by Graham Mol
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel,”
These are Paul’s words written from prison to the believers in Philippi. From what Paul is saying to them one gets the impression that the congregation there were concerned for Paul’s well being, that he may be discouraged by his current circumstances. Prior to his imprisonment Paul had travelled as a missionary all over the Mediterranean area, to the various cities and nations, preaching the Gospel and even founding churches.
In light of this it would be easy to assume that his imprisonment was a great loss for Christendom. Instead of travelling and preaching, Paul was now confined to one place. No longer could he visit the churches and encourage the believers there, no longer could he bring Christ’s teachings to the Gentiles in all the different cities. No longer could Paul continue with his life’s work. At least that was how it seemed.
And yet here we have Paul saying that what has happened to him, his imprisonment, has ACTUALLY advanced the Gospel. He goes on to give several examples of how that is so:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly. To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice because I know this will lead to my salvation through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ. My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all courage, Christ will be highly honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul is not discouraged, rather he is rejoicing!
Have you experienced a set back when you’ve tried to serve the Lord? When you’ve stepped out in faith and obedience to His leading only to find that things don’t quite go as planned? Do not be discouraged. Just as Paul’s life and ministry was still in God’s hands, so too is your life and the ministry that He has called you to. You may find that what you are going through, the set back that you have experienced, has ACTUALLY advanced the Gospel.
Your faithfulness to the Lord in the midst of trials and set backs is a powerful witness to others. It may encourage other believers to share their own testimony of God’s love and faithfulness in their lives. We may not know how things will work out tomorrow and the next day but we can know, if we hold onto our trust in Jesus, He will be honoured in our lives not matter the outcome.