Summary: Why do we have so little impact on our world? Why are we so much like the world, and so un-like our heavenly Father? The second half of Philippians ch 1 challenges us to get our priorities right - the Gospel is all that matters!
Imagine this. You’ve become a missionary. You’ve gone to a foreign country that hasn’t heard the Gospel.
You try not to be a foreigner, you try and fit in with them. You take on their customs and habits. You wear their clothes, eat their food, learn their language. You love them, you serve them, you do everything you can to make it easy for them to listen to you, easy for them to hear the message you’re bringing.
But the only response of these people is to chuck you in jail.
So there you are, you’ve been thrown into jail, just for telling people about Jesus.
But then things get worse. You hear that some of your missionary partners who are still free are paying out in you. They say “Ah, that guy wasn’t much of a missionary. He couldn’t preach or lead Bible studies or anything. Besides, God must be punishing him for something. God wouldn’t let his real missionaries get locked up in jail. Look at us - we’re still free! God must be really pleased with us!”
And then you hear something that really chills you. The authorities might pass the death sentence on you. You don’t know whether you’ll get out of jail alive.
How would you feel? Discouraged? Angry? Afraid?
How would you feel about God? Would you feel like saying to God “What’s the matter with you? I’m trying to tell people the gospel, why did you let me get into this state? Is this how you treat people who try and serve you?”
A. Paul is in prison
Paul is in prison. The only reason he’s in prison is because he was telling people about Jesus. How did he respond to his imprisonment? Is he discouraged? Angry? Afraid?
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel”.
Hang on, what’s this? He’s not afraid or angry or anything. In fact, he sounds quite happy. He says his imprisonment has actually been good for the gospel. The message of Jesus has reached even more people. How can that be?
B. It has become clear that he is in chains for Christ
It has “become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. ”
Oh, okay. Getting chucked in jail hasn’t really shut Paul down. The only thing Paul’s interested in is spreading the gospel. Even in prison, he’s continued to do just that. He’s just got a different audience - the prison guards!
Can you see what he’s done? There’s Paul sitting in his cell. He stuck there, can’t do anything, go anywhere, speak to anyone. But there’s a Roman guard on duty, standing outside Paul’s cell. So Paul rocks up to the bars of his cell and starts chatting with the guard, “Hi, how’s it going? Looks like we’re stuck with each other for some time. Wanna hear a really interesting story? There once was this man Jesus...” and off he goes, telling the palace guard about Jesus’ death and resurrection.
But hang on Paul, what about your rights? What about a fair trial? Don’t you miss your freedom? Don’t you miss the comforts of home? Don’t you wish you could hang out with your friends and have a good time with them?
Well, no he doesn’t. He’s not interested in his rights, he’s not interested in freedom or comfort or anything. All he wants to do all the time is preach the gospel.
You see, for Paul, the Gospel is all that matters. Getting chucked in jail has given him another opening to tell people about Jesus. And that’s all that matters - all that matters is the gospel.
C. The brothers have preached more courageously and fearlessly
But that’s not the only way Paul’s imprisonment has been good for the gospel. He says in verse 14:
“Because of my chains, most of the brothers have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
So the other christians filled the gap left by Paul. Paul’s not around to tell people about Jesus, so it looks like they have to. And Paul’s really happy about that.
Notice Paul doesn’t think he has to do the work himself. There’s not even a hint of resentment that other people get to talk about Jesus while he’s locked up.
He’s not interested in his own church, he’s not interested in himself being famous, he’s not interested in building his own kingdom. All he’s interested in is building Jesus’ church, Jesus being famous, Jesus’ kingdom.
Paul can’t spread the gospel because he’s in jail - so what, everyone else is doing it anyway. The gospel is all that matters.