This week we are moving along in our exploration of the Book of Philippians to discover more about Paul’s joy-filled spirit. Not only does Paul talk about joy numerous times in this letter to the church of Philippi, but he also shows how joy is possible no matter the circumstances we may be going through in our life.
The paragraph title in many Bibles is Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel. When we think of the word “chains” we generally do not think of advancement. We think of chains holding us back. However, Paul did not allow the object, the chains meant to imprison him, to constrain his faith or define his joy. He did just the opposite!
For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 1:12-26.
Missionary and Pioneer
Paul is credited as the greatest missionary of all time for Christ and the spread of the gospel. Paul journeyed throughout the Mediterranean sharing Jesus with Jews and non-Jews alike. He followed the command to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
The word pioneer is defined as “a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.” Paul was the first to bring the message of Jesus to new places and people groups. He was a pioneer for faith.
Prisoner to Rome
Wiersbe explains, “Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead he went as a prisoner.” (You can read all about Paul’s illegal arrest and his imprisonment in Acts 21-28.) Paul hoped to preach the gospel in Rome, but he discovered God’s plan was better than his. Most people would find themselves frustrated by this turn of events, but Paul found he was able to minister in a new way.
“God still wants His children to take the gospel to new areas. He wants us to be pioneers, and sometimes He arranges circumstances so that we can be nothing else but pioneers.”
– Warren W. Wiersbe
Again, most people would not find the experience of being illegally arrested and imprisoned a reason for joy; however, Paul’s focus helped him discover joy in all circumstances – including this one. His joy came from sharing the gospel and winning others to Christ. According to Wiersbe, “If his circumstances promoted the furtherance of the gospel, that was all that mattered. The word furtherance means ‘pioneer advance.’” Once again, Paul’s joy came from pioneering faith.
Pioneering the Gospel
“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
– Philippians 1:13-14
Paul saw and understood how God would use these prison chains to advance the gospel. For example, Paul was able to share Christ with the elite prison guard, which was something that would have seemed impossible before.
Additionally, Paul’s continued faith, courage, and determination while in chains helped encourage fellow believers. Wiersbe writes, “Discouragement has a way of spreading, so does encouragement. Because of Paul’s joyful attitude, the believers in Rome took fresh courage and witnessed boldly for Christ.”
Allow Crisis to Magnify Christ
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
– Philippians 1:20
What do we do with all this? Follow Paul’s example and allow your crisis to magnify Christ!
Much can be learned from Paul in dealing with this crisis. His faith did not waver; it was stronger than ever. When Christians face a crisis, people watch to see how they respond. If Christians truly believe the gospel, they will show others how big Jesus really is by their response. Our crisis is an opportunity to magnify Christ.
Too often, we focus on the here and now disappointments life brings instead of the future God has planned. Paul didn’t. He understood what God was doing today would make a difference tomorrow.
As Wiersbe explains, “When you have a single mind, you look on your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do.”
Paul lived for Christ. He found his joy and excitement for life from his belief in Jesus. What excites you and brings you joy? What makes your life worth living? If you put your joy in the things of this world, they will surely pass away. We’d love to talk to you about how to live a life worth living.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
– Philippians 1:21