Summary: Part of an extensive study in Philippians, we are reminded here that God has a greater purpose for our trials.
Content in Christ: A Study in Philippians
A Greater Purpose
Illus. Old mule fell into a ditch. “Shake it off and step up”.
What do you do when the “stuff” of life piles up on you?
Phil. – Content in Christ. Review (love, encouragement, prayer) Memorize?
Up to this point, Paul encourages them by sharing how he is praying for them.
Now he addresses possibly the biggest concern on their minds – his imprisonment.
Please turn with me to Phil. 1:12-14.
The Philippians were naturally concerned about Paul’s welfare.
•What about his physical needs (they had sent money already)?
•What about his legal needs (would he be released or killed)?
In this passage, Paul sets their concerns at ease.
I. THE IRONY OF HIS ORDEAL v. 12
God loves irony. Here’s a perfect example.
The Philippians were probably sad and grieving over Paul’s bondage.
•His imprisonment would certainly hinder the spread of the Gospel, wouldn’t it?
12NOW I WANT YOU TO KNOW, BROTHERS, THAT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME HAS REALLY SERVED TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.
God took something bad and turned it into something good!
Rather than hindering the Gospel, it was actually advancing it!
-Paul’s imprisonment served to promote the Gospel.
ADVANCE - to cut forward, to clear the way, like pioneers “cutting their way” forward.
Illus. Western settlers faced all kinds of trials in their advance to the West.
Just as the pioneers cut thru/advanced in the West, Paul was pioneering/advancing the Gospel in Rome.
Nelson SB “Paul’s imprisonment was a strategic advance in the kingdom of God because it was clearing the way for the gospel to penetrate the ranks of the Roman military and even the royal house.”
Notice that Paul doesn’t dwell on his hardships/doesn’t complain about his captivity.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME, not bondage, false imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, etc.
•Instead of complaining, he saw the greater purpose.
Paul was perfectly content in Christ.
•He saw everything as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.
How many times do we look at hardship/tragedy with grief, depression?
•Instead of looking at it as an opportunity to know/share the love/grace of Christ.
BKC “There are no accidents with God.”
“Don’t pray for rain if you’re going to complain about the mud” (Zingers).
Paul prayed for opportunities and God answered his prayer.
What trials in your life have you seen God work out for good?
II. THE RESULT OF HIS ORDEAL v. 13-14
v. 12 would naturally raise an eyebrow among his readers, so Paul explains what he means.
13AS A RESULT (of his imprisonment), IT HAS BECOME CLEAR THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE PALACE GUARD AND TO EVERYONE ELSE THAT I AM IN CHAINS FOR CHRIST.
There are 3 different responses/results of his ordeal.
A. People saw that his ordeal was on account of Christ.
His imprisonment had become known for what it really was.
He wasn’t a criminal/rioter; he was in prison because of his faith/preaching in Christ.
Does your neighborhood know you’re a believer?
Countless stories have been told of Christians who were arrested, beaten, and even executed simply because they professed Christ. It’s still happening today.
These soldiers/people knew the truth about why he was there.
•Unfortunately, it wasn’t up to them to decide his fate, but they knew the truth.
PALACE GUARD (Praetorium, the official residence of the governor/emperor/Praetor)
•This was the royal army (cf. Iraq’s former Special Republican Guard).
•It consisted of 10K-14K of Italy’s elite soldiers, assigned as the Emperor’s bodyguard.
•They were handpicked and the highest paid in all the Roman military.
•In fact, they became so powerful that the emperors needed to court their favor.
Apparently, it was this palace guard that had been assigned to watch over Paul.
Paul had been in prison at least 2 years, guarded continually by shifts of these soldiers.
•He had probably become known to most of them.
Here’s another great irony: because he was chained to them, he had a captive audience!
•Paul couldn’t go to the world, so God brought the world to him!
B. Paul saw his ordeal as an opportunity to preach Christ.
These soldiers couldn’t silence him or beat him because he was a Roman citizen.
(Nelson SB) “In an ironic twist, they were the captives and Paul was free to preach.”
Illus. SSMH ER – Dr. Sayre suturing a patient and discussing theology.
How “convenient” that these soldiers who guarded the Emperor would be able to hear the Gospel.
In fact, it’s quite possible that the Gospel would never have reached the Roman palace apart from Paul’s imprisonment.
Not only was Paul able to preach to the soldiers, he was also able to preach to others.
AND TO EVERYONE ELSE...
Apparently, he had visitors or word of his situation spread.
Everyone knew why he was really there – because of Christ and for Christ.