Inside Out vs. Outside In
Most people live - outside in. We are always trying to fix everything on the outside - our marriage, our workplace, our kids, and the list goes on. We think in order to have fulfillment in our life, we need to have everything on the outside right. We are always checking our bank account because we believe money can help us fix things. Many people believe all our problems can be solved with money. But, we can have money and still have problems. And, when we spend our time trying to fix everything around us, then we live life on a roller coaster of emotions. We feel good for a moment, and then another problem or struggle pops up. One day, we realize we can't fix it all. As much as we would like, we can't control everything on the outside. There has to be a better way to live. And, in fact, there is...
My favorite chapter of the Bible is Philippians 4. Philippians is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to this church in the city of Philippi. Paul loved this church. Paul had planted this church about 15 years earlier. Now, Paul was in prison for his faith in Rome. He writes back to the church in order to thank them for their support, to tell them how much he loves them, and to encourage them to live wholehearted in Christ.
The goal of the Christian life is not heaven. Many people think the goal is heaven, but if it was, then God would simply take us home when we became Christ-followers. No, the goal of the Christian life is not heaven - the goal of the Christian life is Jesus. Heaven is the reward. The goal of the Christian life is that we look more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). And, here's the amazing part, as we press deeper into Jesus, what results in our life is something incredible. Not many know this or even experience this, but there are three things that result in us as we live our lives wholehearted for Christ.
Joy - Remember Paul is writing this letter from prison, but in just four chapters Paul uses the word, "joy" 16 times. In Philippians 4:4, Paul writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Whatever your circumstances, Paul shows that when we live firmly focused on Christ, then we can experience joy. Most people don't experience joy in their life because they are focused on their circumstances instead of focusing on Christ Jesus. C.S. Lewis wrote, "Joy is the serious business of heaven." Is there joy in your life? Why or why not? Where's your focus?
Peace - Everyone wants peace, but very few people experience peace. Why? Well, most people try to get peace in their life from the outside - a day at the spa, a run, a hike, time alone, a bubble bath, golf, etc.. But, these things never fully satisfy. We enjoy them for a moment, then it is right back into the busyness and craziness of our life. We need something that lasts. We need a lasting peace. Well, when you grow deeper in Christ, what emerges is a "peace that passes understanding." Philippians 4:7. People wonder, "How can you be at peace in the midst of all that is happening in our world, at work, at home, and so on." It is a peace from the inside out (Jesus) vs. the outside in. Where do you find your peace?
Contentment - Paul, who is writing from prison, writes "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11. We all live in a world of excess and a world of more. There is never enough entertainment, food, parties. We feel like we need to be busy all the time. We look at everyone's highlight films on Instagram and Facebook and feel like we are missing out. There is never contentment in our life. Yet, when we find our worth and value in Christ, then we can be content. When we press deeper into Jesus and realize that we are loved and fully accepted, then it doesn't matter our circumstances, we experience contentment. So, the question becomes: Is Christ enough for you?
In Galatians 5:22-23, we see what is called the Fruit of the Spirit - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Notice, the Fruit of the Spirit is an inward condition with an outward result. When you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is in you. Therefore, instead of focusing on the Fruit (everything happening on the outside), focus on the Root (your relationship with the Lord). Concentrate on the root and the fruit will take care of itself.
The apostle Paul, throughout Philippians, calls us to press deeper into Jesus. Whether he was experiencing a good time on the outside (like planting churches and being in beautiful fellowship with others Christ-followers) or he was in prison (not knowing whether he would live or die), there was joy, peace, and contentment in his life. What about your life? If you are not experiencing joy, peace, and contentment, don't spend all your time trying to fix your circumstances - focus on Christ. Realize, you can't - but He can. Spend time with Him. Bring your requests to Him. Give Him the love and attention that He deserves. And, as you do, a change will happen in you. The problems and challenges you face may not go away, but you will see them differently. You will experience a "peace that passes understanding." You will know that God is with you, and He is for you. This will lead to a confidence from the inside out.
So, how are you living? Are you inside out or an outside in? As Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Trust Him completely today, and experience the joy, peace, and contentment that only God can bring. Only from the inside out.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
Jeff Simmons is the Founder and Lead Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, TN. He also serves as the President of Justice & Mercy International, a nonprofit that exists to make justice personal for the poor, the orphaned and the forgotten of the world. His faith in God and role as husband and father motivates him to be the leader he is and to do the work he has been called to.
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