The Advance of the Gospel
Write down the most negative thing that has happened to you in your life.
Let me start this off by explaining that God does not force you through things just to use you as a pawn in some scheme, but He does use your pains and sorrows to strength you and mold you into a useful tool, a weapon used mightily in battle. You see, people can either grow and become resilient, or they can shrivel and shrink into nothing and be seemingly useless. The choice is what you do with it.
Philippians 1:12-18 “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”
Paul lived a lavished lifestyle in the country of Israel. He was the second highest in command of the Pharisees, the religious leaders. Because of this, he would have been given special treatment, he would have power at his fingertips, he even had the authority to kill and imprison Christians who were preaching against Jewish traditions. He was dangerous prior to salvation.
After his conversions, though, he became a sold out follower of Christ. Remember last week we mentioned that he was Christ’s #1 opponent in the flesh, and he has no become Christ’s greatest weapon in the arsenal of fleshly people. No matter where Christ led him to go, he went willingly.
Jesus said in Matthew 8:20 “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He was saying this to point out that those who followed the Son of Man would likewise encounter rough situations.
Jesus also said in Matthew 16:24-26 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Yet again Jesus points out that we will have to put our fleshly desires to the side if we are going to pursue a life for Christ, and at times that can mean being placed in difficult situations. Situations that offer more discomfort than luxury. Situations that may bring us pain rather than peaceful bliss. Though each and every one of us that seek to follow Christ knows that even if the walk is difficult, it is fulfilling.
Paul took His words to heart because Paul lived a rough lifestyle. 2 Corinthians 11:25-30 tells us this about Paul. It says “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
After Paul’s conversion he led a pretty eventful life. He was shipwreck, he was beaten, he was left for dead, people talked negatively about him, in the beginning even other Christians spoke poorly of him. He was constantly under threat of death at the hands of other people, and he spent more than his fair share outside in the elements. Even at night.
Paul had plenty of reasons to complain, but he never did. Instead he said that it was all so that the gospel could be advanced.
In life, sometimes you are going to go through things that you have no idea why you are going through them. Later on down the road you are going to look back and understand why it was that you went through all that you did. Sometimes it will be so that you may be a leader, and you can be the light that leads people through their dark times. Sometimes it will be so that you will have the right words to say. Proverbs 25:11-13 says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.” Basically it means that the right word at the right time can refresh the soul, and restores the faith. It reinforces the heart, and strengthens the morale. Sometimes you will be taken through dark times to lead you to the perfect place that you need to be in order to carry out God’s will.
It is believed by many scholars that Paul is sitting in Rome under house arrest awaiting the trial that will ultimately cost him his head, but he said that his entire positioning was so that he may share Christ with the imperial guard. Now how positive would one have to be in order to say “I am in jail so that I may witness to the ones guarding me”? That is who Paul was though. He believed, and rightfully so, that nothing happened by accident. There is a reason for all things, and he was learning valuable lessons every single day of his life. No matter how dark it was looking for him.
“What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Let God use your pain. Let God use your character development. Do not become bitter or resentful toward Christ for what befalls you in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and know that He will use this for His good. It all matters how you react though.
There were men preaching the gospel in rivalry with Paul. Paul had amassed a large following, and how could he not? The spirit of God worked mightily within him, he started churches all over Asia minor and Europe, and he was the one who personally saw thousands saved throughout his ministries. These men preached so that they could gather a following like Paul did, but either way the gospel was presented, lives were changed, and that is all Paul cared about.
The advancement of the gospel. That is the main goal. Are your trials difficult? Certainly, but God will not give you a challenge that He does not intend to see you through to the other side and becoming stringer than ever in your faith. Do you want to give up sometimes? Sure you do, but do Christians give up? Some do when they lose their focus on Christ, but they’re not supposed to. A Christian is meant to press on in the assurance of their Lord. Jesus never said that it was going to be an easy task.
As a matter of fact He told us that we would be hated and despised because we hold true to Him, but when we are treated poorly for His names sake then we know were are headed in the right direction.
Like Paul, we need to be shining our light in whatever circumstance we are facing. Everyone faces rough situations in life, but most people face them without Jesus Christ. Those of you who are saved, be the positivity that the world is looking for. In all that you do, in all that you are, in all that you go through, speak life and share Christ. There is a purpose for your suffering, and that purpose is so that you may be put into a place (Immediate or in the future) that you can share the love of Christ. Be a faithful follower.