem that Epaphroditus had nearly died. The Lord spared him, but Paul’s soul had been wrenched with even the thought of the sorrow he would have felt had Epaphroditus died.
Paul didn’t know what was going to happen with his trial. He didn’t know if he would be set free because he was a Roman citizen or if would be executed. He simply didn’t know.
In the midst of such real problems, however, Paul doesn’t complain and feels no doom. How is that possible? The problems are real, but his identity in Christ is more real. The problems don’t define Paul. He can be real about them without belaboring them. Your problems don’t define you either. Your life in Christ is what matters. And that’s the Gospel!