Summary: Christians are to mature in their walk with Christ and have a mature witness
Gaining a Mature Witness
February 8, 2009
During the days of World War II there were three pastors who led national movements in the church.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who joined a movement to overthrow Hitler, lectured in the US during a period of time in which his life was threatened in Germany. He had offers to stay in the US, but refused them in order to stand with his brothers in Germany against Naziism. He was arrested, spent his last years in prison, and was executed in April 1945, just before Germany’s defeat.
2. Martin Niemoller, who also stood against Hitler when he saw the atrocities he was committing, was arrested two different times. He spent time in concentration camps and, at one time, Hitler made him his personal prisoner. Tradition says that Hitler gave a standing order that no soldier could guard him twice because his testimony was so powerful, and Hitler feared his soldiers might become Christians. He eventually was freed when the Allies freed Germany, and became quite well known as a preacher all over the world, often facing criticism for his views.
3. Helmut Thielicke, who also opposed Hitler, but was never arrested and did not face major criticism. He preached and wrote widely on living as a Christian in the face of death.
At some time we all have to face situations that are like cookies, they’re crummy. Whether we face some form of tragedy like the death of a family member or friend. We might deal with an ongoing illness that drags down our spirit. There are times when we just have a bad day. As followers of Christ, we can face each and every situation with the power of Christ and a spirit of contagious joy.
How we face the crummy days of life speaks volumes about our character. How we approach those days, we would rather not face helps us to see the work of Christ within our lives. How we follow Jesus in days when we would rather give up speaks to our dedication.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Philippians 1:12-18
Never give up in difficult circumstances
Paul says that his imprisonment has had an effect that his captors did not expect. The Romans often imprisoned people to keep them quiet or to keep them from creating problems. Paul found new ways to share the gospel, even in his limited circumstances. Remember that Paul is currently in prison or a possible house arrest because he was chained to a guard. The imprisonment opened new opportunities for Paul to witness. These were opportunities that Paul would never had without being placed under arrest.
Paul could have easily questioned God about the purpose and plan of his imprisonment. Paul chose to embrace the situation and do all he could for the Kingdom of Christ. Paul’s work had not been slowed by the imprisonment. God had turned something bad into something He could use for the expansion of His kingdom.
Paul describes his imprisonment with the words advanced. Paul believe that the reason he was in prison was to further the work of the gospel. The word advanced is a bit unusual. Prokope was used to describe the progress of an army or an expedition. The form Paul uses gives the understanding of clearing the way. Like someone cutting a path through the wilderness. Paul believed his circumstances had cut a path for the sharing of the gospel. Paul gained new opportunities with new people and was able to spread the gospel in new ways. Christ cleared the way and opened the door. Paul made the best of a terrible situation.
Paul makes it clear that everyone around him understood that he was in prison because of his faith. Prison became another avenue for sharing the gospel. Paul say his imprisonment as an opportunity to further the work of the gospel in a new area. Paul was able to reach one of the most powerful organizations in the world.