Summary: The question before us is, can your difficulties advance the gospel? They threw the Apostle Paul in prison thinking they could stop the advancement of the gospel. According to Paul this only blazed a trail for the preaching of the Gospel.
The question before us is, can your difficulties advance the gospel? Can you Imagine if you came to church this morning and rather than being greeted at the door and coming in. Instead, you found the doors of the church were barred shut. You came and found military police outside this church and you were told that the authority of the government closed down this church. Their explanation, we no longer want the Baptist church in this city. We do not like the evangelical witness this church is bringing. We do not like you doing visitation and sharing the gospel. We are not happy with the doctrines preached in the church. We do not want Jesus Christ preached.
Could you imagine if you experienced that? What would happen? Probably what would happen is we would return to our homes and begin to call each other by telephone. We would even call those who were not normally involved in this church. By the time the evening service time came there would be throngs of people turning out crying, you cannot stop me from my freedom to worship. I am going on ahead so don’t try to stop me. The difficulties would advance the gospel.
People who thought they could shut our doors would have only stirred our boldness. They would have fueled more testimony for Jesus Christ. That kind of situation happened in the first century church with the Apostle Paul. They threw the Apostle Paul in prison thinking they could stop the advancement of the gospel. According to Paul this only blazed a trail for the preaching of the Gospel. Difficulties can advance the gospel!
Isn’t it exciting to consider that our personal difficulties are advancing the cause of Christ! There are two kinds of difficulties that can be experienced. One we can call internal difficulties and the other external difficulties. Take the example of a family. An internal difficulty is when a husband and wife are having difficulties or a father and son not getting along. These kinds of internal difficulties will break a family apart. But an external difficulty, loss of a job or a tragedy, will bring the family together. They pull the family together and cause closeness. These external difficulties can strengthen the family.
This same dynamic can take place in a church family as well. When there are internal difficulties, with turmoil and struggling amongst themselves it can ruin a church. When the difficulties come from outside and someone is trying to bear down on the church it can bring us together and unite us. These external difficulties actually advance the cause of the gospel.
I) God used Paul’s circumstances to advance the Gospel. Vs 12
In verse 12 Paul tells us that his difficulties advanced the Gospel. He says, “I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.” Paul uses that phrase, “I want you to know.” In other words Paul is referring to something that would not normally be self-evident. What you think would happen, exactly the opposite has happened. You would think when the great leader, the Apostle Paul is thrown into prison and can’t go out and preach the gospel that it would hinder the cause of Christ.
That is what you think would be true, but actually Paul is saying, it may not be self-evident, but the opposite has happened. Because of my imprisonment the gospel is being proclaimed more. This is ironic, because the people that imprisoned Paul did so because they wanted to hinder the cause of the gospel. This very thing they did to hinder the gospel is causing advancement to the gospel.
Paul says His troubles have served to advance the gospel. The word advance in the Greek is a word that was used as a military term. If those in the military needed to advance their troops they sent someone on ahead. They are sent to blaze a trail, to clear the forest or prepare the mountain. After the preparation the troops could move. Paul is saying his difficulties were like that. They went ahead, they blazed a trail they made the way for the Gospel to be preached. This is what Paul said his difficulties were doing.
Paul had a divine perspective. In other words he was looking at God’s plan, not his own circumstances. If he looked to himself in the prison he could have been discouraged and ready to give up completely. He was looking at God’s plan and how God was using his circumstance of imprisonment. God was using it mightily for people to go out and be bold and to preach the Gospel.
You see Paul is writing this letter to the Philippian church were Paul had gone and done the church planting work there. He is writing this letter to encourage them. You can imagine what Paul’s enemies were probably saying about him in Philippi. They were saying, “Oh you Christians you have this great leader Paul and you thought you were so much when Paul was here. But let me tell you Paul, is through, he is finished. He is in prison so you might as well give up and abandon the faith because your great leader the Apostle Paul is in prison and in chains.”