Sometimes, God can take the ugliest, LEAST FUN situations, and use them for a GREATER purpose…
First thing we must really grasp onto was that the author, Paul, was writing us from PRISON. Not a fun place to be. This is not a place where smiles and laughter are in abundance. Yet Paul tells us of the great joy he feels while in this terrible place. Despite his terrible circumstances, God still gives Paul joy. One way God does this is by reminding him of the very people he is writing to, the people in Philipi. Paul loves these people so much, and cares so deeply for them, as if they were his own flesh and blood. The very thought of them and the relationship they share with God, the father, brings Paul great joy in this dark place.
I can relate to this, because I feel the same way about all of my students. Throughout my week, as I plan for the weekend message, work on the websites, update the blogs, and all the other various tasks that consume my week, I find such joy in each and every one of the students God has called me to lead. I pray for, and thank God for you.
Likewise, we all should understand that we are a FAMILY. Just like the church in Philipi that Paul was writing to was a family. As we go throughout our weeks, we should thank God for the people He’s brought into our lives, knowing that they are there to support us, and build each other up. Paul’s prayer for them, has become my prayer for us:
” And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.” Next, we see how Paul not only finds joy in his sufferings, but he also sees God’s greater purpose. Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really 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. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Philippians 1:9-14
So because Paul is being persecuted in this way, yet he continues to preach the gospel regardless, it actually serves to spread the gospel even faster, with greater strength!
Today, we find this paralleled with the church in China. To this very day, Christianity is strictly forbidden by the government. It is illegal, if you are a Chinese citizen, to own or posses a Bible. You can get thrown into prison, interrogated, prosecuted, persecuted, or even TORTURED for being a Christian in China. Yet Christianity is spreading FASTER and more POWERFULLY in China than in any other country in the world.
How can this be? Well, my guess is that those people in China, who are boldly standing up for the gospel understand what Paul understood. They have found that the greatest gift of all is God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. They are more passionate, and dedicated BECAUSE of their persecution. They understand Paul’s last words of chapter 1:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30
In this lifetime, we will encounter persecution. Now, you may not be faced with the kind of persecution that Paul faced, or the people in China face today. Rest assured though, you will encounter persecution. Whether it be in the form of people talking about you behind your back, calling you names, or telling you that you are weird or crazy.
I pray that none of us have to face the terror, and tragedy that occurred to Rachel Scott in the shootings at Columbine High School. But like Paul tells us, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This way you will have the strength and courage, through Jesus, and the support of all of your brothers and sisters in Christ to back you up, NO MATTER WHAT struggle you are going through.
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:18-21