UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES
(Click here to download this sermon as a Word document)
Saul was converted on the Damascus Road around 34 AD. He first met some of the disciples and then departed for three
years in Arabia where he became a personal student in God's Bible Institute. He then went to Antioch in Syria (a
number of cities were called by that name) where he met Barnabas. Under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the elders
of the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas out as foreign missionaries around 48 AD. They headed for Asia (Turkey)
where they preached, established churches and selected elders (Acts 13-14).
Before the second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over John Mark and they eventually
separated. The result was two mission teams. Paul joined with Silas for his second term as a missionary, heading
again for Asia (Turkey). Barnabas and John Mark sailed to Cyprus.
Paul and Silas traveled through Turkey (called Asia in the NT) preaching, teaching, encouraging believers and
founding churches. They planned to travel on to Bithynia on the northern border of Turkey, but their plans were
suddenly changed by the “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:5-12). On another occasion, Paul wanted to visit the
Thessalonians, but “Satan hindered him” (I Thess. 2:18). Do you wonder how Paul knew the difference? I think
that it was Paul’s close relationship with his Lord! Paul and Silas turned around and headed for Troas on the
eastern coast, where they spent the night. It was in the night that Paul saw a vision and received that now
famous "Macedonian Call".
Philippi was the most important city of Macedonia, named after Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the
Great. Paul originally had no intentions of going there, but God clearly led. And what did they experience?
Because they freed a slave girl, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into a prison. What could they do in a
rat-infested prison cell, their backs a bloody mess, their feet locked in stocks so they couldn’t sleep? Paul
and Silas prayed and sang hymns for their captive audience. While they prayed and sang, God sent an earthquake
and the prison doors were opened. The jailor was about to commit suicide when Paul called out to him that all
the prisoners were still there! The circumstances were very unfavorable, but Paul and Silas overcame their
circumstances and it resulted in the founding of the church at Philippi, the first Christian community in Europe!
I don't know where Paul is writing this letter, but it is one of the Apostle's prison epistles and Timothy is
with him. Because the letter to the Philippians addresses saints, Bishops and Deacons, it seems clear that this
epistle was written several years after Paul and Silas visited the city the
first time and wound up in prison.
Read Text: Phil. 4:4-13
Everyone wants favorable circumstances – a good paying job, a comfortable home,
a nice car or two and at least one annual vacation. It isn’t much different with
pastors and missionaries. I doubt seriously if Paul was looking for trouble and
neither should we, but when we are following God’s leading, we can consider our
circumstances ordained of God.
In verses 4 through 8, Paul lists five things that God desires for believers
I will first list them and then deal with them individually.
1. God wants believers to be happy (verse 4)
2. God wants believers to live conservatively and be aware of His coming (v.5)
3. God wants believers to have their needs supplied (verses 6 and 19)
4. God wants believers to have his peace (verse 7)
5. God wants believers to have healthy and godly thoughts and desires (verse 8)
1) God wants his children and especially his servants to have his joy ("re-JOY-ce!")
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice! (vs.4) The Apostle Paul wrote these words, but they are
God's inspired Word. The word “alway” (pantote) means “consistently and continuously.” “Rejoice” means “Be of
good cheer, up-beat, even when you are beat up!”
2) Secondly, God wants his children to live conservatively and always be ready for his return.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (vs.5).
Not many Christians in America take this seriously, but Phil. 4:5 says that this life style should characterize
Christians – be known unto all men!
I call the present generation of youth “the selfie generation.” Everyone has Facebook and it’s all about
promoting self. People post what they had for breakfast and even tell how it tasted. If you want to make
someone’s day, just go to their Facebook page and “like” them. The younger generation inherited this characteristic
honestly. Many adults seek to impress others. They are always bragging about their possessions, their kids and
their travels. Some run up huge debts attempting to maintain the status quo – until they lose their homes and
Paul wrote to Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:7-11: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry
nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into
temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith,
and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
3) God wants his children to have their needs met.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known unto God. (vs.6)
The Greek translated “careful” means anxious, worried or overly concerned. God will supply all our needs
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.(vs.19) BUT God wants us to talk to him about our needs
4) God wants his children to have his peace
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding [circumstances], shall keep your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus. (vs.7)
It is not the world's peace, but God's peace. Inner peace even while being mocked, troubled or persecuted.
Most think of outward physical afflictions – war, sickness, tragedy etc.. God's peace is in our hearts and
5) God wants his children to have healthy and godly thoughts and desires (verse 8 lists 8 things).
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there
be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Can you imagine anyone who enjoys all 8 of these blessings living “under the circumstances”? Write these 8
adjectives on a piece of paper and fasten it to the TV remote!
II. PAUL'S EXAMPLE
In verses 9-13, Paul shows us how we can learn to live above our circumstances.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace
(in verse 7 it was "the peace of God") shall be with you. Are you that kind of example to those around you?
Your children? Grandchildren? Neighbors? Because Paul practiced what he preached, he could conscientiously
say, “Follow my example!” That is true discipleship! Our grandchildren know very little about us, so I wrote
an autobiography. We don’t see much of them, but when we do. We try to encourage them to follow Jesus and
seek his will for their lives. Three of our grandkids have participated in mission trips and
at least two are very interested in missions as a career. They are following our
Paul writes in 4:12: I have learned, in whatsoever state [circumstances - NJ] I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to
be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Several Greek words reference our circumstances in the NT. One is perihumon
PERI (= perimeter, periscope)
depicts surrounding and HUMON means "personal." Our word "human" is derived from this word. The idea is our
personal surroundings or environment. Liberals show a lot of concern for the natural environment, but they
have little interest in Christ Jesus, or in fighting evil influences. They march to save the rain forests,
glaciers and icebergs, but ridicule Christians who don’t ruin their bodies by smoking or drinking. They
fight to legalize addictive drugs for recreational use. They want to save frogs and snakes, but demonstrate
for the right to kill unborn children. They are tree huggers, but despise God's plan for a healthy family
and try to destroy it. At Camp Haluwasa, where I gave my life to Jesus, counselors are
now forbidden by law to hug a homesick camper.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:11
We talk about good and bad circumstances, but with God, neither of these conditions exist. God needs to get
us out of our “comfort zone” at times, because that is where we grow strong. We can do all things through
Christ who strengthens us. Most suicides occur among rich and popular celebrities and accidents often occur
when people are doing what they want or enjoy. Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant
it for good.” Was that just a momentary insight? I think that he had decided many years earlier to obey God
and accept the circumstances that God allowed in his life.
There are predictable and unpredictable circumstances in everyone’s life. My nephew recently died of a heart
condition that only shows up once in several million persons, but his death was predictable. He was born with
his heart turned around backwards. I had open heart surgery and received four bypasses in 2005. There were no
warning signs whatsoever. Cholesterol levels were great and my blood pressure, life style and eating habits
were ideal. No one in my family had heart disease.
God not only promises good things, but he also promised, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). The enemy is not happy when we are blessed (think of Job) and they get
irate when we share good news – the gospel with them. We can expect opposition, confrontation, ridicule, shame,
slander, threats, even physical opposition or death. Our enemy gets angry when we overcome trials and temptations
successfully. They want us to be miserable and not joyful!
Most Christians would like to live victoriously but say, "under the circumstances I can’t!"
When we were on furlough and speaking in churches, we often heard Christians say, “I would like to support your
ministry but I have to pay off my debts.” These people give little to God – and it is all his fault! They were
“under the circumstances.” Of course, if the TV quit, the same Christians would go out and buy a new TV on credit!
The ushers should perhaps carry credit card swipers for these people!
People often try to pass off their circumstances as reasons for disobedience. There may be no sure way for us to
judge, but God knows the heart and every believer should be constantly seeking to overcome circumstances. If God
commands it, we can do it! Where God leads, we can follow.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. -Philippians 4:11
There is a saying that goes like this, “all’s well that ends well.” Some people understand this to mean, “The
ends justify the means.” Believers should know that All things work together for good to them that love God, to
them who are the called according to His purpose. When we obey God and follow his leading, it always ends well.
We sing that grand old hymn, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”
That statement is not quite accurate. It seems to insinuate that we presently live under the circumstances, but
someday we will live victoriously.
“It IS worth it all IF we see Jesus.”
Ralph V Harvey