The Telescope and the Microscope
“Now I want you to know, brethren that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel…” – Philippians 1:12
The verse above serves as a reminder to us that our service to the Lord cannot be dependent upon life circumstances. As the apostle Paul wrote to the early church at Philippi, he did so while wearing prisoner’s chains. The Roman officials had arrested him in an attempt to not only stifle and shackle the apostle Paul, but also to shackle the message of Christ. But their attempt to do so was futile (Vs. 12-13). What a wonderful truth to embrace; that the powerful, piercing, penetrating word of God cannot be apprehended or arrested, nor can it be restricted or restrained. And unlike men, the word of God cannot be bound by chains (2 Timothy 2:9). No doubt, it would have been easy for Paul to lose heart and allow discouragement to set in during such a trying time. But Paul’s positive response is an encouragement to us all. With an attitude of joy, he wisely looked beyond his temporal set of circumstances and saw the events unfolding within his life from an eternal perspective (Vs. 21-26). Instead of getting bogged down within the dungeon of discouragement, Paul chose to see any obstacles before Him as glorious opportunities to further the gospel message of Jesus Christ (Vs. 18).
But how do you incorporate this eternal perspective into your life? I recently heard Dr. David Prince, Pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky suggest that the Christian must look at life through the lenses of a “telescope” rather than a “microscope.” What did he mean by this bizarre statement? He meant that we are to view life eternally, not temporally. When life is viewed through a microscope, the larger picture is not in focus. Just like a microscope hones in on something small, we too can be guilty of this, placing the focus on the small and trivial things of life, magnifying our current circumstances, and thus missing out on God’s larger purpose and plan. But if we approach life from a telescopic perspective, it means we see things that happen to us as part of God’s greater plan.
But what if Paul had looked at his circumstance microscopically, and had become deeply disheartened and distracted by the details? What would have happened if Paul had begun to throw some sort of pity party? If so, Paul then would have easily slipped into of the perilous pit of defeat and discouragement. This is why our divine calling to lift up the gospel message of Christ cannot be subject to our circumstances. It is not that we serve God because life is good. We serve God because God is good. Whether we are experiencing a sunny season of our life or in the midst of a life season that is filled with torrential rains, our God is still good, and we are to serve Him with an unwavering hope. In light of Paul’s predicament, may we find comfort in remembering that no matter the circumstance we are faced with, nothing happens to us without God’s permission (Job 2:6-7).
So whether we are faced with limiting circumstances, imperfect circumstances, stressful circumstances, or even unresolved circumstances, we must press on as we lift up the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost, dark, and dying world. Oh that our hearts would radiate the joy and pleasure that can only be found in our good God, and may we do so no matter what our circumstances might be! May we not be distracted by temporal things, but see things in light of eternity. Let us throw away our microscopic lenses that limit our perspective to only the here and now, and strap on telescopic lenses that help us gaze at God’s greater eternal plan.
– Pastor Eric