Meditation for Preparation for Worship for August 1, 2021
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.
Paul’s Hardship was Fuel for the Lighthouse of the Gospel.
Paul is writing the Philippians from prison, and he reports that a large number of people, including non-Christians, have learned that his imprisonment was for for the sake of Jesus. This is the first way progress was made for the gospel: Paul’s suffering was clearly identified with the cause of Jesus. “The imperial guard…and all the rest” saw what it looked like to follow Jesus when they saw Paul in prison. 1 Peter 2:21-25 shows us that when we suffer unfairly as a Christian, conscious of God, we follow in Jesus’s footsteps.
Somehow, Paul’s imprisonment emboldened other Christians to speak the word of God without fear. Could it have been that for some in the political climate, Paul became like a “lightning rod,” attracting the force of the unjust government and allowing others to teach more safely? Were some inspired by Paul’s testimony? Paul even raises the troubling point that some people are exploiting his danger by speaking of Christ to make it more difficult for Paul. This is the second way that we see the advancement of the gospel: Through Paul’s imprisonment, God granted safety and boldness to those who would speak of Him — even through insincere hearts.
The third way is not as obvious from Paul’s words here. His situation bears such a striking connection to Jesus’s words in Luke 21. We can be confident that Paul had the opportunity to bear witness to the truth: Paul was given a formal and serious legal setting to teach the truth of the gospel. We read Jesus explaining his promise:
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.
Are you more thankful for God’s using other Christian teachers, or are you more concerned about the motives of the teachers? (Mark 9:38-41)
Do you understand that you have a calling to walk in Jesus’s footsteps even in the midst of unfair persecution? (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Pray: Father, you promised you would never leave us nor forsake us, but we do not want to endure suffering! Help us to trust you when we endure trouble for the sake of Christ, so that you can use it for the sake of the most important message mankind has ever heard. Bring us joy in everything good you do through our difficulties. Let us look for how you are working in every trial!