Summary: Even though Paul was in bonds, he rejoiced that the Gospel continued to be preached. He refused to allow his circumstances create despair. We too must seek every opportunity to share our faith, while rejoicing for others who are committed as well.
Committed to Promoting the Gospel
Philippians 1: 12-18
As one reads the opening verses of this letter, it is not immediately evident that Paul was bound in prison. His joy and positive attitude conceal the difficulties he faced daily. Although he was not free to move about within society, Paul determined to continue serving the Lord. He knew that physical limitations did not prevent him from being effective in ministry. Even while in bonds, he determined to advance the Gospel by every means available. He refused to accept defeat.
While we are not physically bound today, we often allow circumstances to hinder our service and witness for the Lord. It is easy to get discouraged and feel as if we are no longer effective in sharing the Gospel. We tend to develop a mindset that dictates our area of service, and if that particular area is no longer available, we assume we can no longer be effective in service. The church needs those with the desire and commitment of Paul, those who will seek to be used of the Lord regardless of present circumstances. There is always an opportunity to be used of the Lord, regardless of our present environment or situation.
As we discuss the affirmations of Paul within the text, I want to consider the challenging thought: Committed to Promoting the Gospel.
I. The Perspective in Suffering (12-13) – Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to always maintain a proper perspective while serving the Lord. Things were not always as they appeared. Consider:
A. The Recognition (12a) – But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. Apparently some in Philippi had questioned God’s faithfulness to Paul and were having a hard time understanding why he was forced to suffer being imprisoned. He wanted to explain his situation and help them understand the work of God that was taking place even though he was imprisoned. While it seemed desperate on the surface, God was using Paul’s bonds to advance the Gospel. He wanted them to live by faith instead of allowing doubt and fear to direct their lives. Paul was actively living out the truths he taught in Romans 8:28.
B. The Results (12b) – But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. While it appeared that Paul had been removed from active service and was no longer effective in global ministry, just the opposite was true. The bonds Paul suffered had actually “turned out” to further the Gospel.
We only have the ability to see our current situation. We often judge our circumstances on personal feelings or immediate results. We lack the ability to see the big picture, fully comprehending what God is doing and how He is working in the midst of our situation. While things look desperate and gloomy from our perspective, God can, and does, take our situations and work them out for our good and His glory. The trial you face today is not enjoyable, but God is sovereignly working in your life according to His divine plan. Your perseverance in this trial may actually lead to the salvation or renewal of others!
C. The Reach (13) – So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places. Paul’s bonds had become an effective means of communicating the Gospel within Caesar’s palace in Rome, and they had resulted in the Gospel being shared throughout the world. He was reaching those within the palace of the most powerful man on earth and God was using the bonds of Paul to take the Gospel to the world. His imprisonment had advanced the Gospel, rather than hindering it.
Again, we have no way of knowing where or how God will use our current situation to advance the Gospel. If we will remain faithful, regardless of circumstances, God will use our lives for His glory and the advancement of the Kingdom.
II. The Progression through Suffering (14-18a) – Here Paul shares with the church how his bonds had actually caused the Gospel to spread. He speaks of:
A. The Boldness Encouraged (14) – And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. The believers still lived in a world that rejected the Gospel. Persecution and adversity remained prevalent, but Paul’s courage and faithfulness to the Lord had encouraged others to boldly proclaim the Gospel. His faith had impacted the lives of others who felt compelled to share their faith, even in the face of persecution.
Clearly we need those who are willing to share their faith within our society. Our environment closely resembles that of the early church, and our boldness in the faith can have an impact on other believers. As they see us actively living out our faith within a hostile culture, others are encouraged to take a stand for the Lord. Your faithfulness to the Lord will exceed any words you communicate. As we stand for Christ, others see our faith lived out, and they can be encouraged to do the same. I am sure we have been encouraged by others who boldly stood for Christ.