Session 4

Philippians Study – Session 4

(Philippians 1:12-18)

 

1.   Philippians 1:12-18 is an amazing passage of Scripture. It is one of those parts of God’s Word that has to be understood with--

            --the heart as much as the head...       

                        --feelings as much as the mind...

                                    --emotions as much as intellect...

      Unless we put ourselves in Paul’s place and feel what he felt, cannot really understand what he is saying here in these verses. 

2.   Remember that Paul wrote these words from prison.  His freedom had been taken away and no doubt that was very difficult for Paul.  While he was in prison he was--

--concerned about the churches he had already established, like the church at Philippi...

--anxious to get on with his God-given mission of evangelizing the Gentile world... 

--his enemies were taking advantage of his absence trying to undermine his leadership in the churches...

3.   His life was certainly less than ideal.  But in such a time as that, Paul looked through eyes of faith and saw ways that God was working.  The truth is, while we may not experience the harsh situation that Paul experienced, none of us ever live under ideal conditions. Life is always less than perfect.  There is always some challenge, some burden, some obstacle, with which we must contend.  And there is always some difficult person with whom we must deal.  This passage is a reminder that God is at work in those less than ideal times in our lives.  I see two broad principles underlying this paragraph. 

·         God can use situations that are less than perfect to accomplish His purposes in this world. 

·         God can use people who are less than perfect to accomplish His purposes in this world.

 

God can use situations which are less than perfect to accomplish His purposes in this world

1.      Notice how this paragraph begins.  “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel...”  The word that is translated “greater progress” in the NASB is a very descriptive word.  It literally means “to cut before.”  It was used to describe detachment of soldiers who would go before the regular army to cut away trees and undergrowth that would impede the army’s advance.  Thus the army was able to reach places it could have not have otherwise reached. 

2.      By using that word Paul is saying, “I see my situation as clearing the way for the gospel to go where it hasn’t gone before.  God is using my imprisonment for the advancement of the gospel.”  Then, in verses 13-14 he mentions two specific ways the gospel was advanced by his imprisonment. 

·         Verse 13 says entire “praetorian guard” was aware that he was in prison for the cause of Christ...”praetorian guard” was the very elite of the Roman Army...responsible for guarding prisoners such as Paul awaiting trial before Caesar...they would be bound at the wrist by a short length of chain on a rotating basis to the prisoner in 6 hour shifts...four different soldiers each day spent 6 hours with Paul...over the many months of his imprisonment Paul was chained to scores of members of this elite guard unit...talk about the classic captive audience!...they—

--heard Paul pray... 

--saw him write letters to the churches...

--heard him share his own experience of how at one time he opposed Christ and how he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus, and how faith in Christ had changed his life....

And as result of his imprisonment verse 13 tells us that Paul was able to get the gospel into the “whole praetorian guard.”  That is something he never could have done as a free man.  Think of the irony of that.  God used the chains that bound Paul to set the gospel free among an elite group of Roman soldiers! 

·         Verse 14 tells of another way Paul’s imprisonment resulted in the advancement of the gospel.  As a result of the spirit, the attitude with which Paul endured his situation, many Christians were encouraged “to speak the word of God without fear...”  I see a couple of important things for us to learn from that.

o   We should never forget that encouragement is contagious...just as discouragement has a way of spreading, so does encouragement...Paul’s positive attitude spread to those who observed him...if you want people around you to be characterized by a positive, optimistic spirit, you’d better make certain that you have that kind of spirit...we tend to be attracted to and we tend to attract to ourselves people who more or less reflect our attitudes...

o   We should never forget where the real work of God is done.  The word translated “speak” is the word used to describe everyday conversation... Paul’s positive attitude toward his situation gave other believers courage to talk about Jesus in their everyday conversations...the work of God is not done within walls of a building...it’s done in the homes and businesses and schools and public places in our community as Christians in the course of their everyday lives share their faith in Christ...

3.      What I want you to see in all that is God can take situations in our lives which are less than perfect and through them accomplish His purpose in our lives and in our world...as Romans 8:28 puts it “...God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose...”...

4.      And when we find ourselves in difficult situation the appropriate Christian response is not to whine and complain and feel sorry for ourselves and moan, “Why is this happening to me?  What did I do to deserve this?”  The appropriate Christian response is to ask of the Lord, “What do you want to accomplish in my life through this and what do you want to teach me in this?”...

5.      Malcolm Muggeridge, the English intellectual wrote:: “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness” [Malcom Muggeridge  in Homemade, July, 1990]

 

God can use people who are less than perfect to accomplish His purposes in this world.

1.      I want to share with you two contrasting ways to view people: 

·         Will Rogers, the homespun philosopher and humorist is purported to have said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”  

·         Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, died at the age of 83, a bitter and disillusioned man...tragically, this Viennese physician, one of the most influential thinkers of our time, had little compassion for the common person...he wrote in 1918, “I have found little that is good about humanity...”...one by one he broke his relationships with those around him...he died lonely, friendless, and bitter...[Discoveries, Summer, 1991, Vol 2, No. 3, p. 1] 

·         Most of us fall somewhere between those two rather extreme statements.  While recognizing that many, if not most, people are likeable, sometimes as we journey through life we come into contact with people who—

                  --are difficult and obstinate...

            --rub us the wrong way...

      --who cause us heartache and consternation...

And if we don’t learn to deal with people like that, our lives will be the poorer because of it...

2.      Paul was able to look at those people who were intent on doing him harm and see God’s hand in what they were doing...the thing that dominated Paul’s life was the proclamation to the world of the good news of Jesus...he had a burning desire for the whole world to hear about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus...

3.      Those people who were out to hurt Paul were proclaiming the true gospel...their problem is not that they were teaching heresy or falsehood...Paul says in v. 15 that they were “preaching Christ” and in v.17 that they were “proclaiming Christ”...their problem was that their motives were wrong...

4.      But Paul was able to look beyond their evil intent to the good which resulted from their actions...in v.18 he makes a wonderful statement: “What then? [that is, how should I respond to their actions?] Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

5.      There’s a great lesson in that for us...if we can look at the difficult people in our lives and see how God uses them to accomplish His purposes in us, it will go a long way in helping us deal with them constructively...instead of bowing our necks and being obstinate and hard-headed when people challenge us we ought to ask ourselves— 

--Is there something God is teaching me through this experience?

--Is God using this to get my attention and to teach me an important life lesson? 

--Can God use this person or these people to advance His purposes in and through me?

CONCLUSION

1.   I think Paul had an ulterior motive as he wrote this passage...one of Paul’s concerns for the church at Philippi is that in the church were some members who were in conflict with each other...division/strife had reared its ugly head in that fellowship...and at the very outset of this letter Paul says to them, “I want you to look at my life and follow my example in dealing with difficult people...remember--

--not everyone is difficult...don’t let a few people spoil your attitude toward everyone...

            --God can use difficult people to accomplish His purposes...

Comments