Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s foundations podcast. It’s great to be with you again today. Yesterday we began a new series looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We reflected on this phrase that ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ And so we give thanks for all that God has already done in our lives and in our church but look forward with expectation because he’s not done yet! The God we follow is a God who wants to bring about growth.
Today, another encouragement from the scriptures – that God is with us and can work though us even when things are difficult.
Today’s passage is Philippians 1: 12-18a. We are going to focus on verses 12-13:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
As we reflected on yesterday, Paul and the Philippians were close. Many in that community would have heard about his arrest and imprisonment. They were probably really worried for his safety and well being. And so Paul writes to them in part to allay their fears but more than that to spur this community on to do even greater things in the name of Jesus.
Paul explains to the Philippians that even though he’s imprisoned, God has used that situation and given him opportunities to speak about Jesus to the palace guard. Incredible! And so Paul wants to encourage the community that even in the most difficult of circumstances, he has found hope because the Gospel is continuing to advance. I love the phrase the Message version uses for this passage – ‘They can’t imprison the Gospel’.
This must have been such an encouragement to those hearing this letter read out. They too were living in challenging times. Philippi was a Roman colony which was full of retired Roman soldiers and renowned for its patriotic nationalism. Like Paul had done when he first arrived there, his followers now experienced resistance and even persecution for challenging the establishment by saying that Jesus was Lord and not Caesar.
At the start of this academic year we, as a church, reflected on how we now in our own way find ourselves in challenging times. That much is clear when we look at the news, and we see division in politics, we see levels of poverty increasing, the rise in food banks, young people being exploited through gang culture….and the established church seemingly in decline. For many in our church we know that there are personal challenges – sickness, relationship struggles, battles with infertility, teenagers falling away from church. And whilst we may be far removed in terms of time and culture from the church in Philippi, we do recognise that we find ourselves in the midst of challenging times. And yet… what we read today in scripture should bring us hope.
You can’t imprison the Gospel.
Paul, even though he finds himself under lock and key, still has a voice and still has opportunities to sow the seeds of the Gospel to the guards, of all people! Those who stand watch over him. Opportunities to share our faith can often come along when we least expect them or feel the least prepared to take them.
Paul’s example here is inspiring and it’s not just the guards who watch over him who are being impacted. Because of his continued faith and boldness in the face of such adversity, others who have heard about have in turn become emboldened to speak about Jesus more openly.
God wants to encourage us that wherever we find ourselves today, however we feel, however great the challenge is that we face – he walks with us and can shine through us if we continue to trust in Him. Indeed, our faith, our response to challenges can often be the things which have the greatest impact on others. I’ve seen and been truly inspired by many of our church family here at STC whose faith still burns brightly in the midst of great challenges.
Paul, because the spirit of Jesus was alive and at work in his life, could see that his personal circumstances did not define him. And even though he was imprisoned, the Gospel message could not be put in chains. His example and the response of the Philippians church to continue to speak of Jesus in the face of adversity encourages us that right here, right now – God is with us. And If God is for us, who can stand against us?
Whatever challenges we face as we enter into this new season, let us have confidence that the one who is in us, is greater than that which is in the world. And that in the midst of these challenging times God can and will impact others through us – if we continue to trust him and walk with him this day.
Jesus, thank you that you are a God who is not unfamiliar with challenges, difficulty and pain. That you embraced them all upon on the cross and that you overcome the greatest thing the enemy could ever throw at us. That you overcame the grave. Help us to trust in the victory you have won for us this day Lord and enable us to reflect your love and hope to those whom you place around. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Philippians1:12-18a
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.