Paul in chains

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 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. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, Philippians 1:12-18

I recently heard a sermon based on the above passages and in reference to one’s spiritual maturity. The pastor made the statement, “Your spiritual maturity can be measured by what you allow to drain your joy!” If you stop and think about that for a minute and really conduct a thorough self-evaluation, you will likely be able to identify some areas in your life where this is the case! He identified three areas where a lot of people succumb to allowing their joy to be drained. I found this true for my life.

  1. Difficult circumstances: In Romans 15:20, Paul writes, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Well, as the pastor points out, while chained in prison it is pretty safe to assume that Christ was not known by many, if at all, there! But what Paul did realize is, “ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The pastor stated, “Great commitment to the Great Commission will bring great conflict.”
  2. Difficult People: Without pointing your finger, I am sure you can easily call to mind some people who make life, even inside the church, very difficult at times. As noted in verse 15 in the opening scripture above, envy and rivalry are sometimes an issue even from the pulpit! Other areas of conflict with people are strife, selfishness and maliciousness! We are so quick to judge others, other denominations, etc, when we are all called to be THE body of Christ!
  3. Fear of the future: As indicated in verse 18 above, all that matters is that Christ is preached. We have experienced so many churches in our travels and through people we know who are so self focused that there is no room for Christ. Everything from the worship to the sermon and even the outreaches is focused on what “we/I” get out of this relationship with Christ. We must return to a life of service to, for and from Him! Paul, again, was in chains in conditions we can only imagine and yet he says, “I rejoice (present) and I will rejoice (future)!” Parenthetical comments are mine. He understood that he (and we who know Christ) will be delivered one way or another … whether in life or in death. Either way … I will rejoice. Philippians 1:20 – 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. One other analogy used by the pastor was that of the microscope vs the telescope. What is your focus? Do you want to focus on what’s right in front of you by making it bigger or take something (or someone) who appears far off and bring it/them closer to you? What you focus on is up to you! Blessings!

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