January 3, 2022
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Some of the ugliest scenes from the 20th Century, of course, come from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. And some pretty inspiring scenes, actually, come from it as well. One of the most famous accounts of those awful years was written by a Jewish psychiatrist named Victor Frankl - a survivor of the concentration camps. Frankl told of how the Jews there had almost every freedom stripped from them: they were imprisoned, they were awakened any hour of the day or night, they were treated like slave labor, humiliated, always facing the specter of death. But he lived to tell us about the one freedom they learned no one could take away from them - the freedom he saw in many of those who survived the horror. And it's the one freedom that could make you a survivor.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Freedom No One Can Take."
Twenty centuries ago another Jewish man wrote about his suffering, from a Roman prison and the attitude that sustained him through it all. It's that one freedom that nothing can take away from you: no tragedy, no treatment by others, no divorce, no disease, no loss. It's the freedom to choose your attitude. Dr. Frankl said that that was the freedom he and others exercised in that concentration camp - a freedom beyond the reach of their Nazi guards. It was a freedom that the Apostle Paul found in Jesus Christ.
He had lost all his other freedoms. He was a prisoner chained to a guard 24 hours a day. But the prison didn't choose his attitude. Your prison, your pain doesn't have to choose yours either. Paul chose joy, and you can, too.
What's the secret of choosing joy when everything else is falling apart? From his prison, Paul gives us our word for today from the Word of God, Philippians 1:3-4 - "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy." Secret number one of choosing joy: focusing on others instead of yourself. Paul would have sunk to despair if he concentrated on his misery. Instead, he concentrated on the people he loved, praying for them, and thinking about them, and reaching out to them. It's one way that you can choose joy, too.
And then in Philippians he says, "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel" (Philippians 2:12). Because Paul was out of commission, many others had gone out preaching the Good News. So he goes on to say, "The important thing is that...Christ is preached" (verse 18). Secret number two of choosing joy: you focus on the good that's coming out of your bad situation. Would you ask God for that kind of insight, to look beyond the obvious losses in your situation to the ways He's using, or can use, this situation to bring about something good.
One other way Paul shows us to choose joy in a depressing situation: focus on your Savior who's your anchor. In Philippians 3:10, he says, "I want to know Christ." Almost everything else has been taken from him, but nothing can stop Paul from pursuing his lifelong passion for knowing Jesus a little bit better every day. The fact is that when a lot of other things are taken from you, you actually may be able to pursue your Savior as never before, if you make that choice. So many people have discovered in hurting times that you never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you've got.
You might be in a hurting time right now and you didn't get to choose your situation. But, like the man in the concentration camp and the apostle in the prison cell, you can choose your attitude. You don't ever have to say, "Well, I'm doing pretty well 'under the circumstances.'" What are you doing under them?
Being on top of your circumstances is a choice! To focus on the people you love, on the good that's coming from this situation, and on the Savior you want to know better. That's why the prisoner Paul calls you in his joyful prison letter to "rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).