Friday, February 19, 2021

2021.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 1:12–14

Read Philippians 1:12–14

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle want (Philippians 1:12)? What does he call them? What resulted from what happened to him? What has become evident (Philippians 1:13b)? To whom (verse 13a)? What has happened to most of the brethren (Philippians 1:14)? 

There’s something marvelous about a Christian who is able to see his own circumstances as a little part in the whole of what Christ is doing in the world. The apostle had viewed the Philippians’ conversion and spiritual growth and ministry that way (cf. Philippians 1:5-7), and we now see him encouraging them to have the same view of his own situation: “I want you to know” (Philippians 1:12).

There’s a lot of “knowing” in the Christian life. And one of the most important things to know is that Christ is always furthering His kingdom, furthering His gospel (verse 12)—and that the circumstances of our lives are part of that unfolding history. 

For Paul, he got to be right on the bleeding edge of it. “Furtherance” is a military word like “advance,” and that’s exactly where the gospel had been advancing. The palace (praetorian) guard of Philippians 1:13 were elite soldiers. There aren’t many sound and godly ministers invited to be embedded with elite soldiers. So, while others might have see the apostle’s chains as a setback (cf. Philippians 1:16), he himself saw it as an advance.

The soldiers would have rotated “Paul duty,” taking turns being chained to him while he was under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:16). And what would this soldier have told the others, when he was coming off his shift? “You should have heard him praying for those Philippians again—always with so much joy and thanksgiving, that they would grow in love and be filled with fruits of righteousness from Jesus Christ.” Indubitably, Paul would have also been telling these soldiers about Christ. And, the result was that many of the palace guard saw that Paul wasn’t in chains for being a criminal, but because he was enlisted in the service of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who had sent the apostle there for them.

How the Philippian church would have rejoiced! Philippi, after all, was a colony settled largely by retired Roman soldiers. Paul’s ministry to the “special forces secret service” of Rome had encouraged and emboldened the brethren in the church there to evangelize (Philippians 1:14), and he is eager that it would have the same effect upon his brethren back in Philippi.

And oughtn’t it have the same effect upon us? When we see our circumstances as part of Christ’s program for advancing His kingdom, we are no longer discouraged by them. Instead, we look to Him to grow us and make us effective wherever we are in whatever He has given us to do. And, we learn to sympathize with suffering brethren not in a downcast or despairing way, but alongside prayers for their ultimate deliverance, praying that they would be sustained by grace in this believing attitude, and that they would get to see effectual fruit from their service.

What difficult circumstances in your or others’ lives have got your attention right now? How does this passage teach you to think about them? What might you do differently if you saw them as part of Christ’s advance? How can you act on the Spirit’s/apostle’s desire for “you to know”?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”

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