Grace For The Journey
In yesterday’s blog, we began to look at Philippians 1:12-14 and learn how God uses all our situations and circumstances in life to free us to have more opportunities to share the glorious gospel to those in our lives. We saw that the first eleven verses were used directed by the Holy Spirit to allow Paul to write to friends eager for an update of what had happened to him on his missionary journey. Beginning in verse 12 Paul acknowledges that some things have 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.
We are going to look further into this truth today.
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? This truth was reinforced yesterday when we considered what the Bible teaches about The Lord Ruling Over The Circumstances Of Life. In today’s blog, we are going to look at how . . .
The Lord Works Through The Circumstances Of Life.
Someone has said “Life is like a tapestry. “ From the backside, it appears to be a random jumble of tangled thread. On the other side is a beautifully designed work of art. The problem is we live on the backside of the tapestry.
We cannot see what God
Is designing on the other side.
Unbeliever can only see
What happens them.
Believers focus on
What happens to
What happens to them.
Verse 12 says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” How did Paul’s imprisonment advance the gospel? The Bible gives us the answers in verses 13-14. These verses show us two ways the Lord works through the circumstances of life.
1.The Lord Is At Work To Influence Unbelievers For Christ.
The Bible says in Philippians 1:12-13, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happed to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” When Paul was mobbed by the Jews and arrested by the Romans, he used the privilege of his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. Paul was brought to Rome, where he became an official prisoner, awaiting audience before the Romans Emperor. According to Acts 31:20, Paul was under house arrest. There was no electronic monitoring. They chained Paul to Romans soldiers.
The imperial guard was the finest of all Roman soldiers. These ancient “green berets/special forces” unit were the Emperor’s official bodyguards. They were Caesar’s secret service. As a prisoner of Caesar, the imperial guard was assigned to Paul. Every four hours, a soldier was chained to Paul. During their shifts, the soldiers watched Paul. They saw his mood. They saw his actions and reactions. They saw him in casual and serious conversations. The saw his prayer habits. They saw him read and write letters. They saw him care for Epaphroditus. They saw him entertain guests. For two years, the imperial guard got an up-close and personal look at what kind of man Paul was. It was evident Paul was no criminal. His imprisonment was for Christ.
In Ephesians 3:1, Paul calls himself “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” In Ephesians 6:20, he calls himself “an ambassador in chains.”
The Roman government arrested and imprisoned Paul.
But Paul was a prisoner of Christ.
Christ locked him up, not Rome.
Paul conducted himself
More as an ambassador
on duty than a prisoner on trial.
It became manifest to the whole imperial guard
That if Paul was guilty of anything,
It was being a Christian.
Everyone in Rome who met or heard about Paul
Concluded his imprisonment was for Christ.
This led to the all-important question: Who is Christ? Paul was eager to answer that question. He literally had a captive audience to preach to! Lost people were saved through Paul’s imprisonment. According to Romans 1:15, Paul was eager to preach in Rome. But he arrived in Rome as a prisoner, not a missionary. He did not preach to Romans citizens. He preached to the imperial guard. Yet, the message of Christ spread through Rome. In Philippians 4:22, Paul writes, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”
You may be in a situation you would change if you could; maybe you have even tried, and you can’t. You have questions: Why me? Why this? Why now? Let me answer with a question:
Is it possible the Lord has placed you
In that unwanted situation
To use you to win someone to Christ?
You may not be chained to imperial guard.
But you are being watched.
- You are being watched by unbelieving family members you live with.
- You are being watched by coworkers at that job you cannot stand.
- You are being watched by doctors and nurses who treat your sickness.
- You are being watched by friends and followers on social media.
- You are being watched by people who know you but do not know Christ.
Live in such a way that lost people will get a glimpse of Christ by how you respond to what happens to you.
A real test of genuineness of Christian profession
Is witnessed when one finds himself
Under pressure, provocation, or persecution.
2.The Lord Is At Work To Influence Believers For Christ.
Verse 14 says “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” The saints in Rome were somewhat fearful about witnessing for Christ in the imperial city of Rome. Paul’s imprisonment may have complicated matters and contributed to this feeling. But they watched Paul’s unwavering devotion to Christ through two years of imprisonment. Paul calls it “my imprisonment.” He owned it because he knew the Lord was working through it.
Paul’s imprisonment nurtured
The saints’ confidence in the Lord.
They became much more bold
To speak the word without fear.
We should proclaim the gospel of Christ boldly and without fear. Bold witness requires spiritual devotion. Peter and John were arrested. But they refused to shut up about Christ. The Bible says in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Spiritual boldness is the result of being with Jesus. A key way to be with Jesus is to be with others who have been with Jesus. The saints at Rome were fearful witnesses. But they watched Paul suffer. And it put strength in their faith to speak the word without fear. The Lord seeks to work the same way through your circumstances. As you go through them, you are being watched by fellow believers, as well as unbelievers.
- Your testimony is not how you act in church when you are blessed. It is how you live for Christ when you are burdened.
- Your testimony is now how you sing when the sun is shining. It is how you continue to sing when the rain is falling.
- Your testimony is not what you say after the Lord works it out. It is what you say as you are going through.
When you rejoice in the Lord through it all, the Lord can use you to strengthen your brothers and sisters in Christ. But Christ must be more important than your personal agenda.
Paul wanted to preach in Rome.
He did not get the opportunity.
But his imprisonment created
A movement of undaunted preachers.
Paul joyfully accepted this
Because Christ meant everything to him.
You may be not be the one the Lord uses to do it. You may only be the one the Lord uses to encourage the one He will use to do it. And the Lord may use your current struggles to facilitate their subsequent triumph. Are you okay with that? You can handle anything, if Christ is your everything!
Verse 14 specifies that “most of the brothers” grew confident by Paul’s imprisonment. This praise report reminds us no church is perfect. When most do the right thing for the right reason, some will not. Paul addresses the rest in verse 15-17: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to inflict me in my imprisonment.”
The believers in Rome boldly spoke the word without fear. But they did with different motives. Some proclaimed Christ sincerely. Others proclaimed Christ hypocritically. Paul was the victim of friendly fire. They proclaimed Christ to try to strangle Paul with his chains. Verse 18 is Paul’s response: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Some preached Christ to make things worse for Paul. Paul responds: So what?! As long as Christ was proclaimed, Paul rejoiced. It did not matter that they put him down as long as they lifted Christ up.
Handley Page, a pioneer in aviation, landed in an isolated area during his travels. Unknown to him, a rat got on board the plane there. On the next leg of his flight, Page heard the sound of gnawing. Suspecting it was a rodent; his heart began to pound as he visualized the damage that could be done to the fragile mechanisms of the plane. But then he remembered hearing that rats cannot survive at high altitudes. He pulled back on the stick. The airplane climbed higher and higher, until Page found it difficult to breathe. He sighed with relief when the gnawing sounds ended. When he landed, he found the dead rat behind the cockpit.
Has the rat of discouragement crawled into the plane of your life? Is it eating away at your internal belief system? Don’t crash! Remember discouragement cannot breathe where Christ is exalted. The higher your faith climbs, the safer you are.
May these truths free you to live in surrender and joy in whatever situation or circumstance your find yourself. Remember: don’t just focus on what happens to you; let God use you to show others what happens to what happens to you. You can handle anything, when Christ is your everything!
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.”