But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…. (Philippians 1:12)
Christ’s mission to earth was to seek and to save lost souls. The Great Commission calls us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Paul certainly understood this responsibility. He knew that all roads led to Rome—and from it. The capital city of the empire had to be evangelized if the world was to be reached. So, this great old missionary wanted to get there desperately. Yet, how he arrived was in an unexpected manner! He refers to “the things which happened to me.” Seized in the Temple, narrowly escaping a conspiracy to kill him, languishing in jail in Caesarea, on trial and appealing to Caesar, taken in chains to Rome, shipwreck and now in jail awaiting his court appearance. There’s goes the missionary activity! Not so—God was at work!
In Philippians chapter one we see THE EXPANSION OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE (v.12-14). The word,“furtherance,” in the Greek speaks of pioneers who blazed a trail. Paul did this in missions. Today there are thousands of unreached people groups who have no access to the Gospel.
Paul’s adversity prepared the way for the advancement of the Gospel. Sometimes when trouble comes we may be tempted to question God’s love. But we must remember that love is not self-focused, but for others, and what is happening to us is God preparing the way to share love with others. Susannah Spurgeon became an invalid at 33 and couldn’t even attend church to hear her famed husband’s sermons. She wrote, “the moment we come into any trial or difficulty, our first thought should be, not how soon can we escape from it, or how we may lessen the pain we shall suffer from it, but how can we best glorify God in it . . .” and she did by starting a book fund—giving away hundreds of thousands of theological books to poor preachers.
Paul had a captive audience in the Praetorian Guard. He turned the prison into a pulpit! As a result some of those soldiers were converted. His captors became captivated with Christ! He saw the sovereignty of God in his suffering—“my chains are in Christ.” It was love for the Master and lost souls that forged the fetters! Paul’s courage enabled him to encourage—to put courage into others! Are people encouraged by the way you respond to adversity? “The sermon of your life in tough times ministers to people more powerfully than the most eloquent speaker.” (Bill Bright).
Thus, there is THE EXULTATION IN THE GOSPEL MESSAGE (v.15-20). Paul exults in the spread of the Gospel. How exciting it is! Some were preaching the right message but with the wrong motive. Apparently there was some division in the church similar to what plagued Corinth. The opposition to Paul was seeking to win more converts and have a bigger following. Did Paul get into the politics of this? No—he was just thrilled people were being reached! How jealous do we get of the church across town that God is blessing? We're not in competition, but on the same team! The Lord draws people to Himself despite the flawed instruments. If God had to have perfect people to get the job done, then none of us would qualify. May God use us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth—whatever it takes!