Advancement Through Adversity – Part 2
“15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,” (Philippians 1:15-18 NASB)
How do you handle trials that bear upon the weight of your soul? If you’re like me, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Why is this happening?” And usually followed by, “When is this going to be over?” While these questions are normal to ask, it is important that we learn how to appropriately respond to trials. The way a person responds to trials gives a good indication of the maturity level of their faith.
As we have seen, Paul is imprisoned awaiting trial for preaching the gospel. In seeking to comfort the Philippians, he tells them that the gospel has been going forward and has encouraged others despite his current condition. (vv12-14) Later, Paul would write to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Such persecutions were confirmation to Paul that he was not suffering in vain, but for Christ’s sake. (Matthew 5:10-12) What’s encouraging about Paul is his reaction to the persecutions.
It has been my experience that at times when I have shared my faith there have been both positive and negative effects. This is what Paul is describing here. Though some of the brethren had been encouraged to proclaim Christ, there arose others who began persecuting Paul by preaching out of envy, strife and selfish ambition. It’s really sad when there is competition and maliciousness within the body of Christ.
The source of envy and strife was the sin of pride and jealousy. Paul certainly had a great reputation, an Apostolic calling and was tremendously gifted. This made him the target of such antagonism. These jealous people were eager to be seen and respected and their stepping stone to recognition was to discredit Paul’s ministry and highlight his imprisonment. Though they had the right message, their motives were completely different. Paul’s main goal was to exalt Christ (v16), the opposer’s desires were to exalt themselves. (v17a) I can only imagine Paul’s reaction upon hearing about them. Not only is he being persecuted by unbelievers, but professing believers are also adding to his afflictions. (v17b)
But notice Paul’s perspective. He is joyful. (v18) He’s joyful because at his expense Christ is still being preached! That’s the mark of a humble and mature man. His eyes were on the big picture, not on his physical and emotional afflictions. Our Lord had the same perspective. “Jesus…for the joy set before him endured the cross….” (Hebrews 12:2b) Jesus saw past the scourging, flogging, beatings and the crucifixion and fixed His eyes on the redemption of His sheep. Wherein so much as the Jews thought they had defeated Christ, their role served to fulfill the preordained plan of God; the suffering of His Son for the salvation of the elect.
Christian, are you going through a trial because of your obedience, even from within the household of faith. Perhaps this trial is a test from God. Rejoice! It’s proof of your union with Christ and designed to mature you (James 1:2-3), advance the kingdom and ultimately glorify God.