Grace For The Journey
The Book of Philippians was written at a time when Paul was arrested for proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ. He was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his hearing and verdict. The church at Philippi heard about Paul’s ordeal. They collected a love-offering for him. A disciple named Epaphroditus was commissioned to deliver their gift to Paul. Likewise, Epaphroditus was to remain in Rome as long as necessary, to serve Paul on the behalf of the church. Epaphroditus became sick. God mercifully healed him. When he was able to travel, Paul sent Epaphroditus home, to relieve the concern of the Philippians. Epaphroditus returned to a hero’s welcome. After the Philippians rejoiced over his safe arrival, they resumed their origins concern about Paul’s circumstances and gospel work.
Epaphroditus then read the letter that Paul wrote to them. The letter was read to the assembly. It began with Paul’s greeting, thanksgiving, and prayer in Philippians 1:1-11. The saints were encouraged. When they reached verses 12-14, their interest piqued. Now they would receive the news they were anxious to hear: In Philippians 1:12, the Bible says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
To friends eager for an update,
Paul acknowledged some things happened to him.
They were unplanned, unwanted, unpleasant things.
But Paul did not dwell on the details.
His focus was on the outcome of the ordeal.
It was not about what happened to him.
It was about what happened to what happened to him.
Verse 12 says that what happened to Paul served to advance the gospel.
In one sentence Paul
Shifts the legitimate interests
Of the Philippians
From himself to
The great undeterred
Purpose of God in history.”
Things happen to Christians. You do not have to do wrong for things to happen to you.
Adverse things happen to faithful Christians.
But things do not just happen.
God is in control.
Man has his wickedness.
But God has His way.
The Lord is able to employ, manipulate, and overrule your circumstances for His glory and the good of others. 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.” Do you believe that? Then forget what happened to you and focus on what happens to what happens to you.
THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO ME
ARE NOT BY CHANCE I KNOW
BUT BECAUSE MY FATHER’S WISDOM
HAS WILLED TO HAVE IT SO
FOR THE “FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL”
AS A PART OF HIS GREAT PLAN
GOD CAN USE OUR DISAPPOINTMENTS
AND THE WEAKNESSES OF MAN
Look beyond what happens to you and trust the Lord rules over and works through the circumstances of life. The verses for our blog today remind us of three powerful truths
The Lord Rules Over The Circumstances Of Life.
Paul’s concerned friends wanted an update about his welfare. They also wanted to know how his state of affairs affected his missionary work. After the introductory section of the letter, Philippians 1:12-17 reports Paul’s circumstances.
His opening statement is the prism
Through which everything
He writes should be seen.
It is his spiritual perspective
Of his worldly circumstances.
Verse 12 reads: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
The Lord takes our life-lessons
Uses them to teach others about Him.
This “learn-and-return” system is often short-circuited when we do not want people to know what happened to us. Paul was the apostle who founded the church at Philippi. Yet he did not seek to maintain a perfect image before them. He writes, “I want you to know…”
Paul desired to do more
Than pass on information.
He wrote to teach a lesson
Clarify a misunderstanding.
The Philippians knew about Paul’s troubles. It is why they sent Epaphroditus to Rome with an offering. But they did not properly interpret his troubles. The one in the driver’s seat has blind-spots. So does the one in the passenger’s seat. Observing it does not necessarily mean you understand what is going on better than the one who is experiencing it (We see that in the encounter of Job and his friends).
Paul wanted his brothers and sisters in Philippi to know his story.
But he did not
Describe the scenery,
Explain the plot,
Identify the villains.
He focused on
The end result.
The full story is recorded in Acts 21:17-28:31. But nothing recorded in Acts by Luke is mentioned here in Philippians by Paul. He does not talk about the mob attack, false arrest, unfair trial, shipwreck, or imprisonment. He summarizes the whole ordeal with an ambiguous phrase: “what has happened to me.” Some of us do not want others to know what happened to us. Others constantly gab, vent, whine, and fuss about it.
With no direct reference
To his personal concerns,
Paul explains how his
Circumstances should be understood.
This godly perspective
Requires godly patience.
Life is lived forward.
It is understood backwards.
This is why you should be slow to give up. An immediate response to what happens to you may cause you to miss the redemptive purpose of what happens to you.
Paul trusted the Lord
He could not understand.
Now he testifies, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
This is the ironic providence of God.
You would assume Paul’s confinement
Would have hindered the gospel.
It advanced the gospel.
The gospel did not advance
In spite of his confinement.
Through his confinement.
The Lord transformed a setback into a springboard. The same God who used Moses’ rod, and Gideon’s pitchers, and David’s slings, used Paul’s chains.
Little did the Romans realize
That the chains they
Affixed to his wrists
Would release Paul
Instead of bind him!
This text is not just a personal testimony; it is pastoral counseling. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”
The Philippians were not in prison.
But they endured suffering.
Paul’s experience was their example.
The Lord ruled over their circumstances.
This biblical truth speaks to whatever confines you today. It may be . . .
- The restrictions of youth.
- The weakness of old age.
- The pain of sickness.
- The challenges of family life.
- The responsibilities of work.
- The scarcity of finances.
- The valley of indecision.
There are things in your life that confine you. But you do not have to live with the “If-Only” syndrome.
The “if-only” syndrome
Seduces you into thinking
You have to be
In a certain place
For the Lord use you.
The antidote is to recognize
That the Lord can use you
Right where you are!
God’s logic is very different than ours. We assume that the circumstances must be right if we are to be really effective Christians. But . . .
God is not waiting for
To be right;
He is committed
Really effective Christians,
Whatever their circumstances may be.”
What is the gospel? It is the good news of the saving work of God in Christ. God created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. However, all of us have sinned and fall short of His glory. But God sent His Son Jesus who lived the life of righteousness we should have lived and died the death of punishment we should have died. God raised Him from the dead. If you trust the finished work of Christ for salvation, your sins are forgiven graciously, completely, and eternally. But the gospel is more than a ticket to heaven. It is a way of life. Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
The test is not whether you want
To go to heaven when you die.
It is what you are willing to
Joyfully endure to advance the gospel.
The word “advance” was used of soldiers who removed obstacles and established roads for marching armies. This was Paul’s imprisonment. He was on lockdown. But the gospel progressed. The imprisoned preacher charted new territory. His chains destroyed barriers to the gospel.
This was not just the Lord’s providential orchestration.
It was Paul’s consuming passion.
To ask Paul, “How are you going?”
Was to ask Paul, “How is the gospel doing?”
It did not matter to Paul what happened to him. If the gospel advanced, Paul was content, even if it meant he did not taste freedom again. What does the gospel mean to you?
Here is why you put the gospel first.
There are things that happen to you
That you cannot handle, understand,
Or overcome unless you view
It from a gospel-centered perspective.
True Christianity is a life of gospel sacrifice. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:8-9, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Tomorrow we will look further into these fantastic and freeing truths.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”