Suffering Well

Through my extended journey through Philippians, one of the most reassuring things about this epistle is Paul’s attitude considering that at the time of his writing he was in chains for the gospel. This is one of Paul’s prison epistles. The reoccuring theme / word in this epistle is joy or rejoice.  In fact, the fourth verse of the fourth chapter exhorts the Philippians and us to rejoice always, which includes short and long seasons of diverse trials.

Recently, I have been getting an onslaught of news from various brothers and sisters in the faith about various trials they are experiencing.  One of the most reoccuring trials I hear are people dealing with health issues, even some that are life threatening.   My heart goes out to them and my prayers go up for them.  May the Lord extend them more grace to deal with these trials and ailments if He doesn’t choose to heal them.   That grace is the increasing assurance in the abundant promises of the gospel.

The implications of the gospel are mighty against battling despair, depression, anger, frustration, and apathy that tend to accompany trials or afflictions. 

These implications are mighty because they point us to Christ!

We simply must continue to believe the gospel for our sanctification and look forward to the eschatalogical implications of it – a glorified body, a new heaven and new earth, free from the presence of sin and its effects and reconciliation with Christ.  It is a battle of faith to understand that this world and our earthly tents are not final. We are citizens of heaven awaiting our return home and we will be fit with new bodies for eternity. REJOICE!  Our suffering is only for a little while.

While we can be comforted that our suffering here is not final, we still battle with the question of why? Why has the Lord appointed or permitted suffering for His children?  Here’s where we must be cautious in examining the Lord and His ways, lest we sin against Him like Job.  We must let God speak through His Word and rest in that. 

Scripture tells us that there is a suffering that is actually a gift of grace (Philippians 1:29), it’s designed to sanctify us (James 1:2-4), deepens our intimacy with Christ (Psalm 119:75, Philippians 3:10) and loosens our affections for this world.

Scripture also tells us in Romans 8:28 that all things (including your trials and sufferings) are working together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  What’s implicit about Romans 8:28 is that all things are meant to glorify God! Our suffering, in one way or another, is a vehicle God uses to get glory from us for Himself as we see Him as Ultimate.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Advertisements

Philippians 2:1-4 : Part 1

A Call To Unity & Humility: Implications of The Gospel

“1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NASB)

The church is described in many ways in Scripture.  Three ways it is figuratively described are the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12-12-27), the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32) and a building/holy temple (Eph. 2:19-22).  We would do well to notice how these references always point to some sort of relationship between members.  The word church is derived from the Greek word ekklesiaEkklesia is a combination of two Greek words: the preposition ek, which means out of and kaleo which means to call.  The church is an assembly people who have been called out of sin and into the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  This reality points to the fact that the church is in a reconciled relationship with God (Col. 1:19-22). It is on this basis of this reconciled reality that Paul continues his exhortation to the Philippians and to us in chapter 2.

In verse 1, Paul names five realities of this reconciliation that form the foundation of his exhortation. These five realities are things that the Philippians have experienced having been reconciled to God. The first two deal with Christ and the last three deal with the Holy Spirit. They are encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion.  To grasp the full weight of these verses, the word “if” is better rendered as “because” or “since” according to Greek grammar rules.  Literally it means, “Because you have encouragement in Christ, because you have consolation of love….”

The word for encouragement is the Greek word paraklesis. Paraklesis is composed of two Greek words, para which means beside or near and kaleo, which we’ve already seen means to call. So we can see that paraklesis means to call beside or to call near to oneself. We see a fuller picture of this word when we consider that the Holy Spirit was referred to as The Comforter (Paraklete) by Jesus in John 16. Consolation is the word paramuthion. Paramuthion literally means to speak tenderly or encouragingly toward or cheerfully toward for encouragement. This is the picture of how Christ relates to us because of our union with Him. He’s called us near to Himself and he constantly encourages and lovingly comforts us.

The next reality is fellowship of the Spirit. Fellowship is koinonia which means intimate communion or a sharing of one self. Understanding the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer helps us to understand what Paul meant by this. As believers, we are regenerated by the Spirit, indwelt and sealed by Spirit, enabled and empowered by the Spirit for service. He also intercedes for us and produces Godly character in us. Affection and compassion respectively mean deep seated and tender mercies for. Christian, this is our reality! These five realities are true for us as they were for the Philippians. This is a cause for rejoicing!

The goal of these spiritual realities is to see the same attributes displayed in the life of the Philippians. While Paul sincerely rejoiced (1:4) in the way the Lord was working in their lives (4:10-16), his joy was not complete because of internal strife between two women Eudoia and Syntyche(4:2). While we’re not sure what their disunity was, we know that whatever it was was an issue enough for Paul to call for their harmony. The reason why Paul calls for harmony was so they could rightly display the gospel and to advance the gospel with locked arms. This would complete his joy that he mentioned in verse 2.

Prayer: Lord, help us to think more deeply about these 5 spiritual realities we have experienced and because of that, may we consider how these realities are being demonstrated in our lives for the sake of the gospel.

d.

Philippians 1:29-30 Pt. 3

Heavenly Conduct – Pt. 3 : Suffering for Christ’s Sake

“29For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” (Philippians 1:29-30 NASB)

Suffering is not something we tend to think about in a positive way. Naturally, we try to avoid situations that have the possibility of inducing any kind of suffering. However, suffering can not be avoided in a fallen world. Some suffer involuntarily. Others experience disciplinary or consequential suffering. And some suffer for following Christ. The last reason is the focus of these verses.

Suffering for following Christ isn’t a popular message, but it’s Biblical and must not be avoided. The gospel without suffering is no gospel at all. Unfortunately, popular teaching omits the reality of suffering or teaches it incorrectly. This can be attributed to the proponents of the prosperity or the health and wealth doctrine. An honest read of Scripture will prove otherwise, especially when we examine the lives of Jesus Christ, The Apostle Paul and the extra-biblical accounts of the 11 remaining original Apostles as well as church history martyrs.

Continuing the call to living worthy of the gospel, verse 28 tells us the Philippians had opponents. Acts 16:16-21 provides reasonable evidence that these are the opponents Paul spoke of. After starting the first church in Europe, Paul confronts occultism and demonic possession and is brought before the city officials accused of throwing the city into confusion by preaching the gospel. After Paul’s departure from Philippi (Acts 16:40), the church grew and incurred more persecution. Understanding their turmoil, Paul gives them a different perspective on their suffering so they may respond accordingly.

Paul tells the Philippian believers that their belief in and suffering for Christ was granted to them by God for Christ’s sake. For granted, Paul uses the Greek word echaristhe, which is a past tense form of the word charizomai. The root word is charis, which is grace. Literally, Paul said their belief in Christ as well as their suffering, was an act of grace or benevolent gifts to them from God. These two gifts may be the hardest truths for many believers to accept if the foundation of belief and suffering are not properly understood.

Do we look at suffering as a gift? Perhaps, if we have the right perspective of suffering. Paul’s words echo Jesus’ words to Ananias about him in Acts 9:15-16. We know that suffering has many benefits, when it’s for righteousness sake.  Suffering for His sake verifies our adoption. We suffer that our faith might be strengthened. We suffer that we would draw nearer to Christ and be broken of our self-reliance. We know suffering leads us to understand, in a small way, the sufferings of our Savior.

Ultimately, I believe the end in suffering is the exaltation of and exultation in Christ. When we suffer for His sake, that is communicating to the world that Christ is the goal of our obedience. Not heaven only, but Christ Himself!

 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

(1 Peter 4:13)

Christ’s worth is magnified through our suffering for His sake and because we are in Him, it catalyzes joy in us.

 So they [the apostles] went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

(Acts 5:41) 

Are we living in such a way that the Lord will grant us such a blessed gift?

10″Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 11″Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

 12″Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matthew 5:10-12)

Prayer : Lord, may we be found faithful during various times of testing that lie ahead.

Grace & Peace,

d. 

Philippians 1:27-28 Pt. 2

Heavenly Conduct – Pt. 2 : United Commitment & Fearlessness

27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.  (Philippians 1:27-28 NASB)

As I mentioned previously, verse 27 marks a shift in Paul’s thought in this chapter. It begins with an imperative command for the Philippians’ lifestyle to match the worthy truths of the gospel.  Having experienced the divine joys and the perilous toils of being an Apostle, Paul exhorts the believers in specific ways as marks of living worthy of the gospel of Christ.  He desired that they would stand firm in one spirit, strive together with one mind together for the faith and to be fearless in the face of opposition.

Stand firm is taken from the Greek word steko and it literally means to hold one’s ground.  It conveys the idea of soldiers committed to their posts or assignments not deterred by distractions or opposition.  Paul is desirous of them to be presently and actively standing firm in the gospel.  But the key issue of Paul’s thought is to do this together in one spirit. Jesus prayed for this same unity in John 17:20-23.  Such unity is reached when a common purpose lies at the center of our wills and we selflessly and continually give ourselves to the fulfillment of this purpose, namely the advancement of the gospel and the magnification of Jesus Christ.  Being united to Christ positionally unites us to all believers, but practically we are called to pursue and display such unity as a credible testimony to the watching world for the glory of God.  Also, we must be on guard against sins from within such as isolationism, divisiveness, and idolatry to preserve unity. We also must be on guard against attacks from without as we are continuously engaged in spiritual conflict.

Next, Paul is calling them to stand stand firm collectively so they will with integrity and credibility with one mind strive together for the faith of the gospel.  The Greek word Paul used for strive together was sunathlountes modified from sunathleo, which means to contend alongside with.  Sunathleo is a combination of two Greek words: sun (prep. – together with) and athleo (v. – struggle or contend) from which we get our English word athlete.  Again, Paul is calling for a unified contended effort to accomplish something.  That something is the faith of the gospel.   Considering the persecution he experienced at Philippi after he brought the gospel there and established the church (Acts 16), persecution was continuing and Paul is encouraging them to vigorously strive for the defense and the advancement of the gospel.  The mission of the church is to glorify Christ by being the pillar of truth and an agent of mission. We can’t neglect a core tenet of our ecclesiastical character, which is to be missiological.

Lastly, as evidence of walking worthy of the gospel, in verse 28 Paul calls them to be fearless in the face of opposition.  It’s not a matter of if we’re going to face persecution, but when.  If we are actively obeying our Lord, we will incur evil opposition.  Jesus assured His disciples of that in John 15:18-19.  The basis of our fearlessness is our salvation and all that it entails. Knowing that we have been elected to be the reward of Christ’s suffering and predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5-6), purchased by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), and free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), we have no rational reason to fear man or the Adversary.  In fact, this fearlessness Paul says is actually a sign of the opponents destruction.  Our steadfastness gives a great testimony of the validity and reliability of Jesus Christ.  And even moreso in the face of opposition.  When our adversaries don’t sense fear in us, it sets off fear in them.  It is also a strong indictment against them to the end that they will experience God’s wrath.  In the same manner, fearlessness is a sign that we truly belong to God as we hold fast the word of truth and prize Christ’s glory above all things.

What a mark we can leave in our generation for the glory of God by taking heed to Paul’s exhortations! Strikingly they seem to build on one another by necessity.  In order to be fearless in the face of opposition, we must be striving together for the faith faithfully, and to strive together we first must be standing firm in one spirit – unity.

May we take an honest assessment of our walks and examine if we are standing firm and striving together with others for the faith of the gospel with boldness as a testament of the worth of Christ.

Prayer:  Father what a blessing it is to be one of your own.  Please continue to unveil the beauty of your design for us to be united in community co-laboring for the advacement of the faith.  Keep us from internal strife, selfishness, laziness, apathy and idolatry for the sake of the mission.  Embolden us as we seek to make Christ known. Amen! 

d.

Philippians 1:27-28

Heavenly Conduct – Pt. 1

“27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  28in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.” (Philippians 1:27-28 NASB)

After thanking God for the believers in Philippi (vv 3-8), praying for them (vv 9-11), and encouraging them (vv12-26), Paul now exhorts them concerning their conduct.  It is my firm belief that the greatest witness of the gospel is a person’s life bearing evidence of submission to Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  It also is a person’s life that can hinder the gospel.

Though the recurring theme in Philippians is joy, this epistle reveals several other issues in the church at Philippi that Paul addressed.  After giving them an encouraging and a comforting report of his perspective of his present circumstances in vv12-21, Paul turns his attention toward them.  Apparently, there was disunity among the Philippians.  In addition to v27, 2:1-4 and 4:2-3 reveal such division.  Also, such behavior would be counter-productive to the persecution they were experiencing.

In verse 27, Paul uses the word politeuomai for conduct.  This word comes from its root word politēs which means citizen.  Essentially, Paul is commanding the Philippians to live according to the laws and customs of their citizenship.  While Philippi, a Roman colony, was their earthly residence, the citizenship Paul is referring to is their heavenly citizenship (3:20).  Jesus prayed to the Father that the disciples would conduct themselves accordingly because they were not of the world (John 17:16).  Likewise, Paul was exhorting them to display heavenly customs in their everyday manners and course of life.

However, to walk worthy of the gospel of Christ, one must first understand the gospel and its accomplishments.  It is imperative to understand the gospel’s judicial aspects to appreciate Paul’s command. These judicial aspects are:

  • It is propitiatory – Jesus’ sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross satisfied God’s just judgment against sin.  And because of this, He is able to extend mercy toward those who come to Christ and reconcile Himself toward them.
  • It is expiatory – God cleanses us from our sin upon faith in Christ.
  • It is justificatory – Not only does God cleanse us from sin, but also declares us righteous or imputes righteousness to us based on the work of Christ.
  • Adoption – The depth of our reconciliation brings us into God’s family receiving the eternal promises thereof.

These judicial aspects convey God’s moral aspects and actions of love, grace, humility, forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation, which we’re called to walk in.

Worthy is the Greek word axios and it means being of like value or weighing as much. In other words, our lives are to carry the same weight practically as the judicial benefits we’ve received and the position we now stand in by God’s grace in Christ.  Paul displayed this worthy conduct while in jail as verses 12-26 describe and by example he authoritatively implores the believers in Philippi to the same standard in their current situation.  May we take heed as well.

Prayer  Jesus, thank you for your work on the cross and what it accomplished. Forgive us for not meditating on the depth of what it took to render us acceptable toward You. Forgive us for not living worthy of the gospel at various times in our lives. Enable us by your Spirit to live worthy lives! Amen.

d.

Philippians 1:25-26

For Others’ Sake, For Christ’s Glory

“25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:25-26 NASB)

A man who thinks of himself too often or exclusively is not fit to serve Christ; nor is he of any benefit to others. A continual preoccupation of self and a lack of concern for others is the foundation for the disqualification of ministry.

Verse 25 starts off with Convinced of this. Convinced of what? Verse 24 tells us Paul knew it was more beneficial to continue living for the Philippians’ sake than to be with the Lord. Paul was a true minister. Though not explicitly stated in these verses, the true nature of ministry is being described. The word minister, though represented by several different Hebrew and Greek words, all mean to serve or servant. In some cases it literally means to be a waiter, making oneself available for tasks. This is more clearly seen as Paul goes on to say that he will remain and continue. The Greek word for remain is meno and it means to abide. The Greek word for continue is parameno. Paul supplements meno with the preposition para to emphasize the proximity of his abiding. Para means beside or along with. Paul is ultimately saying that he will come alongside them in their walk.

Now we see the initial reasons for Paul’s remaining and continuance in service. He says it was for their progress and joy in the faith. Unfortunately, many highly visible “ministers” in our culture don’t seem to reflect this desire.  Self aggrandizement seems to be commonplace in many pulpits.

First, Paul labored for the Philippians’ progress. Progress in this text is a continual movement forward in ministry. Paul’s desire for them was to be used by God to advance the faith in other geographical areas.  Also, progress is a movement toward loving the Lord and loving our neighbor as ourselves as Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40.  Paul alludes to this same thought in 1:9-11.  It is also the fruit of the Spirit manifesting in our lives when we walk by the Spirit.  Conversely, progress is a continual mortification of indwelling sin as Romans 8:13 says.

Secondly, Paul labored for their joy in the faith. The word joy is the Greek word chara and means gladness.  A true mark of genuine salvation is a great sense of joy that has its origin not in anything earthly, but in God and in His will toward His children.  The Psalmist gives us a great truth about where true joy is found in Psalm 16:11.  It is my firm belief that an understanding of sound theology accompanied by faith and obedience will give rise to divine joy and heartfelt doxology.  This is the reason that Paul labored so intensely and faithfully.  Let’s examine our hearts in this matter.  Are we laboring for the sake of others’ progress and joy in the faith?  We have to be careful not to let pride or the desire for praise to creep in our hearts as we minister. Our service and exercising of spiritual gifts is meant to edify or build up others.

Verse 26 tells us the ultimate reason of Paul’s remaining. He knew that his remaining and being able to see them again would be the cause of their rejoicing. However, the true reason for their boast and their joy is Christ in seeing how He is loving them through Paul’s labor for and with them. Paul wanted them to rejoice in Christ alone.

The chief end of all service to and among man is the exaltation of Christ.  If there are any that claim to be ministers and their passion is not ultimately the magnification and exaltation of Christ, they are not true ministers of the gospel and they labor in vain. May that never be said of us.

Prayer Lord, what a privilege it is to be used by You! Help us to never lose sight of what true ministry is. Increase our passion to lovingly come alongside of others for their progress and joy in the faith for Christ’s glory. Amen.

d.

Philippians 1:21-24

Christ, The End of Paul’s Life

21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:21-24 NASB)

Failing to live for the ultimate purpose for which we were created and chasing lesser ends is a wasted life. Many of us have spent a greater portion of our lives chasing lesser ends.  Perhaps before we were saved, we spent many of our years wondering what the meaning of life was.  Undoubtedly, even as believers, we grapple between staying on the narrow road and pursuing temporal vanities.  The end of our lives is the reason for our living.  When I say end, I am not referring to the cessation of life, but rather the intent of life.  What are we purposely intending to live for?

Remember Paul is writing to the Philippians while imprisoned in Rome and the first half of verse 21 describes the Apostle Paul’s clarion confession of the end or the intention of his life, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” To live is Christ carries great weight.  To capture the weight of what Paul is declaring, we must understand how he truly wrote it.  The literal meaning of to live is to continually live. But to dig a bit deeper, we need to understand one of the great “mysteries” of our salvation.  That mystery is our union with Christ. Paul gives us a glimpse of this in Colossians 1:27. Upon justification, we were immediately indwelt with and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This put us into a right relationship with God.  More specifically it put us in Christ and Christ in us.  It is because of this union that Paul says For me to live is Christ. Christ was his life, as it is ours.  The outworking of this union was living his life in such a way that sought to always glorify Christ.  As Christ revealed the Father, Paul lived to reveal Christ.  His goal was not financial gain, fame, societal prestige, or any luxury.  Christ was his treasure.  His desire was to know Christ and make Him known.  Consider the verbal assaults, the beatings, the attempted murders, sickness, long ship voyages, imprisonment, unfair trials, and desertion by some ministry allies.  In all of this, his perspective was to live is Christ.

The second half “…to die is gain” also communicates Paul’s perspective on death.  Why does Paul say to die is gain?  In our culture we tend to think death as loss, but for the believer it is to his advantage or profit.  The profits of death for the believer are: (1) freedom from sin (2) freedom from temptation (3) freedom from pain and suffering (4) freedom from spiritual warfare (5) a glorified body and (6) unhindered fellowship with Christ.  What joy Paul must have had as he pondered the riches of God’s grace accessible by faith in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, specifically His resurrection.  It is only because of the resurrection of Christ that believers can have such hope in the face of death. (1 Peter 1:3)

Verses 22-24 gives us further insight to Paul’s conflict and resolution.  Paul was resolute in his mind that if he were to continue to live, it would mean more ministry, consisting of joys and toils, and more fruit.  In no way was Paul discouraged by current circumstances.  Instead, because of his union with Christ, he would abide in Christ, which is the necessary condition for fruit bearing.  Jesus reminds us of this in John 15:8. However, he was under the very possibility of dying during this imprisonment.  Paul is very candid that if he were to die, that would be very much better for him because he longed to be with Christ.  We must not think that Paul was tired of spending his life for the Philippians.  We know of his love for the Philippians as Philippians 1:3-8 tells us.  Comparatively, his love for Jesus was greater and he knew that dying would be the sweetest joy, but he was hard pressed.  Literally he was pressed from both sides.  Go to Christ or remain for the sake of the Philippian believers.  

Verse 24 tells us of Paul’s resolution.  Paul was content with postponing his eternal joy for the sake of others.  What selflessness!  It was truly joyful for Paul to serve others for their maturity and joy in Christ.  In this attitude, Paul was exemplifying For me, to live is Christ.

Prayer Lord, may we be as narrowly focused as Paul was for your glory. Forgive us for wasting our lives on lesser ends. Fix our eyes and hearts on you, Lord, that we may be spent for Your sake and others.  

d.

Philippians 1:19-20

Joyful Assurance In Adversity

“….Yes, and I will rejoice, “19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:19-20 NASB)

There seems to be no greater proof of faith and love for God than when one can rejoice and have confidence in Christ and seek His glory during times of adversity. Paul demonstrated such joy, faith, love and confidence in the midst of an unjust imprisonment and potential execution. But what was the source of Paul’s joyful confidence? The answers lie in the text.

First, Paul knew he would be delivered. Not that he might be delivered, but he knows he will. In verse 19, Paul used the Greek word soteria, which means salvation. There have been many debates as to whether Paul’s use of the word soteria meant deliverance from this earthly realm or deliverance from imprisonment under Caesar’s reign. I believe there is truth in both lines of thought. Either way was to Paul’s advantage. Paul understood John 6:37-40 and gave further doctrinal detail of this assurance in Romans 8:28-39.

Secondly, Paul had the intercessory prayers of the saints in Philippi. Throughout Scripture, God commands and privileges His people to commune with Him. One of the foundational purposes of prayer is to have God’s will fulfilled in His people. In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus establishes this truth. Prayer is the chief mark of humility as it puts us in a place of dependence and seeks God’s perfect sufficiency and purposes. Having consigned themselves to praying for God’s will in Paul’s life brought Paul joy. What a demonstration of love!

Thirdly, in addition to the prayers of the Philippians, he had a provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, which is another name for the Holy Spirit. The word Paul used for provision was epichoregia. This doesn’t just mean a provision, but a generous provision or a lavish provision. It is important to understand the necessary work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Not only does the Spirit’s indwelling seal us in Christ and secures our redemption as Ephesians 1:13-14 says, but He also richly supplies us with strength or power to live the Christian life, which always includes trials. There is no other way to live the Christian life. We need a continual empowering from the Spirit, which comes through abiding in Christ for obedient, fruitful and joyful living.

Ultimately, the source of Paul’s joy was the exaltation of Christ, even if it meant suffering or losing his own life. Paul’s eagerness to see Christ exalted in his life also was the source of his boldness and the confidence that he would not be ashamed in anything. This boldness that Paul speaks of refers to a forthrightness in his speech. Paul never cowered or felt ashamed in his proclamation of the gospel amidst the uncertainty of his future. Considering his present circumstances and all that he had suffered prior to this imprisonment, one would think that those would call for shame. However, Paul wasn’t ashamed because he knew for Whom he was suffering and the effect of the suffering, namely the exaltation of Christ. Paul uses the Greek word megaluno for exalted. It means to magnify or to get glory and praise for. The chief aim of Paul’s life was that Christ would be exalted in his life by the working of the Holy Spirit whether by life or death.

From the onset of his call to ministry, Paul was called to suffer as Acts 9:16 tells us. In his farewell speech at Ephesus, Acts 20:24 tells us Paul didn’t count his life dear to himself. His sole passion was to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. However, Paul understood what it meant to live or die confidently for a greater cause than himself, Christ, because He understood the effects of the atonement.

Prayer : Lord, may we be a people who live to joyfully exalt You and exult in You with assurance when adversity comes our way.  Amen!  

d.

Philippians 1:15-18

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. “Jesusfor 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.  

d.

Philippians 1:12-14

Advancement Through Adversity  – Part 1

12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14 NASB)  

If you are a student of Scripture, you know that suffering, trials and tribulations will occur for the believer as promised by our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As we continue to walk obediently, we will incur trouble because we stand against the world. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” During Jesus’ last moments with the original disciples before His arrest, He reemphasized that following Him would bring persecution, but not to fear. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  This was precisely the case for the Apostle Paul as well. Jesus sent word through Ananias to Paul in Acts 9:15-16 concerning how much he would suffer for being a believer.   

After exhorting the Philippians to grow in their love, etc. (vv 9-11), he wants to encourage them by telling them how the gospel is still being preached despite his circumstances.  At the time of writing, Paul was falsely imprisoned in Rome for preaching the gospel. What was an attempt to arrest the spreading of the gospel, actually worked to advance the gospel.  What looked like a tragedy really was a victory. Ponder the crucifixion of Christ. Ponder Joseph’s imprisonment. It is important to understand how God uses trials and sufferings in the life of the believer for their maturity and His purposes, which include reaching the lost.  It is in the midst of these times that without His perspective, we can lose hope or become despondent or apathetic.  In these times we must understand the character and promises of God by turning to the Scriptures.  

I imagine the Philippians might have wondered how Paul was doing spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally and I’m sure this letter greatly comforted and encouraged them. Paul’s focus wasn’t on the injustice of the Roman government or his personal discomfort of being chained to a Roman soldier.  Instead, vv12-13 tells us that this situation was used to spread the gospel to the Praetorian Guard and everyone else. The Praetorian Guard consisted of at least 1,000 men! God graciously and sovereignly sent rain on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)  Paul’s imprisonment afforded the gospel to be proclaimed to a people who might not have heard the gospel in any other circumstance.   

Not only did his imprisonment afford the gospel to be preached, but also it encouraged and strengthened the brethren in the vicinity to proclaim the gospel without fear. (v14) In spite of his circumstances, Paul had joy.  I believe this is what emboldened other believers to preach the gospel.  To fully grasp the significance of what Paul is saying, we must understand the times. During Paul’s imprisonment Christian persecution in Rome was increasing under the emperorship of Nero.  Nero’s volatile character usually resulted in a very quieted evangelistic approach for the believers in Rome.  So this response was quite the opposite of what was expected.   

Here Paul is imprisoned and chained for being a Christian, yet the gospel still advances.  That’s the true prosperity gospel, not that which is propagated widely today.  For the health and wealth prosperity gospel, which distorts God’s true gospel can’t biblically explain suffering, sacrifice or even martyrdom. But the Bible tells us that through suffering Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8) and was perfected.   Even so, our journey to glory will include adversity. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:21-22) which we were destined for. (1 Thessalonians 3:3)  

Be joyful and patient in affliction and adversity, as it is one of God’s means to refine you and prove to the world that God is truly our treasure! This advances the kingdom! Paul had this perspective. Do we?  

d.