New Hope Notes
What Matters Most
Pastor Jon Burgess
Philippians 1:9-11 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”
We’re going to focus on what matters, to understand what matters little and what matters most in the scope of the kingdom of God. When we understand what matters most, we understand what we need to focus on and for what we need to be thankful. We can compare and contrast what matters little.
Often there’s this [photo of people walking eyes glued to their cellphones] stereotyping of young girls and young boys not paying attention to anything else that’s going on. If there was a cliff they would walk off the end of it because they’re checking their posts.
I came across this sign recently. It says “Beware of Smartphone Zombies.” It is a real sign. We just had Halloween, right? Well, let me tell you, the zombies didn’t stop at Halloween. They’re still walking around, no one is paying attention.
In fact, they’re saying that more and more accidents are happening because of our addiction to our smartphones. In 2016, pedestrian deaths spiked 9 percent rising to 5900—almost 6000, the highest toll on American roads since 1990, a lot of them attributed to cellphones.
Hawaii just passed a law that went into effect this past week that you can be fined if you are texting on your phone in crosswalks.
Scientist call this inattentive blindness. They say the brain is able to focus attention on only one task at a time. So if you are texting or talking on the phone and trying to walk, you can’t give attention to both tasks. You’re going to end up walking into someone or walking in front of a bus.
When you look at it like that, whatever text or call needs to happen, it can wait until you arrive at your destination. Remember how life used to be before we got cellphones? Remember pay phones and landlines? Whoever needed to get a hold of us would have to wait until we were actually near a phone. What if we pretended like it was still like that and we waited on our updates until we arrived at our destination?
What scientists are saying about our inattentive blindness is what the apostle Paul was getting at in his letter to the Philippian church. He was trying to keep the church from being caught up in the division going on with the Jewish Christians championing circumcision and eating kosher food. He was writing that that if we’re not careful, we will get caught up in giving our energies to things that matter little in the scope of eternity.
What matters little: My set-backs.
What matters most: God’s set ups.
Do your setbacks matter to God? Of course they do, but in the scope of eternity, our setbacks should not be what we focus on. That is what Paul is getting at in verse 12.
The Philippians were very concerned about Paul because he had been in jail for a while and so they sent this letter telling Paul that they were worried about him. Paul replies in Philippians 1:12-14, “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. 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.”
This blows my mind. The guy is in prison, and he is saying that his setback matters little but what matters is God’s setup. “Prison is my pulpit. I get to talk to every soldier. I get to witness to everyone in the palace guard.” This would number several thousand people on a daily rotation. Every couple of hours four more guards would replace another four. They would hear Paul praying. They would hear Paul worshipping. They would hear Paul witnessing. Paul was not the captive audience. The soldiers were.
He’s thinking, “I get these guys for four hours straight. They can’t go anywhere. They can’t do anything. I’m going to tell them everything about the wonders of God and how God loved us so much He sent His only son. I’m going to tell them I was arrogant and persecuting the church and how Jesus himself got a hold of me and changed me. I’m going to tell them how Jesus loves each and every one of them. I am going to know these guys by name, and names of family members. I am not going to stop until every one of them comes to know Jesus Christ.”
His prison was his pulpit. His loss was his launch pad. See the perspective? God wants you to look at your setback and see it differently. I want you to see your problem as the propulsion into God’s preferred future for your life.
What is your setback? Where is it that you have been really, really been frustrated? Where is it that you have given up hope? Where is it that you are trying to figure out how you’re going to go on from here? It could be in all kinds of different areas.
Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”He’s telling the church in Philippi not to be discouraged. Setbacks are a setup for God’s comeback in your life.
Can you believe that promise? Maybe you’re looking at barriers in your relationship – “I can’t get through to my wife. I can’t get through to my husband. I can’t get through to my kids.” Maybe it’s your finances. Or a promotion. Come back to this promise, like Paul did. I am not wondering. I am not worried. I am confident in this, that God is faithful and what He began, He will complete. Because He said He would.
Some examples of historic figures and their failures: President Lincoln lost his mother at 9. He lost the love of his life. He lost a couple of businesses. He lost a number of times running for office. Today he is considered one of the best presidents in our history.
Einstein didn’t speak until he was four. His parents said he was abnormal. He was expelled from school. Teachers described him as “mentally slow.”
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for “lack of skill.”
Bill Gates, Harvard dropout. First business he started, a complete failure.
Thomas Edison, teachers told him he was stupid and wouldn’t learn anything. He failed nearly 40,000 times before finally inventing the lightbulb.
Steve Jobs, at 30 was kicked out of a company. Depressed and despondent, he later came up with the iPhone and other Apple devices.
These are multiple examples of what Paul is trying to tell us through scripture. Your setback is a setup for a comeback. Make sure you don’t give up because God isn’t done yet.
We’ve heard of all these guys. Have you heard of Spencer Silver? I didn’t think so. In 1968 he worked as a chemist for the 3M Company. His whole goal was to invent a super strong adhesive that would be literally impossible to unstick. He was discouraged because instead of inventing a strong adhesive, he invented a super weak adhesive. He shopped it around 3M for three years. Everyone looking at it was thinking what good is that going to do us? Nothing good about it.
In 1974, his co-worker Art Fry was singing from a hymnal at church and his bookmark kept falling out. He thought, it would be great if I had something that would stick to the hymnal but wouldn’t stick and rip the page when moving it to the next page. Then he thought, “Oh, wait a minute. There was a guy at work that was trying to sell his invention. I think that would work.”
He took that super weak adhesive, put it on his bookmark, and what was created? We’re looking at the invention of the Post-it note. His setback was a setup for an incredible invention that we use multiple times all over the place.
That leads us to the second point: What matters little: Who gets credit. What matters most in life: Who gets Christ.
We spend most of our lives lobbying for attention, trying to make sure people are giving credit or praise for things that we do.
Philippians 1:15-18 says, “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. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.”He had a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 3:7: “It doesn’t matter who waters and who plants because it is God that brings the growth.” He’s saying it doesn’t matter who’s preaching up there. As long as they are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, God can take care of them in that place and more people are coming to know Christ. Christ is being heard.
He is saying, we shouldn’t be competing with other churches. We should be collaborating. We should be finding ways to support and encourage each other. Paul’s point is that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. Wherever Christ is being preached, that is what matters.
God gets across to me using food. After moving from Kona, I grew up in Santa Maria, California. It is a place known for their tri-tip steak. They are so famous that it is now packaged and sold in Safeway. On one of the $5 Fridays, I found them and bought a couple, pretty excited about throwing it on the grill. After a long day I get home and ask what’s for dinner. Cyndi says, “I found this meat in the fridge and put it in the crockpot.” I’m going –“What? --you put the Santa Maria tri-tip in the crockpot?’ The boys come in and say, “Dad, it was amazing. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We couldn’t believe how good it was.” What? Are you kidding me? I bought that. It was my tri-tip. I was going to barbeque, not put it in the crockpot. I was going to eat it and share with my family but I was looking forward to that. Then Cyndi said, “Well, Jon, I thought you would be happy that you fed your entire family with something delicious.” Thanks, hon. I am overjoyed.
That indignation that I felt at that moment is exactly what Paul is getting at. As long as they are getting the meat, it doesn’t matter how it’s cooked, and it doesn’t matter whether I get the credit for cooking it. The point is they’re getting the meat. Whether it’s coming from this pulpit, across the street or some other pulpit somewhere on the other side of the island or around the world, we all cook it up differently. If it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. It is amazing how much can be accomplished when we are no longer competing with each other but we are rejoicing that the gospel is being spread all over the world. That’s what God has called us to do.
What matters little: How I die. What matters most: How I live.
Philippians 1:18-21 says, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
There are few scriptures that will focus us on what matters most more than that one. Many people live their lives clawing their way to the top of some heap that promises happiness. When they get to the top, whether it’s rational, financial or it’s in their workplace, they find out happiness is not there. It’s a myth. And they fall back down to the bottom again.
I want to share something about our trip to the Philippines with our Compassion International group that works with local churches. They break the cycle of poverty and get kids into education and train them up so that they can get jobs and help their families.
Most of them lived in tiny 10-by-10 or 10-by-20 cinder block homes. The thing we noticed over and over was the sense of gratitude. Looking through our eyes from our American mindset, we were thinking, “Oh my gosh, they have nothing.” That’s not how they felt at all. They didn’t need pity. They didn’t need some white savior from another land to save them from something. They had Jesus. They had a church. They had family. They had food. They had everything they needed.
That day, my heart was wrecked. I realized the arrogance and pride of my life and how I spend so much time worried about this, that and the other things but I’m learned so much from how they’re living and what matters most.
A little boy comes up to me and hands me a bracelet and says, “Angel wants you to have this.” I wanted to find out why. It was a bracelet handmade by her father. She is a sweet 11 or 12 year old with glasses. It was just her way of saying thank you that we had come on that day to visit their homes and their school and to bring some food. She was thanking me and she gave me the only bracelet that she had. I was so humbled that I was having a hard time holding it together. So I asked, “Well, how can I pray for you?”
She didn’t pray for a new dress. She didn’t pray that she would be able to go to America. She didn’t pray even for herself. She wanted to pray for her family and that all of them would come to know Christ. Later I met Angel’s dad and a number of their extended family all living in this tiny box of a home. And guess what? They were all smiling. They were all living because they knew what mattered most.
At that moment, God got a hold of my soul and said, “Jon, Angel has just defined generosity for you, and you will spend the rest of your life trying to give away as much as Angel did because that is true living.”
So many people are living their life afraid to die. What God is saying is that He has given you a handcrafted gift, not to be held onto but to be given away. Every one of you has a gift and a talent and ability. What Paul was trying to tell the church was even if he’s in jail, he’s given away what the Father has given him which was his preaching.
I want each and every one of you to know that if you want to start living, quit worrying about how you’re going to die and start looking at how you can begin to give. This helps us define what matters most, that God has given us breath, not so we’re worried about our day of death. It’s so we can make every single day count.
God has given you something precious. Maybe you don’t see yourself that way but Angel has forever changed me because she gave me the most precious thing she had. I feel like the Lord is saying I want you to do the same. God values you. Because you’re valuable, you don’t have to cling to what you have. That doesn’t define you. That doesn’t determine your security or your future. God does.