Sunday, July 14, 2013

Philippians 1:12-30 -- Joyful Perspective in Prison


BACKGROUND

When we read previous books, we learned that Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel (Acts 19:21; Romans 1:15) but we read in Acts 21:17-28:31, that Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and eventually made it to Rome as a prisoner. Despite his chains, he still preached the gospel! His joy (a major theme in the book of Philippians) was not in his circumstances but in the Lord and the work that God was doing through him. In the sovereignty of God, this imprisonment meant greater progress of the gospel and encouraged other believers to be bolder and to live lives worthy of the gospel. It was a win-win!

In the midst of all of this, there were some who were taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment and preaching the Gospel to build up their own reputation (1:15-19). They thought it would cause Paul distress, but instead it made Paul rejoice that Christ was preached regardless of their motives! Another win-win!

Paul had a great perspective on death too. For him, to live was Christ and to die was gain. He did not know if imprisonment would lead to execution, but he knew that death meant being with Christ. He felt that living would mean being able to encourage them more in their progress of joy and faith. Either way, it was another win-win!

Bottom Line: Paul had joy regardless of his circumstances because he had an eternal perspective fixed on Christ. 

One last thing, Paul was sure he would see them again. There is no record of Paul revisiting Philippi in the Scriptures, but that does not mean it did not happen. Paul was released after this particular imprisonment because he was imprisoned in Rome a second time and wrote 2 Timothy. He may have returned to Philippi between these two imprisonments. 


REFLECTION/APPLICATION 
Philippians 1:21 becomes a valuable test of our lives. Fill in the blanks:  
“For to me to live is _______ and to die is___________.” 
“For to me to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind.” 
“For to me to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten.” 
“For to me to live is power and to die is to lose it all.” 
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Phil 1:21, p. 70)
There are people who are involved in good works "for" God who are doing it for the selfish motives of money, fame, and power. We have heard of them. Some of us have made the mistake of working alongside them, but have we ever put the spotlight on ourselves and asked about our own motives in ministry?

The reality is that we can do nothing about other people and their motives, but we can do something about ourselves! Here are some more questions to get you thinking:

Have you ever been jealous because you felt someone was being used for Christ in a way that you would like to be used? See James 3:16.

Have you ever compared yourself to others in ministry and felt the need to compete with them rather than be challenged by them and encouraged by their labor for the Lord?

Have you ever talked behind someone's back or gossiped about them in order to lower their reputation and exalt your own? 

What is the primary motivator of your life and ministry? Is it to glorify Christ in everything you do? 

Is your heart fixed on Christ and His glory? 

Ask God to search your heart and see if there is "any hurtful way" (Psalm 139: 23, 24) in you.

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to be joyful in the midst of adversity. Purify our hearts and help us to minister to others from a pure heart. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 


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