Scripture: Philippians 1:12-26
When I first started preparing this message, the winter weather siege of 2015 was in full force. The temperatures were near or below zero, and many people were unable to get to locations to which they’d normally travel. I was doing pretty well, even though I slid into a snow bank, in front of a BB&T, and had to be pushed from the snow by a couple of guys who stopped to help. For that entire frigid week my heart went out to the people who were forced to stay inside their homes.
Students had no school. No school is fun for the first couple of days, then it gets really boring.
People with limited mobility or health issues who would normally drive from one place to another were confined to their houses.
Church members that thrived on attendance at FBC Nitro were stuck indoors, concerned about the safety of trying to get to church over icy sidewalks and roadways.
I was thinking about all these other people, and wanting to share some helpful words with them about what the Bible says on the topic of cabin fever. Then on Sunday, February 22 it hit home. I talked with the Deacons on Saturday the 21st about the wisdom of having church with such icy, slushy conditions. There had been numerous wrecks that morning, and the roads were horrible. So after discussing it with one another, the Deacons and I made the hard choice to cancel Sunday activities at FBC Nitro. Most of you don’t know how difficult it is for a pastor not to be able to gather with his congregation on any given Sunday. Vacations and mission trips are a little more tolerable, but canceling church is the worst. So a message that was initially intended to help others is now helping me.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says,
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
So what kind of insights does the Bible provide in responding to cabin fever? Is there an instance of such a thing even happening in the Scriptures? As a matter of fact there’s at least one good example, and it’s found in the book of Philippians. Paul is writing the church at Philippi from a jail cell in Rome. He is confined there, cooped up there. There’s nowhere he can go – he’s in prison! So when Paul is writing here, there’s a good illustration of how he deals with his own cabin fever.
What exactly is cabin fever? Webster’s dictionary defines the term as “an unhappy and impatient feeling that comes from being indoors for too long.” So now you’re clear on what the definition is, you can see more easily how Paul responds to it in Philippians 1:12-26. There are three things that I find here that describe his response. You may see more, or less, but preachers often have this thing about thinking in threes. Many people would say, “The cure for cabin fever is simply leaving the house!” But what if you can’t? Paul couldn’t. How do you deal with cabin fever if you can’t just leave where you are confined? How do you help someone else deal with it? There are great insights in this passage.
First, the cure for cabin fever is to communicate.
Verses 12-14 say,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
It’s important to keep in mind here that Paul isn’t just sitting in a comfortable office writing on his word processor another book for the Bible that will be entitled “Philippians.” He’s in a jail cell. In his mind, he isn’t writing a part of the Bible, he is writing a letter to dear friends. You can see it from the way he begins this letter in chapter 1: “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Paul doesn’t just sit in his jail cell and lament his situation. He communicates with others with whom he couldn’t be physically present. He uses the only form of communication available in his day, a letter. Through this loving communication, his focus shifts from his own situation to their situation in Philippi. In this day and age, there are more means of communication than there have been in history.
There is written correspondence. You can exchange letters or cards with others.
Then there is the telephone – it’s a wonderful device.
With the presence of the Internet, there’s now email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
With the increasingly use of cell phones there are text messages.
You have more options now than ever, so when cabin fever hits, use one or more of those options to communicate
On the Saturday morning that the decision was made to cancel services at FBC Nitro, I was bummed. I felt it was the right thing to do, but I was still bummed. Being physically present with my church family is huge for me, and I knew it wouldn’t be happening. So when it came time to make the phone calls and to send the text messages to folks to make sure they knew of the schedule change, I volunteered to do the bulk of it myself. It wasn’t really a selfless decision as much as it was a selfish one. I wanted to communicate with these people in some way since I wouldn’t be present with them in church. It helped take the edge off my own cabin fever. Communicating with others in your church family will help you as well, just as it helped me, and just as it helped Paul. So the cure for cabin fever is first of all to communicate. You’ve got lots of options.
Then, the cure for cabin fever is to meditate.
Verses 15-18 read,
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 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,”
Paul here is thinking, he is putting things in perspective based upon God’s activity in his life. When many people hear the word “meditate” today, they think of some kind of Eastern mysticism that sits in a corner and quietly hums to empty one’s mind. That’s not a Biblical definition of the word. Here’s a good definition I’ve found of Christian, Biblical meditation: “Spending time in quietness and usually alone, drawing close to God and listening to him, pondering on his word, his creation, his mighty works or other aspects of his self-revelation.” (Martin Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes).
So how exactly do you meditate today?
Read God’s word.
Think about God’s promises to you.
Think about God’s activity in the world around you and in your own life.
Worship him for who is and all that he has done.
Listen to how his Spirit speaks to your heart and mind.
The challenge for many of you today is that you need to slow down to meditate. If you spend a lot of time driving you can listen to Christian music or a Christian podcast and meditate in that way. Usually however, you need to slow down to do so. Nothing slows a person down like being confined at home. Paul was a man who was a mover and a shaker. He liked getting things done, going places and seeing people. He was a man on the move. The book of Acts records him as making three missionary journeys, and travel in his time was far more demanding than it is now. Paul is a man of action who gets things done. That’s the way Paul is wired. So when he is confined to a Roman prison and his mobility is limited, it could have been devastating for him. It wasn’t, because he meditated upon God, what God had done, and what He had promised in Christ. The cure for cabin fever is to meditate.
Then, the cure for cabin fever is to anticipate.
…”I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:18-26).
Paul’s focus moves from his present circumstances to his future ones. He knows God has better days in store. Things won’t always be like they are now. He anticipates. He basically expects two things, for God to be honored in what he has experienced, and to be reunited with his brothers and sisters in Christ. As a follower of Jesus Christ, better days are ahead for you. It isn’t just wishful thinking, it’s a reality based on the promises of God.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
If you aren’t reunited with your brothers and sisters in Christ in this life, you will certainly be reunited in the next life. Either way, you win just as Paul did.
So what will you do with your cabin fever? Will you allow it to discourage and depress you, or will you respond as Paul did? To respond as Paul did, you first have to become a follower of Jesus. Ask Jesus to save you from the sin of living life your own way to the freedom of living it God’s way. Then simply communicate, meditate and anticipate. Whether or not cabin fever gets the best of you is your choice. What will it be?