How to Stand Firm when the Rotten Tomatoes are Thrown

Ever had people try to tear you down.

Rotten tomatoes are thrown. Lies spoken, gossip spread, stories twisted, your good name being smeared. All of this leaving you alone in a pool of tears wondering what is going on.

The Apostle Paul knew exactly what it was like to experience a hail of tomatoes, yet he was able to rejoice in it.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. Philippians 1: 18b, 19

Paul knew something good was going to come out of it all. He was able to rejoice because something deeper was happening under the surface. There was an opportunity for his relationship with Christ to grow deeper.

Years ago I learnt a little formula.

E + R =O

Event + Response = Outcome. An Event happens, it could be anything at all, but the Outcome will be determined by your Response.

People will respond in different ways to an event that happens. Paul outlines his ‘E+R=O’ to us, but we will need to unpack it more to grasp the power of it all.

(E) This + (R) Paul knowing = (O) my deliverance.

This – Pauls situation was that he was under home detention, far from friends, unable to do what he wanted to do – preach. He was being maligned by others, awaiting judgement and martyrdom. This was an Event of suffering and pain for Paul.

But he believed in an Outcome of deliverance. When the Philippians’ heard the word deliverance they would have heard the greek word sótéria which is defined as welfare, prosperity, deliverance, preservation, salvation, and safety.

Drilling down a little further into this verse we discover more about Paul’s wealth of scriptural k­­­­­­­­­­­­­nowledge. He is quoting from a fellow sufferer – Job.

Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance Job 13:16

These words of Job were uttered after he had just come out from under a deluge of hearty criticism from a so called friend, Zophar. Paul knew the end result of all the suffering Job endured was a deeper prosperous relationship with God.

Through this trial Job was delivered to a new place of relationship with God.

We have covered the Event Paul was faced with and the Outcome he was faithfully believing in.

So how did Paul Respond?

Paul knew

1. The help of others praying for him.These were deep prayers. Paul uses the Greek word ‘deésis’.  These are heart-felt petitions, arising out of deep personal need, a sense of lack, or want. Those praying for Paul felt the need, they made it personal and urgent.

2. the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ
Christ knew the pain of being in this situation, of being mocked, abused, maligned, and betrayed. So his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, was able to lavish much upon Paul and also us when we are need.
The ‘Help’ Paul was looking to was a transforming ‘Help’. Spirit was to help Paul move through the problems towards finding God in deeper draughts.

3. The help of others in the scriptures
He had a friend he could look to for help. Paul would have also recalled stories of other sufferers such as Jeremiah. Who in the scriptures provides you the character study of someone like yourself. You walk with them, learn from their mistakes and successes. You sit with them, listen to their struggles and learn. You memorise their stories, you read them over and over again for months and months until they move from being a historical figure in an ancient book to being a brother or sister on the road. Who is it for you?

Paul was going through the narrow gate of transformation, but he wasn’t going through it alone. He had the earnest prayers of others, the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and the witness of Job to be his companion.

How does Spirit use the problems we face to move us from self – sufficiency to being more reliant on God? What experiences of this have you had?


Barry Pearman
Image: Creative Commons malias