Philippians 1: 12 – 20 (NLT)
“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. 20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.”
Can good things come from bad situations? Paul says that they can. Look at what has happened because of Paul’s imprisonment. The whole palace guard now knows about Jesus and this new life one can have with God. The guards rotate as they watch over Paul day and night. They get to hear first-hand when Paul talks with his visitors. They get to listen as Paul and Timothy confer as Paul writes the various epistles. They watch a man, who they have likely come to realize is a very intelligent and caring leader, face unfair imprisonment and yet is still calm and joyful. I’m sure they talk among themselves and with their friends and family. Paul knows that group of people would never have heard the gospel message if he was not in prison.
Then Paul is also aware that the Christians in Rome have become bolder in sharing their faith. They see Paul in prison, carrying on with his speaking and writing, and it gives them the courage to talk themselves. Stop and think for a moment about your own experience today. I’m sure there are people around you who are angry, nervous, depressed as a result of the pandemic. Can you share your faith with them? Can you let them see that life is still full of joy and calm at your house?
It’s also interesting to note that Paul is not upset by people who are preaching the gospel with impure motives. In other books Paul wrote, he denounces people who are twisting the truth of the gospel. In this case, it appears that these people have not introduced any incorrect doctrine or beliefs, but rather preach the truth. They are doing it out of ‘selfish ambition’; apparently, they like the spotlight and the fame it brings. Paul only cares that the gospel is being spread to the world, and really that should be our focus too. As long as the message gets out, we aren’t to worry about who is spreading it, or how they do it.
Where does Paul get all this peace and joy? You might be thinking “I’m not that joyful. I’m nervous”. He tells us. “For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance … I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die”. (v. 19 – 20) I see three things here – others praying for him, Jesus helps him, and he has a specific belief goal for his life.
Paul is praying for the Philippians as he writes this letter, and he knows they are praying for him. During these difficult times let’s pray for each other, and don’t be shy about telling someone that you are praying for them. Hearing that would ‘make their day’.
Also, know that the Holy Spirit lives in you; God loves you, and is very willing to give you the strength you need to face whatever problems you have. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that; we can get so carried away with figuring out how to solve our problems, we forget to ask for God’s help. Take some time each day to pray and meditate. With things still not at full speed in our communities, now is a good time to start practicing that alone time with God.
Finally, Paul says that he wants his life to “bring honour to Christ” whether he lives or dies. This is not Paul’s wish to do well, to impress God, or gain God’s favour. Paul is just so grateful for God’s presence in his life, he wants to deepen that relationship with God. This is a poor example, but as a wife who was in love with her husband, I didn’t want to do things that would upset him. I didn’t want to do things that would embarrass him. I wanted him to be proud of me, just as I was of him. That is our relationship with God. It is a love relationship and as such, we want to do the things we know God wants and loves. That is what brings joy and peace.
But, Paul also mentions that he wants to honour God whether he lives or dies. Remember he is in a ‘lock-down’ waiting for a trial. He may be freed or he may be executed. I doubt most of us are looking forward to death. There are lots of things we still want to do here. But death comes for everyone sometime. I’m praying that the people I know, the people at LSA will come through this pandemic healthy. But regardless, God is present with us here, and we will be present with him in heaven. That can bring peace.
This idea of something good coming from a difficult situation is not only found in these verses in Philippians. In the Old Testament, we read the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery because they were jealous of him being dad’s favourite. He ended up working for a soldier whose wife tried to seduce him which landed Joseph in jail when he rebuffed her. After a very long time in jail, he finally ends up working for the Egyptian Pharaoh and gets promoted to second in command in the land. He prepares for a famine that God told him was coming, and as a result, his family ended up in Egypt under Joseph’s care. He could have been angry with his brothers, but here is Joseph’s take on a difficult situation:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50: 20 NASB)
Good things can come from difficult situations. This pandemic may have changed the way you see life, helped you concentrate on more meaningful things. It may have strengthened your relationships with your family, friends, and co-workers as you realized how much they mean to you. You may get the ‘nerve’ to actually talk about your faith with a neighbour or friend. They may see your calm and be ready to listen.
Here is another reassuring verse:
2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NASB)
Our song for today is Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham.