Viewing Life Through Christ-tinted Glasses
When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.
I think we’ve all heard that phrase before. The meaning of it being that at times in your life, things may not go your way, or at least as you had intended. And when things go bad for you, it’s like life has given you a lemon.
And lemons are sour or bitter - I’m never sure which is which - but they don’t taste nice.
However, lemonade, on the other hand, takes those lemons and adds sugar and it tastes nice and is refreshing.
So when life deals you something bitter, turn it around into something sweet. That’s kinda the sentiment behind that.
Well, for Paul, sitting in a Roman prison, chained to a guard 24/7, life had dealt him a whole barrel of lemons.
And yet Paul sees this not as a bitter experience - Paul sees the opportunity to make lemonade. And he is writing to a church in Philippi, who are worried about him and the fact that he’s in prison.
And they are worried about what this means to their faith and their religion - and he’s telling them, “The amount of lemons I’ve been dealt is crazy, but look at all the lemonade I’ve made.”
Let’s have a look at what Paul means by this and how someone who is in prison, or at least house arrest constantly chained to a guard can think his circumstances are anything other than bitter. Life has dealt Paul some serious amount of lemons. So he can he make lemonade from this?
Cos while we’ve finished our ‘verses of encouragement’ series, there’s a great deal of encouragement that we can get from this letter. And let’s face it - for many of us here, life has dealt us lemons or is currently dealing us lemons - so how can we make lemonade from our bitter circumstances?
Like I said, Paul is under house arrest in Rome, chained to a guard 24/7. Things are looking pretty grim for him and he facing an uncertain future - is this going to lead to execution or torture or what?
And there’s a place called Philippi - a Roman-occupied city - full of Roman soldiers. And in this city there is a church - in fact, probably a group of house-churches, who have followed the teaching of Paul and have given their lives to Christ and are followers of him. They are Christians.
But their leader, Paul is now in prison for his faith. What does that mean? Is the ride over? Is that us done? Has our new religion ended as soon as it’s begun? What is that small church in Philippi supposed to make of all this!!??
And in a sense, you can imagine the tension in Philippi, what with Paul in prison IN ROME...FOR HIS FAITH... And these are people following Jesus in a Roman-occupied city.
Then a letter comes to them, written by Paul himself, from prison, telling them, ‘listen guys, I’m so joyful right now… and let me tell you why...’
So the church can relax - Paul is doing ok. In fact, he’s more than ok.
And the church in Philippi get an insight into Paul’s thinking, which is this...
I view everything through Christ-tinted glasses.
You’ve heard the expression, ‘looking back with rose-tinted glasses’ - which means that when people look back on their lives, there can be a tendency for some to remember only the good times, and kinda minimise the bad times. I do that with my children.
Bringing up Naomi was and still is really hard work. She cried for the first few years solidly. It was a living nightmare. Now there’s nothing rose-tinted about that, but I have to remember that was the case otherwise I’d forget how awful it was.
But when I look back, I can remember the good times - the smiles (sometimes), the first steps, the dinnertime mess and the bathtimes…and I see everything as if it was all joy and happiness, because my mind has blocked out all the torture we endured. I’m looking back through rose-tinted glasses.
People do it with relationships. Sometimes, when a relationship ends for whatever reason, people can view the past as a time of bliss when everyone was smiling and laughing and forget about the time of hardship and nagging and arguments and so on. We look back with rose-tinted gasses.
But that’s what happens when we look through rose-tinted glasses - everything we see looks rosy. Everything has a pink tinge to it.
So even a rubbish bin looks rosy. A desolate place looks rosy. An abandoned house looks rosy.
And what Paul has done is, instead of putting on rose-tinted glasses, he has put on Christ-tinted glasses. And he’s looking at everything through these glasses.
Which means that a journey to Rome, which on the surface is suicidal, looks like an opportunity for the gospel to be spread.
A shipwreck, which is disastrous, becomes an opportunity to spread the gospel.
And imprisonment in Rome, chained to a guard, becomes an opportunity to spread the good news about Jesus Christ. The chains are his pulpit and the prison is his mission field…and in that, Paul rejoices.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Look at how Paul views his circumstances here...
The Philippians might have be worried that the spread of the gospel had stopped because Paul’s in prison. In fact it’s the opposite. The fact that Paul is in Prison has served to spread the good news about Jesus even more.
Because Paul is chained to a guard 24/7, and it’s not the same guard every day - that would be prison for the guard too. A new guard would come and replace the current guard every 2 hours or so - day and night. So there would be a lot of guards on rotation throughout the day, and then different guards on different days too.
Now, imagine you’re a Roman soldier. You arrive at work at the prison and are given your duties...
“Ok, you go and chain yourself to Paul”
So you go over to Paul and take the chain off the current soldier (who has a strange look on his face) and you strap the chain on yourself. These chains are about 18 inches long, so there isn’t much distance between you and this prisoner called Paul.
You sit down and look to your left and you see a man sitting there with a big grin on his face.
“What’s the matter with you?” you say.
“Nothing. Isn’t it a great day?” says Paul.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” you say.
“Looking at you like what?” Paul says.
“Like that - with that big grin on your face! What on earth can you be happy about? You’re in prison.”
“Well...” And off Paul goes on this story about a man named Jesus, who was crucified by one of you, but God raised him from the dead. And he spoke to Paul in a blinding light and told him to go preach to the Gentiles that salvation is to be found in Jesus...
2 hours later, another guard comes along and takes the chains off you. He gives you a funny look because you have a strange look on your face.
“What are you smiling at?” he asks.
“You’ll see,” you say.
So the guard sits down, and as you leave the room you hear the guard say, “what’s that grin for?”
And then you hear Paul say, “Well, let me tell you about Jesus...”
And what happens is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not being spread among the Plebeians in the town. It’s not being spread among the common people, like Paul might have thought. No…instead, the gospel - the good news that salvation is to be found in Jesus Christ is being spread among the guards. The whole palace guard are hearing this good news and spreading it around so that Caesar’s household are becoming believers. Now that wouldn’t have happened unless Paul was in prison...
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
Life had dealt Paul a load of lemons, but it was an opportunity to make lemonade.
Paul was able to view his life through Christ-tinted glasses - and he saw these things that were happening to him as a way to advance the gospel (and by the way, gospel means GOOD NEWS) So Paul saw these things that were happening to him as a way to advance the good news that salvation is to be found in Jesus Christ, and that by believing in HIM, you get salvation from your sins and eternal life.
And in that, Paul rejoiced.
But not only was the gospel being proclaimed through Paul - it was being proclaimed by others BECAUSE of what had happened to Paul - and Paul was ecstatic about that too.
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
The slight problem with that is the motive behind the preaching...
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
So what you have is two groups of people who aren’t in prison. They are in Rome and they are believers IN Rome - Both groups are preaching Christ and are bold to preach Christ without fear, and it’s all because of Paul’s imprisonment.
Some are doing it out of love - and they are defending what Paul is preaching. They are telling people - ‘hey - What Paul said is true. Don’t be discouraged that he is in prison because of it. In fact, I’m willing to go to prison because of it.’
But there are others, people who were possibly already Christians BEFORE Paul came to Rome - believers who came to faith before Paul got there. Now these are the guys in verse 15 - who preach out of rivalry.
Chances are their noses are out of joint because the big celebrity Paul is in town and he got arrested. ‘Well, I’ll show him. I can preach Christ just as much as him and I can get arrested too! That’ll show him and everyone that I’m a big deal too, and it might bring Paul some trouble.’
When I read that verse I often read it in a negative way, and it should be, because these people want to stir up trouble for Paul, and it isn’t a great motive for preaching... But Paul doesn’t see it like that.
Well, consider this...
I love preaching. I love to spread the word of God and teach it to people. But I’ve listened to various podcasts, and i’ve also listened to people from my year group - people in the same stage as me, and there are many who are probably better preachers than me. And my natural reaction is to be envious of them.
I think to myself, ‘why can’t I be as good as that!’
In fact, during the week, I listened to someone from 2 years below me and they were preaching way better than me.
And it makes me envious.
And when I was at New Wine, the main speaker was fantastic. He was such a gifted communicator of the word and he did it WITHOUT NOTES. And I almost threw in the towel and joined his church, cos I’ll never be as good as him. I was envious of him. I still am. I wish I could preach and teach like him. Yet when I listen back to my sermons, I want to die. I sound so boring.
But what that does is that it makes me want to preach even better and even bolder. I want to fine tune my preaching and work on it to be that person I aspire to be. And I’m probably not preaching out of the right motives - at least, not all the time.
And then in about a year’s time, my friends become my enemies as we compete for churches. And what happens then? We preach the best sermon we can, to get picked by the church - like X-factor. And it’s probably not the right motive for preaching.
But take a step back and look at what’s happening...
In every instance, whether it is me fine tuning my preaching to be the best I can be, or whether it’s me trying to preach the BEST sermon that I can in order to ‘beat’ one of my contemporaries who have applied to the same church - what then? Only that in every way, whether in envy or to beat someone else, Christ is proclaimed…And you’ve gotta rejoice in that.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
At the end of the day, Christ is being proclaimed. And for Paul, whether that was to ‘beat’ Paul and be a better preacher or whether it was to defend what Paul preached, or whether it was to stir up trouble for him, it didn’t really matter to him, because the message that salvation can be found in Jesus Christ was being preached and because of that, Paul rejoiced.
Because he viewed his life through Christ-tinted glasses.
If he didn’t - perhaps he’d be annoyed at what was going on outside of prison. He might be wallowing in self-pity and the guards would have seen a mopey, so-called Christian who saw his life and ministry as a failure.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case - Paul was joyful - he REJOICED because he viewed his circumstances through Christ-tinted glasses. And as a result, he could see EVERYTHING as an opportunity to present Christ and spread the good news the salvation can be found in Jesus Christ and in him alone.
When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.
Whatever your circumstances, you have a choice…you can see them for what they are - a whole truckload of lemons - bitter and sour and turning your face into a scowl because it’s not a nice experience.
Or you can put on those Christ-tinted glasses and look through them, and view your hospital bed as your pulpit and the hospital as your mission field. You can view the awkward family dinner table as your pulpit and the family as your mission field.
Or you can view the bereavement as your pulpit and those who come near you as your mission field.
It’s not a matter of putting on a happy face - when you see your life as one constant sacrificial act of service to the Lord, then every opportunity that comes your way can be a means of presenting Jesus Christ to the people with whom you will come in contact.
And that’s the key. It’s all how we view our lives. We’re either living for Jesus and serving him, or we’re living for ourselves and serving us.
If we see out lives and ourselves as living sacrifices, as Paul says in Romans 12, then we will be able to view everything through Christ-tinted glasses and see everything as an opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
“How can you be like that? How can you react like that and be so joyous in your circumstances?”
“Well, let me tell you about Jesus...”
And whether that is in the good times OR the bad, you can rejoice.
That’s how Paul was able to do it. It’s the only way we can do it.