DIFFICULT THINGS THAT PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL
Paul stands as a great example to us in learning how to effectively proclaim the gospel. In one episode from the comic strip "Peanuts", Lucy comes up to her brother, Linus, and tells him that she has "converted" someone in her class to her way of thinking religiously. Knowing his sister, Linus couldn’t believe it. "How did you do it?" he asked. Lucy explained, "I told him everything I believe and asked him if he believed it, too. When we came to something he didn’t see my way, I just hit him over the head with my lunch box until he believed it!" I’ve seen some instances of "lunch box evangelism", haven’t you? It’s not very effective.
I. SOMETIMES CHAINS ARE USED TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL. VS. 12-14
A) Paul certainly could have written an entire book to the Philippians about his hardships but he sums them up by calling them “the things that happened to me.”
1. If you would like to know more about these things you can read Acts 21:17-28:31
2. Paul chose to focus more on the doors that were opened by his hardships than the hardships themselves.
B) Paul was chained to a Roman guard 24/7. The shifts changed every 6 hours. So Paul was able to witness to at least four men a day.
Don’t you imagine it had an effect on these guys to know that he was in prison for preaching and yet to see him, full of joy, still telling others about Christ?
C) You might say “Well that worked in Paul’s day but we don’t face the same type of persecution.” You would be right for the most part. But persecution does exist today, even in our country. James Lord is a high school student in Illinois. He is on the closed circuit t.v. program at his school. James started signing off by saying “God Bless.” James was warned not to do it anymore but when he persisted he was suspended from the broadcast. The good news is after the American Center for Law and Justice (Christian lawyers) got involved, the school board voted to reinstate him with no restriction from saying “God Bless.”
D) I know of people who have been fired from their place of work for bringing their Bible. I know that these things pale in comparison to what Paul faced but they are opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. I am not saying try to get fired or arrested. I am just saying that when we are faithful, no matter what, God will use that faithfulness.
II. SOMETIMES CRITICS ARE USED TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL. VS. 15-19
A) Paul had a group of people that were preaching the gospel but were trying to get people to choose sides against Paul at the same time. Paul uses the word “Contention.” Contention here means “to canvas for office. To get people to support you.”
B) Bro. Jerry Jolly has seen God bless his ministry in a great way at Temple in Jonesboro. Some of the pastors in the area have made all kinds of accusations about how that growth has come about. He has just continued to do the Lord’s work.
C) Criticism is hard to take because it is an attack against us personally. However, if we have a single mind, a transcendent cause, we can focus on the greater issue. Are people being reached for Christ? Is the message of God’s Word being proclaimed?
D) John Wesley and George Whitefield disagreed on several doctrinal issues. Both of them were successful preachers. A man approached Wesley and asked him if he thought he would see Whitefield in heaven. Wesley said no. The man said “So you don’t think he is really saved?” Wesley said “Oh, I believe he is saved alright. It is just that he will be so close to the throne of God and I so far away that I may never see him.”
One of the greatest tests of our spiritual maturity is when we feel the natural urge to bite back, to overcome that and just keep serving the Lord. Let our walk do the talking.
III. SOMETIMES CRISIS ARE USED TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL. VS. 20-26
A) Because of Paul’s chains Christ was known. Because of his critics Christ was preached. Because of his crisis Christ was magnified.
B) In a similar way that a star is much bigger than a telescope, Christ is tremendously greater than us. However, we can be used, even our trials and tribulations, to magnify our precious Lord.
C) Paul says “To live means I get to continue serving the Lord and teaching you as his followers. To die means I get to leave all this suffering behind and go be with him.
D) Whatever trial you may be facing right now, it can be used to magnify God. Are you willing to be used to do it?
My brother in law, as most of you know, recently had surgery to remove cancer from his throat. At Christmas he asked me to read from the Bible on his behalf. He chose James 1:2-12
When we are in the midst of trial we can live in the world of woe is me or we can live in the world of great is He.
The bottom line is this question. Are we proclaiming the gospel and goodness of Christ. No matter our circumstances, are we telling others about Christ’s great love and the gift of eternal life that He gives to us.