Summary: Philippians - Manual of Joy Paul’s Perspective on Adversity
Philippians - Manual of Joy
Paul’s Perspective on Adversity
We are working our way through the letter to the church at Philippi. One of the main themes is that joy is central to our lives when Christ is central in our lives. Joy is not a choice, not an attitude but is a spiritual fruit that arises in the heart when Christ is treasured above all else.
So far, we have seen that the foundation for joy is the work of God on our behalf. Last week we saw the promise ‘God who began a good work in you will bring it to completion’ gives us confidence to pray for transformation for each other. Based upon that promise all of us should have confidence to pray for spiritual transformation in our own lives but also pray for each other.
This week we will see that Paul tells the church at Philippi not to be concerned about him because his imprisonment has advanced the gospel, and in this, he rejoices. Christ is so central in his life that he has a God given joy, in prison, because the gospel advances.
1. Paul’s Adversity Advances God’s Mission (vs. 12-14)
Paul was imprisoned for being a follower of Christ and for proclaiming Christ and the church at Philippi was concerned about him. Paul wants to take their focus away from his circumstances to what God has done because of his circumstances. To relieve their concern Paul points out that his imprisonment has advanced the gospel. What you think would hinder the gospel, Paul being in prison, Paul says actually advanced the gospel. The chains that seek to keep the gospel from advancing becomes the very train that the gospel advances on. An obstacle in the kingdom of this world becomes an opportunity in Gods kingdom. Or what is a disadvantage in the natural realm becomes an advantage in the spiritual realm. Gods’ power is displayed in human weakness. What obstacle or disadvantage is in your life? Do you believe it can be the very means God will display his power to advance the gospel?
Paul even goes so far as to say that God has placed him in prison. He does not want them to be concerned about his suffering. His point is two fold. First, my life is nothing compared to the advancement of the gospel. Second, the mission of God cannot be stopped even when men and the devil seek to stop it because God is sovereign over them both! The mission of God is an unstoppable force because the evil intent of men is overridden by the goodness of God to accomplish his purposes.
We live in a fallen world; our own sin and the sin of others affect us. We cannot escape it. The question is how will we choose to live in this fallen world? Will we look to God who is writing the story of our lives and walk with him even in difficult circumstances or will we walk the other way? God is the one who determines the path we walk. He does not negotiate and will not go with us on our detours but he invites us, to join him. His story will end with the every knee bowing before Christ and with new heaven and new earth. Joining him in his story means that I abandon every purpose of mine for his purpose. Joining him means that instead of asking him to enter the story I want to write I give up my own story and enter into his story and let him re-write the story of my life. Are you walking with God?
Those involved in the government know (v. 13)
The first fruit of Paul’s imprisonment is that the whole imperial guard and all the rest know that Paul is not in prison for a crime against the state, Paul is not in prison for a political crime, but he is in prison because of preaching Christ have know it. The imperial guard is nine thousand soldiers and the rest are those who had dealings with imperial affairs and were in Rome on business. Paul was in prison for two years and the soldiers guarding Paul were changed every six hours. That means, potentially, that Paul told the gospel story, the story of Jesus, to someone new every six hours. They in turn told other soldiers and over time, everyone knew why Paul was in prison! It is being missional, seeing missions not as something we go oversees to do, like the trip to Manila, but each of us seeing ourselves as on the mission field in Homer, Alaska. We must not spend all of our energies to reach those across the globe to the neglect of those across the street.