I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice – Philippians 1:12-18

There will be a remarkably repeated point all through this series that is constant through the Bible as well. God. Yes, simply God. Because God is greater. God is more than. To be frank, the most common Sunday School answer, “Jesus”, is also undeniably prevalent and enough.

Why can I rejoice while life is good? Jesus! Why must I find joy in the midst of sorrowfully driven moments? Jesus! Why should I find torture and unjust treatment a place of joy? Jesus! Why should a hospital bed be a place to praise God? Jesus! Why, Why, Why! Jesus is more than enough.

He is our hope in all circumstances. He is our foundation of peace. He is our purpose. He is our everything! Our circumstances do not define Him, yet how we effectually navigate, perceive, and inevitably live through our circumstances does define how others see the power of the great God we claim to have hope in.

If we, who have placed our hope in God, trust Jesus with our eternity, how much more can we trust Him, and praise Him, through today’s most difficult moments. That is what Paul is inviting us to do through this letter to the Philippians to us. We who have partnered with all the saints over the centuries to shine the light of Christ have this moment. Have this opportunity to shine for Jesus no matter what the cost.

The past few weeks I have had the privilege to attend our church’s youth group. And, last Sunday an idea sprung up amidst the conversation of why they believe in God. The idea was to pray at their lunch table with their friends. I think it was more than praying over their food with urgency to get to the task at hand.

They want to pray together, to be known as believers first and foremost, and to pray for the community to see Christ. I encourage you who have held the faith so long to take measure of their youthful zeal for Christ. Display for them with your time throughout the community praying together.

In less than a month we will have this opportunity. The first Sunday in October of 2018, while farmers are harvesting their crops we will be planting new seeds. In lieu of a Sunday service, we will gather together for several songs and head out in groups to pray through each street in our community. At the end of that time we will gather yet again praying here and preparing our hearts for Communion.

We have a call to proclaim the Gospel and to encourage others to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified to death to pay the sacrificial cost for our sins and raised from the dead to give us new life. What a joy we must have amidst such a great and sorrowful sacrifice and hopeful victory over death.

But, we do not need an event to cause us to do this, do we. We should be gathering together embracing each other through our life’s circumstances and spurring each other on to love others and do good works in the name of making Jesus known.

Remember to advance the Gospel no matter your circumstance.

 One of my favorite moments and saddest moments in the hospital, is when I went to go visit our family friend whose 2-year-old daughter was in the hospital. The tragedy and the hardship was breaking them, it still is breaking them, but it did and is healing others. The opportunity to share where their hope lies was not lost on them. They shared the gospel with their nurses. As they got to know the other families with children in the St. Jude Cancer medical wing they shared their hope with others.

That situation is one that many of us have found ourselves in. One in which friends and family that we love are desperately fighting for their life from merciless and unbiased medical issues. Yet, Paul is writing to the believers in a situation that was biased against him and his faith. It was one that he could have escaped by recanting.

Yet, Paul believed that imprisonment and in other texts we see torture, was something he would joyfully endure for the sake of Jesus. Is that what the Gospel is worth to you?

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul’s imprisonment was something others used to defame his preaching of the gospel, whether it was the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 4), the Philippians, or others, but for others it was a tool the Lord used to encourage others to speak more boldly about the Gospel.

How much confidence, peace, purpose, and rejoicing did Paul need to have while in prison for people to speak more boldly about the faith they knew that Paul was in prisoned for the sake of. Not only that Paul’s first time meeting the Philippians ended with him in prison bringing a family to know Christ. There were firsthand accounts of Paul’s confidence in the Lord no matter the circumstance.

So, we must ask ourselves, do our circumstances cause others to worship the Lord more or less?

Remember, Paul is encouraging others to take joy in Christ not because they are free and he is not. Instead, he tells the community that he has unwavering joy in Christ through his circumstance. It is not about who has a better lot in life it is the simple fact that Christ is the best lot anyone can have in life. Having Christ and nothing else is better than not having Christ and having everything else.

More than that, what Paul is showing us here is that having Christ with everything in life going wrong is better than having everything go right and not have Christ.

It is this confidence that Paul has that is transformative. Christ is more than his circumstance. Therefore, others believe not simply in a mystical God, but the God who transforms lives and the world.

It is imperative that you and I never fail to boldly and without apology speak about the glory of Jesus, sacrifice.

Before we so easily move past this seemingly small moment, pause. We often go through life purposefully in a small unseen way or intensely apparent way seeking to leverage our situations for the gospel as if the God of the Gospel needed our status to proclaim the Gospel. He does not. 

Our appearance, our prestige, our resources are not the ends for which the gospel message will transform lives and hearts. It is the message and of whom the message is about. When we lose sight of who the message is about and from whom it came from we easily can think we are helping while simply falling into the snare of pride. 

Paul was imprisoned as a criminal, and to some degree he formerly was. Though he had dedicated most of his life to Christ. Paul ruthlessly sought out Christians in order to imprison them and put them to death, ironically that is what happened to him as well.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. – 2 Corinthians 4:6-12

and Paul continues,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

All that matters throughout the scripture is the eternal hope. The promised rest found in eternity with Christ. Do not be discouraged by your circumstance, rather utilize your circumstance to display the greatness of God more.

What then? That in every situation we are displaying through our lives the greatness and great hope that is in Christ so that others can be filled with the same simple yet tremendous promise of Christ.

The Gospel is the focus not the messenger or even why they proclaim it.

       Yet, how often does the messenger become the message?

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Do simply get excited that the name of Jesus is proclaimed that Jesus is the central focus of what is being talked about. This passage is not giving ground to heresy or promoting those who do not preach the truth. No, instead it is saying, are that Paul is excited even when imperfect, sinful people even, are proclaiming the name of Jesus.

That said, let us be frank, and point to the comical moment in this passage. It was the demon possessed girl that proclaimed that Paul and Silas were proclaiming the truth and the way to salvation that first had him sent to prison because he stopped her from doing so. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” – Acts 16:7

       But, did you see the distinction. The young lady was not speaking of the most high God. They were speaking of the servants. We are not the focus merely conduits for His greatness. James speaks to this when he writes to the believers,

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. – James 3:13–14.

One of the least focused on sinful emotions is bitterness. Yes, if you are bitter or angry at someone that’s sin. Especially if it is someone speaking of Jesus. As a person who is a pastor, and one who has served alongside quite a few people, people do ministry different. I do it differently than others. But, there is nothing that gets in the way more of the gospel of Jesus than bitterness between two people who share the Gospel.

The question that arise are not why you are proclaiming the truth, or why someone else is. The question is whether or not either of you are speaking boldly about the truth of who God is. Whether the great riches of God are shared with others is the purpose and the question.

This is not simple, it is not fun. It is remarkably difficult, especially when the person sharing the Gospel has hurt you. Paul was on both ends of this. The people Paul attacked at first, and even those close to the first martyr Stephen, must have wrestled with how they delight and worship with someone who had helped murder other believers.

Were some of the Philippian believers those who had previously stripped and beaten Paul, we do not know. But, we do know that Paul sought to have those very people know the great and glorious truth of Christ.

We who have had friends, pastors, enemies even defame our name, our worth, and our worth. Those who would make low of you do not negate the great promise we have in Christ. If you have had a friend leave your church, are they still proclaiming the great name of Jesus and the hope of salvation, rejoice. Have you had someone belittle how you proclaim the name, like Paul from prison that’s a style difference, but they still proclaim the great majesty that is our King Jesus, rejoice.

 

This lead to two very important questions. Who has hurt you, spoke or speaks poorly about you, and even your church that you can, without bitterness, celebrate that they proclaim the name of Jesus. Celebrating that the name of Jesus is proclaimed is not in you. The rejoicing is rooted in eternity.

How do you rejoice and encourage those who have harmed you, yet still promote the Gospel? Realistically this is terrible, it is difficult, it is ludicrous, but in light of the Gospel it is everything. The Gospel is reconciliation with enemies.

The Gospel is God displaying love for those who hate. The Gospel is God being made low, even to a torturous death as a man, so that we could be exulted. The Gospel brings hope through all of this.

Rejoice!

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice

Rejoice in what? Rejoice that the name of Jesus, the salvation found in Jesus, the hope found in Jesus death and resurrection, the life altering, person transforming, Spirit filling name of Jesus is spoken of.

This is what we must rejoice in. This is what we must think back to for every moment of our life. With every interaction and with every perspective we view a person with we must return to the Gospel. Jesus died and rose and in this I rejoice. Everything else, I mean everything else can be taken, dismantled in from of eyes, and forcibly ripped away from me and still I can rejoice in the great joy of Christ’s risen hope.

But is that true. Is that true for you?

We often hear the church speak of the glory of God. We live to glorify God, God is glorified when He is known. That is joy. That is how He is glorified. We make Jesus, we make God in human flesh, known. We make known the love of God for people known. We display the love of God to people by giving them the greatest gift, the greatest hope, the smallest sacrifice on our part. We speak of Jesus boldly so that all can known.

We often speak of being a mature believer or not. It is easy to think of a mature believer being one who has knowledge. Knowledge is not the mark of a mature believer. Love, actual grace, displayed through action is the mark of a believer.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,  instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment – Hebrews 6:1-2

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:14-15

Peter speaks of the milk of the faith, the beginning of your faith building you up as well. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

Peters second letter likewise emphasizes that the starting point for the believers to be confirmed in the truth of the promised hope. We who have Christ have escaped corruption and in that hope we have been equipped to live a holy life. Peter goes back to how our hope will be mocked, but our hope must be known.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  – 2 Peter 1:3-4

Our hope, our source of joy, and our peace is found through the course of the Gospel. Our peace with God, yes, but also our peace with one another. It is not found in the other persons action rather it is found in the Cross. That is how you could offer grace to someone who attacks you.

The cross is where you can find strength to forgive the person who destroyed you, if by chance you have ever felt broken. The cross is where you find how to rejoice in the person who undermines you yet proclaims the word of God.

We have a great and costly calling, that is why Jesus calls us to count the cost. We are only being prepared to faithfully share the same level of grace we have been shown. Not harboring bitterness towards others, instead rejoicing when they celebrate the same Jesus we do.