Are you or someone you know going through a really, really hard time right now? Do you feel down? Are you discouraged? Do you simply want to know, oh God, how do I get out of this?
How do I get perspective? Well, stay with me. That's today on Living on the Edge. Thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. I'm Dave Druey, and Chip's our Bible teacher for this international discipleship ministry focused on helping Christians live like Christians. Well, in just a minute, Chip picks up where he left off last time in his series, I Choose Joy, by asking, in the midst of all that's happening right now, how do you persevere and experience genuine lasting joy? Well, before Chip answers that and to help you get the absolute most out of this message, let me encourage you to download Chip's message notes. They contain his outline, scripture references, and much more.
You can get them by going to the broadcasts tab at livingontheedge.org. App listeners tap fill in notes. Okay, here's Chip with part two of his message, Understanding the Power of Focus, from Philippians chapter one.
How do you develop an upward focus? And I'm going to suggest right from this passage, number one, it's a choice. It's a choice. And the choice is gratitude. And the way you do it is you choose to remember and you thank God for significant relationships. In the mornings, our whole staff comes down here and we have a prayer time.
And different pastors, actually different people on the staff lead it. And we all sit here and he goes, here's what we're going to do for the first 20 minutes. I want you to write on these three by five cards everything that you can possibly thank God for in 20 minutes. Just don't stop writing.
I filled out five. God, thank you that you forgave me. God, thank you for your word. Thank you that your spirit lives within me. Thank you for Teresa. Thank you for Eric. Thank you for Jason. Thank you for Ryan. Thank you, right? God, thank you for this church. Thank you for the people I get to work with.
God, thank you that in the midst of a crazy world, this is where we live. I mean, it was easy. I had five of these filled front and back and I had this weird experience afterwards. I had a great attitude that day. It's just a weird experience. You know, it's just like, you know, hey, you know, why?
Here's why. I spent 20 minutes focusing on what God has provided instead of my human-ness like yours is to always focus on what is missing. Second, it's an action prayer. Prayer. By the way, remember he said, I willfully chose, willfully chose to remember the past youthfulness and the partnership.
See, I think, I think we think prayer is always going to be some ooey gooey feelings and these wonderful great connections with God. Part of my rehab on this fusion on my back was walking, walking, walking, walking until I could walk for an hour. That's a lot of walking. And I just have to tell you, there's times when I didn't want to walk.
Two, I bummed out and just, I mean, honestly did a little pity party. Hey, God, you know why me and trying to serve you with all my heart and wimpy, wimpy, chippy, chippy, you know, just like you guys do. And then I remember I walk in and I listened to some worship songs and I pull out those earplugs. Father, I thank you. And I started quoting verses and then I started praying for people. I just started praying for people. I started praying for a lot of you. I prayed for our staff. I prayed for this city. All of a sudden I realized, you know, this isn't the best time praying I've had in a lot of years.
Why? Because I had to walk. I don't know what you're going through, but it's not an accident. You can develop an upward focus by choosing to give thanks and by the action of prayer.
And third, there's an attitude and the attitude is confidence. You know, I remember like toward the end of my walks, what I realized was, you know, I've been through a lot of hard times. I'm getting older and I've had God's promises and God's character, God's promises and God's character. And you know, I have these little packets where I've memorized verses over the years and I started reading some of these old verses and I found one, 1978, God's promises for Chip and Theresa.
I mean, that was like a month before we got married and God gave me this passage, this old testament passage. And I was reading through that and I thought, like, are you kidding me? I mean, my life is like a hundred X better than I ever, ever, ever dreamed, but it doesn't matter how good it is because if I have a really great day today left to myself, I just want it a little bit better.
Right? And so do you. But I want you to know that you choose, you choose joy by being grateful, by being prayerful and being confident of the future, not because you've got it all together, not because your circumstances are going to change, but there is a God who put his spirit within you who says, I'm confident of this very thing that he who began a good work in you has promises and character that he's going to see you through.
And I don't want to be morbid, but the very worst thing that could happen is you die and end up in the presence of Christ with no more pain and the best atmosphere forever and ever and ever. Say our hope isn't in this world. There's three observations that I see out of this passage that have been both helpful and convicting to me.
So I want to share the wealth. Observation number one from verses seven and eight are that difficult circumstances reveal our true affections. Fire number one, he was depressed because he lost his stuff and he was a believer, but he got caught up in stuff and money and prestige and fly into veil and skiing and luxury vacations and fire. Number two, he had a different set of affections. Second observation is living above our circumstances occurs when our hearts are so full of people.
There's no room for self pity. That's what happened in fire. Number two, 48 hours later, all 12 of his master craftsmen had jobs with his competitors. Paul, when you squeeze Paul, Paul's like a sponge. You squeeze Paul with pressure and chains and difficulty. And what oozes out is who he really was and who he really was was a man who loved God with all of his heart and cared so deeply about people. When pressure and difficulty in circumstances, whether it's work or health or problems in your family, when the vice of pressure and circumstances come into your life, whatever oozes out, that's who you are. That's who you really are.
If you're negative, if you're critical, if you're blaming, if you're down on everyone. I mean, it's easy to have a great attitude when things are going great. God uses affliction sometimes to allow adverse circumstances to realign our affections.
I mean, we all want to change, right? This whole deal I've been with on my back, if you would have asked me before all this, I would have said, you know, I'm working on some things, but God revealed some blind spots in my life and I'm so glad he did. And actually my wife made, it was very kind the way she did it. And my children as well and a couple of friends is basically these new revelations I had about these blind spots that I needed to address, they kind of looked at me like, oh really? You just found out? So you just got that you're driven over the top productivity centered nuts in a loving kind of way. You know, sometimes God loves you so much that you're praying, oh God, take it away, take it away, take it away, take it away, take it away. He's going, no, my goal isn't to make your life comfortable. My goal is to make you holy. And the only way you ever really be happy is if you're holy.
And the only way you're holy is if you see what needs to be addressed and allow me to forgive and cleanse and empower you. The summary on the first portion of this section was that our feelings always follow our focus in case you missed that. Our feelings always follow our focus. So how you are emotionally is always going to be determined on what you focus on. And then here our focus always follows our affections. See my focus is my affections. My affections were, and not uniquely, but my blind spot was my affections were around that being productive is what gave me value with God and people. Not solely, I mean it wasn't like I was just completely in that field, but there was a lot more of that than I ever dreamed. And what I want you to know is that God is not down on you and the difficulties that we have in our life and the circumstances in a fallen world.
In a fallen world there's storms, there's tsunamis, there's earthquakes. The issue will be what do you focus on and how do you respond? As I think about saying, okay, Lord, I want to choose joy. I understand I need to have a upward focus and an outward focus. And I get to have an upward focus. I need to choose to be grateful.
I need to talk to you. And I understand that there's some things that adversity reveals, but here's the last question I want to address. It's this, is how do you develop this outward focus? How do you get where under pressure you're praying for other people the way Paul prays for other people? How do you do it where it becomes a habit, where it becomes who you are, not just a thought under some pressure?
And I'm going to suggest that the Apostle Paul is going to address that in verses nine through 11 specifically. Number one, think about those who've loved you the most. When you're really discouraged and really down, just think, who are the people that have loved me the most?
It's what he does in verse three. I thank my God and all my remembrance of you. They've just sent a financial gift and when you're in prison back in those days, they didn't like to serve food.
If you didn't have friends to bring you food, you'd just die. You think about the people that have loved you the most instead of the people that rip you off the most. And then here's something interesting. You pray for those you think about the most. And put a big circle around prayer. And by the way, there's a couple different ways to pray.
I had a good friend who really struggled with if this was this full, he could focus on that much being empty. I'm not a very good counselor, but I gave him a few shots and tried to help him. And so I just said, well, are you praying? He goes, yeah. And so I said, well, he goes, it doesn't help. I said, well, let's pray right now together.
I'll never forget this. And if you've heard this story, you need to hear it again because it was like, are you kidding me? And so it was in my little apartment. And so Bob and I both get on our knees. I said, Bob, you pray first and then I'll pray. And so Bob gets down and goes, oh, God, you know the terrible childhood I had. You know how bad my father was.
You know how the kids tease me all my life. You know? And I mean, he's on and on and on and on and on. I mean, he didn't pray at all. He was whining in the presence of God. I mean, I mean, at one point I just opened my eyes and go, like for real?
You know, and you know that, you know, I haven't been able to hold down a job and I think everyone doesn't like me. And then finally, hey, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, let me, can I cut in here? God help Bob. Amen.
Okay. I said, I said, Bob, that's how you pray, right? He said, well, yeah.
I said, I got news for you. You can pray till the cows come in. God's not answering that one. Bob, that's just, that's not prayer. That's you. You're telling God all this. You've told me this and I've heard it once or twice or three times. And now have you noticed that people in this fellowship, like when you come around, they start going on.
Yeah, it's terrible. Isn't it? I said, there's a reason, Bob. He said, what's the reason? I said, you're like a recorder. All you do is whine, complain, whine, complain. We try to help you once. But he said, Bob, okay, let's try a different prayer. Pray something like this. And this I pray. God, would you help Bob's love, his passion, like never before, to understand who you really are, how much you love him, and have discernment about what truth is in life.
In order that Bob could approve the things that are excellent, he might know what are the best things for him and the people and the things that are worse for him so that his life could be blameless. The word means tested by sunlight, sincere tested by sunlight. Take that back. And blameless means morally pure. In other words, what Paul prays and what we can pray, I pray this for my kids. I pray this for me. I pray this for Teresa.
I pray this for our staff. And sometimes I think we have these prayers. God, help so and so, help so and so, help so and so, help so and so.
God knows all that and I'm not saying we shouldn't do it. But when Paul prays, Paul prays, this is what I'm praying. I pray this for my adult kids. Lord God, would you give them an experiential, genuine knowledge of you where they feel you and experience you like never before in such a way that in the world and all the pools that are coming at them, they would understand I don't want to go that direction, but I want to go this direction. And God, that each one of my boys, that you would keep them pure in their hearts and their minds.
And each one of my daughter and my daughter-in-laws would have such a love for you and understanding that as everyone tells them they ought to be this and ought to be that, that when you look like sun coming through a pain glass window, they would be pure before you and morally pure so that they would be the kind of men and women that would love one another and honor you and create an environment so my grandkids could see Jesus in their life. And if you look at this, he has a request. Then he gives the reason for the request. And the last phrase he gives them the resource having been filled with the fruit of righteousness. It's what's called a passive perfect participle for those of you that are English majors.
Passive means the action is upon you. Perfect is something that happened in the past that continues on into the future. And what he's saying is, Philippians, it's a hard world but let me tell you something. I'm praying that you'll know God like never before. And I'm praying you'll get it so crystal clear that all the trash and all the temptations that you'll see that is not the way I want to go. And that instead you will walk with God in such a way because when you received Christ, the old man died, the Spirit of God came into your life and the righteousness that he purchased, the fruit of it, this is how God sees you now and it's not about trying hard to be a good person. You actually possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ and by faith you live out what's already operating in you until the day of Christ which is when he returns. And so it's a deeply theological and personal prayer.
You start praying that kind of prayer for people you care about and your self-pity will go and your woe is me will go. And it won't just be, you know, some of our prayers are, oh God, help them sell their house, help their back to get better, help this to get better. We think that sometimes when I listen to myself pray and some of you is that the only goal is that God would make life better or easier. What if the bigger goal is he makes us more like Christ so that we are actually change agents that change everything and everyone around us.
C plus P equals E. Question is where's your focus? I mean, okay in that box, when you think about the box, is your focus upward God? What do you want to do in and through this and is it outward God?
How are you going to use me or what's happening in other people's lives? My, I got a tough situation, but maybe at work or maybe the unwed mother or maybe the lonely person or maybe a relative or maybe there's someone I know in this body whose difficulty and challenges you get your heart filled with loving other people. And I will tell you joy, joy, not because things got better. It's because joy is the evidence of Christ's presence operating freely in your heart. It's a gift of the spirit. Chip will be right back with his application for this message, understanding the power of focus from his series, I Choose Joy. Let me ask you, how do people know you're a Christian?
What sets you and me apart that causes others to think what's different about them? Through Chip's study in Philippians chapter one, he reveals how joy supernaturally works in our lives and why it draws so much attention from others. Chip also illustrates what joy has to do with our purposes, expectations, focus and sense of hope.
If you've missed any part of this series or just want to share one of these messages with a friend, check out the Chip Ingram app. Well, I'm joined in studio now by our Bible teacher, Chip Ingram. And Chip, I know you've got some really helpful application to share for this message, but before you do that, you know this ministry is able to continue to help believers all over the world because of the financial support of our listeners. So would you take a minute and talk about why a generous heart is so important?
Well, first of all, ministry is always an issue of the heart. And Jesus says that wherever our treasure is, that is where our heart will be. The Bible also commands us to be generous and open and free. And everything that I have, everyone listening to my voice right now, everything they have, God has entrusted that to them. The second is the Bible is really clear, not only that we should be generous, but where we should be generous.
I personally believe that your first commitment is to your local church. But then there's that opportunity to give over and above that first portion and to express love because God says wherever you're spiritually ministered unto. In fact, the apostle Paul would say to a group of Christians, I ministered spiritually to you. And he actually went so far to say, you have a financial obligation to minister back to me.
And in his situation, it wasn't like for airtime, I guess it was maybe donkey time or I need some new parchments. I need your financial resources to get on that ship to go from Corinth to Ephesus. And it's just the same here. If you get ministered unto, one of the ways that you not only say thank you, but then you generously pass it on to others is to support that ministry that's ministering to you. So that's kind of what biblically why we do it. And there's just the reality of need and it's a partnership and a team. And people are generous.
I mean, I'm thrilled. I'm very excited about how they do give. And so I want to say if you haven't, you can get in on this.
And if you have, thank you very much. Thanks, Chip. Well, as you prayerfully consider your role with this ministry, I want to remind you that every gift is significant.
When you partner with Living on the Edge, you multiply our efforts and resources in ways that only God can do. Make your donation at livingontheedge.org or through the Chip Ingram app. Or if it's easier, you can text the word donate to 741-41. That's donate to 741-41.
We appreciate your help. Well, now here's Chip. As we wrap up today's program, I wish we could sit down literally and have a cup of coffee. And you could tell me, hey, Chip, you know, here's what I'm going through. And here's a couple of relationships that are really difficult or my work or a health issue. And I could really, really listen and ask a few questions. And then I could turn around and tell you, hey, you know, here's some things I'm going through right now.
And then at the end of our time, I think we would go back to what we heard taught today, that difficult circumstances really do reveal our affections. You know, the Apostle Paul, you see the core of his attitude. He's going through horrendous circumstances, but his focus is so upward.
His confidence is, you know, God's going to use this for good and they're outward. Now, he thinks to himself, you know, this is really hard on me right now, but think of the impact it's going to have for other people. One of the things that hit me about this was the truth that our feelings always follow our focus.
You know, when I'm looking at things half empty and that's my focus, my emotions go downward. But then the next thing we learned was that our focus is always determined by our affections. Paul's affection was God's heart, God's agenda, God's will. And what I want to confess to you is when I really struggle with perspective and when I get down, what I realize very subtly is my affections are around my happiness, my agenda, my plans, and what I want to happen for me. And I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but I would just ask you as we study Philippians chapter 1 together, could your affections have drifted? Could some of your challenges, your emotions, your negativity really be centered around that your affections have gotten a bit off of following and honoring Christ and a bit more on you and your happiness and what you want to happen? And if so, could we pause today together and say, Lord, will you help us? You know everything about us.
We want our affections to be on you. Would you help us to look upward and outward? And would you give us your perspective today for your glory? In Jesus' name. Amen. Well, just before we close, could I ask something? Would you pray for those who are responding to Chip's encouragement today? Now, there's always a spiritual battle when we feel prompted to draw near and obey God.
Thanks for taking a minute to do that. And if there's a way we can pray for you, let us know by calling us at 888-333-6003 or email chip at livingontheedge.org. We'd love to hear from you. Well, join us next time as Chip continues his series, I Choose Joy. Until then, I'm Dave Drouin, saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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