Read Philippians 1:12-14. I LOVE these verses! They are filled with so much hope and encouragement for all of us who are in Christ! Let’s dig in.
This is as practical as it gets. We all have circumstances. And in the context of this passage we are talking about negative circumstances. Sometimes they visit us as consequences of our sin. Sometimes it is because of the sin of others. Sometimes it is just that life is not fair, relationships are hard, and the world doesn’t always spin our way. Then there are the negative circumstances that encompass us because we would not shut up about Jesus. That’s where Paul is, imprisoned because he wouldn’t be quiet about Jesus. And it is a dire circumstance. Later we will find out that death is not outside the realm of possibility. This is a serious situation! When Paul says “my circumstances” this is what he is referring to.
What are your circumstances right now? Get that in front of you, keep it there for the rest of this post, and apply these verses personally.
The thing that separates those who finish the race and those who drop out is not the circumstances they went through, but the perspective they clung to. Click To Tweet
…have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel…
This is AMAZING! Paul is in chains, yet he is rejoicing that his chains are advancing the gospel. We will see how this is happening in a second, but for now let’s wrap our minds around this truth. The gospel is absolutely unstoppable! They tried to imprison Paul to silence the gospel, but it was his very imprisonment that caused the gospel to spread even more. We see a window into Paul’s heart here. His concern is not for his own interests. His concern is for gospel progress. This line is spoken with the intention of bringing comfort and hope. He is not crying against the Lord, “How could You allow such circumstances to come to Your servant?” He is basically praising the Lord, “You have planned these circumstances that the gospel might go even further.”
Circumstances, however joyful or painful, are awesome opportunities for the gospel to progress. Paul viewed his imprisonment as a strategic catalyst for the gospel instead of a great defeat. What if we took Paul’s view in our own lives? What if your circumstance is a station God has strategically placed you in so that the gospel can be advanced? After all, that is our mission in this life; the display and advancement of the gospel.
We are not called to comfort. We are called to the battlefield with the gospel in hand. Click To Tweet
Paul’s testimony shows us that our circumstances do not define our spiritual success. Whether good or bad, they only aid in the completion of our mission – gospel progress.
The Gospel to the Soldiers
Paul goes on to give two specific ways that his imprisonment has advanced the gospel. The first is that the “whole praetorian guard” now knows about it. The prison has become his mission field, the soldiers his target demographic, and now the good news is spreading! There is no other way the gospel could have penetrated the ranks of the Roman military quite like this. Paul was not sitting dejected in his confinement. He was preaching the gospel! Sometimes God calls us to preach the gospel in hard places. The challenge we get from Paul is to see the potential spiritual impact those hard circumstances can have. When God places you in suffering He is not picking on you. He is giving you an opportunity. What is your circumstance right now? Who is your “praetorian guard?”
Giving Courage to the Saints
The second way Paul’s imprisonment advanced the gospel is by giving courage to other Christians. Paul said many Christians were “trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment” and “have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” When you suffer well as a Christian your brothers and sisters in Christ are encouraged in their suffering. When you embrace your suffering as an opportunity to advance the gospel, you infuse other Christians with the courage to do the same.
There is something about reading and hearing the stories of Christians throughout time who testified to the gospel in the midst of great persecution and trial. As I read their testimonies I can typically feel gospel boldness rising up within me. It reminds me of my greater purpose. We are still in the heat of the great war for souls. But sometimes we need reminded of that. This also goes back to the point from one of my previous posts. Sanctification is a community project. Someone else needs your story. Someone else needs your testimony. And, as odd as it sounds at first, someone else needs your suffering. And you need theirs.
May it be that your circumstances will turn out for the greater progress of the gospel. And may it be that you are willing to embrace it joyfully and purposefully as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.