Today, we’ll be continuing on with our discussion of Philippians one. Need a refresher? Check out part 1 here.
Paul is a passionate man.
He’s dedicated to the one thing he feels called to do; preach the gospel. He talks often about his moment on the road to Damascus when he had a meeting with Christ. Calling, for many, can be a fluid and uncertain thing. Not for Paul, though. He knew and he followed this call to the end.
He was driven. He took 3 missionary journeys during his life, and he has been credited with planting between 14-20 churches.
He was a man on a mission. Literally.
So imagine him, in that prison, it would have been easy for him to spend his time thinking of all that still needed to be done. All he had not been able to accomplish.
Yet, this isn’t what we see from Paul, is it?
Paul writes, “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” And that, “because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
In Philippians 1, Paul is conveying two difficult but important truths.
First, our suffering, or the difficulties of life, are used by God to advance the gospel.
The math doesn’t add up here.
In this first chapter, Paul writes about how the news of him had spread throughout the palace guard. This guard was known as the Praetorian Guard. These were an elite branch of the Roman military called upon to guard and protected the higher-ups within the roman military and political world.
These were the best of the best within the roman world. They were paid higher, entrusted with more, and as a result, were men of great honor.
It was the “guards of the gods” that guards Paul now. And its this group that has been seeing and hearing from Paul while he is in captivity. They hear his message, his story, and it has piqued something within them.
They’re talking. Talking amongst themselves. This is a big deal. Paul, the Jesus follower, the man teaching that Caesar isn’t god, has sparked something within the minds of those who guard the gods.
This suffering, this imprisonment, has been used by God to spread the message that there is only one King, and there is only one Kingdom.
Is it possible that God could have found another way, an easier way, for this message to be spread across Rome? Maybe. Maybe not.
All we know is that he used Paul, in his most useless and powerless state, to disrupt the system that oppressed and fabricated lies.
Isn’t that just how the kingdom works, though?
It’s the weak. It’s the imprisoned. The oppressed who show the world the heart of God?
This is what Paul is pointing the Philippian church back to. He is saying, yes, I’m in prison, yes my future on this earth is uncertain, but God is at work. And it is in this work that I find my greater purpose and God’s perfect plan.
It’s in this understanding that we can have peace.
Now, when a Christ follower comes to a place of deeply understanding this, as Paul did, something happens within the Body of Believers, too.
Second, our suffering unites us with Christ.
Paul says, “…because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
If there is one thing most dangerous to the church, it’s fear of isolation. Isolation is the belief that you are on your own, that your experience is singular, and that nobody knows what you’re going through, is one of the greatest lies and most destructive beliefs in the Christian faith.
Whether it be sin, sickness, loneliness or depression, we believe it’s the pressure point that satan most often uses to press us into silence and meekness.
This is where Paul’s statement here is so beautiful and so important. He reminds us that, yes, he’s suffering and yes he’s going through hell, but he is aware that others are watching him. That fellow Christ followers are taking note of his courage, his ability to draw comfort from God, and to proclaim the goodness of God in spite of any and every situation.
It is in this witness that the church, more specifically, the individuals whose eyes see Paul, that a church is inspired to move. They are moved to action. They are reminded that, while our situations are difficult, and we wouldn’t have chosen them, God is still on the move!
And when the church witness’ this, a fire is ignited within us, and the Gospel is propelled into a world filled with chains, sadness, brokeness and instead drives us to a deeper knowledge of God and the joy that only he can bring.