I had the opportunity to hear Pastor Joe Stowell (www.getmorestrength.org) speak this week and he used the following passage.
There are three things I get from this passage. So some of this comes from what Dr. Stowell talked about and some is just my observation. Let start with the first point in Phillipians 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
While writing to the Phillipians, Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He is in jail guarded 24/7 by Roman guards. Most of us would look at that situation and think “what is God doing.” Paul is a great evangelist why would God allow this. Well, God obviously had a plan. The story of Jesus spread through the “House of Caesar” says one translation. Think of that, in the midst of being in jail and fearing death could come at any time, Paul saw it as an opportunity to tell all about Christ and not dwell on his own situation.
God used a seemingly bad situation to spread His message to places that it never would have went had Paul not been arrested. I think this is a great example of God’s faithfulness to His children. He can use even the difficult situations of our life to spread the truth of Christ. All he needs is a willing vehicle (that would be Paul, you and me).
I think it speaks volumes about Paul as well. He preached Christ no matter what the situation or who the person was. There was no shame and no fear in sharing Christ. He boldly and courageously spoke His heart regarding Christ. God not only used this to reach the guards and others but also as an example that encourage other believers to do the same. A good leader leads by example.
Point number two comes from the next set of verses. In Phillipians 1:15-18, Paul begins to address another important point about spreading the Story of Christ.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Paul has a great perspective here. Basically he is saying that nothing matters more than preaching Christ. Some preach Christ with right motives and some out of selfish ambition, but the point is that the message is getting out there and that is worthy of rejoicing.
I think this stresses a good point that we all need to hear. We need to be focused on the message not the messenger. So many times we can get hooked on what the pastor is wearing, what style of music the praise team is playing, or what the televangelist does with his/her hair and make-up. Who Cares! Is the message of Christ being proclaimed? If yes, then let’s celebrate that and hope God can change lives with it. It’s as simple as that.
Alright, I will hop off that “soap box” and move on to the next and last point. (Thanks for sticking with me and reading this far, only a little more to go!) Phillipians 1:20-24, brings out the thrid point I learned from this passage.
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I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted 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 go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Paul shows more of his attitude that he has in life and the struggle that he faces. He says “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed” No matter what happens, Paul is committed to the cause of Christ. In the face of death his prayer is that he will continue to have the courage to continually exalt Christ. What an example of a man who dedicated everything in his life to the cause of Christ.
Are you looking for purpose in your life? I don’t think you need to look any further. What if we as Jesus Follower woke up every morning and the first thing we did was dedicate everything we do that day to magnifying Christ. What kind of impact could we have? It would be a daily battle of “what I want to do” verses “what does Christ want me to do to magnify Him.” But one we could win and overcome the tendency toward selfish ambition.
The second half of the passage reveals even more of the struggle Paul faced. He desperately desires to be with Christ for eternity, but he also understands the importance of his mission on earth and the need to complete that. “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
I can only speak for myself. As a Jesus Follower, I struggle with this very desire. Knowing that I am here for a purpose but also so desperately wanting to be with Jesus forever. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one that faces that struggle. What we need to do is take that “struggle” and use it to motivate us to “press on toward the goal.” We need to continue with our mission here on Earth with the goal of going home to Christ for eternity when the time is right.