Summary: God often uses strange tools to help us advance the Gospel as pioneers. From Paul, we see two of those tools.
LIVING TOGETHER TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL
A. Three German Christian preachers who stood out as preachers in WWII Germany:
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.
• Here we have three men in a similar environment, but all working through different means to advance the Gospel.
B. Paul lived this way as he shows us in this text.
1. More than anything else, he desired to go to Rome to preach the Gospel. It was the key city of its day, the hub of the empire, and to preach there would mean reaching millions for Christ — Acts 19:21; Romans 1:15.
2. But now instead of going to Rome as a preacher he went as a prisoner. Vs. 12 refers to all the things that happened that brought about that result.
a. The Philippians knew the facts, but they were worried about Paul because they had not seen him for four years and had heard rumors about what had happened to him.
b. They had heard many reports of his condition and could not help but wonder if they were true.
c. Moreover they wondered if the years of turmoil and political bartering, frustration, delay, and physical suffering was worth it.
3. Paul said he did not find his circumstance ideal, but they had resulted in the advance of the Gospel.
a. The word "advance" means, "pioneer advance."
b. It is a Greek military term referring to the army engineers who go before the troops to open the way into new territory.
c. Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered that his circumstances opened new areas of ministry.
C. What circumstances do you face?
1. The real question is what is your real desire? Is it to advance the Gospel?
2. Will you live to advance the Gospel, to take it into new areas that your situation opens up for you?
God often uses strange tools to help us advance the Gospel as pioneers. From Paul, we see two of those tools.
GOD USES OUR...
I. ...CIRCUMSTANCES TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL — Vss. 12-14.
• Americans do not deal very well with negative circumstances as Charles Colson points out in his BreakPoint Commentary for 01/10/2002: Playing Solomon in Today’s Legal Culture: The Victims Fund and Great Expectations.
Kenneth Feinberg has one of the most thankless jobs imaginable. Feinberg is the Special Master in charge of the Victims Compensation Fund created by Congress in the wake of September 11. The Fund is intended to compensate the victims and their families.
The Fund embraces the idea that, whatever the negligence of the airlines and their contractors, the hijackings themselves were the reason for the three thousand-plus deaths on September 11.
Under Feinberg’s proposals, awards would range from $350,000 for the family of a single man earning $10,000 to approximately $3.8 million for the family of a married man with two kids who is earning $225,000. The average award would be $1.65 million.
These proposals, as well as the ideas they reflect, run counter to some of the ideas most responsible for the outrageously huge jury verdicts that have become part of our legal landscape. And victims and their lawyers didn’t waste any time expressing displeasure.
One widow told the SEATTLE TIMES that she was "ready to throw up" after learning that she would "only" receive $1.5 million under Feinberg’s proposal. A representative of Families of September 11 unfavorably compared the plan to the "$2 million to $5 million or more . . ." that other plaintiffs in aviation cases and terrorism cases have gotten. And one trial lawyer, who won $17 million for the widow of a man killed on Pan Am 103, called the plan "absolutely terrible."