Paul was being persecuted for his walk of faith in Jesus Christ and for the message of the gospel of our salvation. He was in prison for preaching Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. But it wasn’t just him who was under attack, for his enemy was truly against Jesus Christ and his gospel.
But Paul didn’t wallow in self-pity, but he saw his suffering as serving a divine purpose which was for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the news of his imprisonment and the reason for which he was imprisoned became known to the whole imperial guard. And most of his brothers in Christ were much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Christ be Honored
Philippians 1:18-20 ESV
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
So, Paul rejoiced in his suffering for it was serving to advance the gospel. And he rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed, even if some proclaimed him with wrong motives. And he rejoiced because he was confident that through the prayers of his fellow Christians and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that he would be delivered.
And this should be our frame of mind when we are suffering for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of the gospel, too. We should not wallow in self-pity. But we should see our suffering as serving a divine purpose. And if we can’t see it, we can pray that God will show it to us. And if we are sincere, I believe he will make that known to us.
Sometimes we just need to see past our circumstances to the greater good. We need to see what God is doing through our suffering instead of wallowing in misery, moaning and groaning, calling out to God to save us from our misery so that we can return to life as normal. Perhaps “normal” is not what is best for us and “abnormal” is for our good.
For, Paul did not appear to be looking to be rescued from suffering, but that Christ would be honored in his body, whether by life or by death. So, sometimes our deliverance is not being taken out of trials physically but being guarded and protected spiritually through our trials so that Christ will be honored by our lives, whether in life or in death.
To Live is Christ
Philippians 1:21-26 ESV
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
When you are going through severe suffering, especially over a long period of time, even though you are yielding to God’s will and purposes, you are okay with the thought of him calling you home. Especially if you have lived a lifetime of 70 years or more, you are okay if he should say, “Come home.”
It doesn’t mean you are sitting around in misery just begging him to take you home to put you out of your misery, though. It doesn’t mean you are suicidal or that you just want to die, either, but it just means that if God should call you home, you would be okay with that, for “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” for then we will be with our Lord forever.
For, there may come a point in time when your heart may be divided between wanting to be with your Lord and wanting to remain on the earth, and it may be a struggle for you. You can see that God is still using you on the earth in people’s lives, and in that you rejoice, yet you long for your heavenly home at the same time.
And that will be where you will have to resolve in your own mind and heart to let God have his will in your life, for he knows what is best for you, and he has purposes that you probably are not even aware of for you to still be alive and on this earth.
Your Manner of Life
Philippians 1:27-30 ESV
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
While Paul remained on the earth, he continued to encourage his fellow believers in Jesus to live lives which were worthy of the gospel of Christ. And that is what we should be doing, too. We should be encouraging one another in our walks of faith to live holy lives, pleasing to God.
We should also be encouraging unity within the body of Christ, but not unity with human philosophies and business plans and marketing schemes, but unity with Christ and with his will and purposes for us while we still walk this earth. If we are united with Christ in purpose, we will be united with other believers who are also united with Christ.
This doesn’t mean we are going to agree on everything, though, but that we have a united purpose to walk in faithful obedience to our Lord, to leave our sins behind us, and to serve our Lord and his purposes for us while we are still living on the earth.
And we should all be sharing the gospel with others so that many will hear and so that many will be saved, but we need to make certain that the gospel we are sharing is the one taught by Jesus and his NT apostles, and not the gospel that many charlatans are promoting today.
And when we teach the truth of the gospel, we should be being opposed if what we are sharing is the whole counsel of God and not a diluted half-truth gospel, which is a lie which tickles itching ears. And a lot of that opposition may even come from pastors and fellow church folks.
But we are not to fear being opposed, and we are not to fear what others may do to us or say about us or say to us. But we must stand strong in our faith and on the word of God and keep sharing the truth for too many lies are being passed off as truth and many are being deceived.
And we are also not to be afraid of suffering for righteousness’ sake, and for the sake of the gospel, for to this we were called. So, it should not surprise us at all that the gospel is presently under severe attack and that a false gospel has supplanted the true gospel of grace, and that many are buying into the lies, and that they are loving the lies and rejecting the truth.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
(Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897)