I have a friend with a sunny disposition. It doesn’t matter what happens to him; he smiles and finds something good to say. Coffee stain on his shirt? That color looks better anyway. A flat tire? What great timing! Tires are on sale this time of year. You can’t get the guy down.
I’ve never had the impression that the Apostle Paul had this type of personality. He seems to have been too realistic and too sarcastic to be accused of being the eternal optimist.
I’m struck, though, as I read the first chapter of Philippians, by Paul’s outlook. Here’s a rough summary of the three problems that Paul faced and his response to them:
- Jail? Great! Paul gets to share the gospel among the imperial guard, and the Roman church is becoming more bold and confident as they watch his example.
- Paul’s reputation being sullied by fellow believers? Not a problem, as long as Christ’s name is being made great.
- Possible death? Then Paul get to be with Jesus. However, Paul is ready to live and serve the Lord if that’s what He wants.
The key to Paul’s attitude is that he’s stopped living for himself, and he’s started living for a higher purpose: the advance of the gospel. The question has stopped being what is good for Paul. The question has become what is good for the advance of the gospel. And that makes all the difference in the world.
If we’re living for ourselves, then suffering will be both inevitable and brutal. If we are living for the advance of the gospel, suffering will still be inevitable, but it will be for a purpose. Our greatest aspiration will be that the gospel is advanced in every circumstance. I’m praying that my heart will be consumed with this reality so that it matters more than my comfort, reputation, or even my life.