From the scripture we know that the Sovereign God is all-omnipotent to eliminate evil, pain, and suffering. But experientially, he does allow his beloved children to go through dark moments; not because he is unable but because in his sovereignty he is ultimately able to turn evil for our good (Rom. 8:28). As a matter of fact he turned the evil and hatred intended against Joseph by his brothers to bring about the salvation of many (Gen. 50:20). In his power and wisdom he allows and disallows.
When God allows his beloved to go through a hard and trying moment, he ensures he ultimately brings out something good and beautiful, for his own glory and purposes.
Apostle Paul clearly understood this biblical fact. That is why in Philipians 1:14-30 Paul’s experiences and especially his responses to situations presents to us a challenge to embrace new situations, both good and bad, with new lenses/perspectives/attitudes informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul knew that:
- God is able to use our dark moments to accomplish his purposes (vv. 12-14):
Paul’s imprisonment, chains, and suffering for the sake of the gospel was in a profound way used by God to bring about something beautiful:
- It served to advance the gospel- The whole palace guard and everyone was now aware that Paul is in chains- for Christ.
- It became an encouragement to many Christians to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Through Paul’s chains, God was achieving something far greater and better…
Paul did not lament over his present predicament but chose to trust in God because he knew that God was at work in fulfilling his greater purposes through lives (living sacrifices) that are fully committed to Him. He knew everything happens under God’s direction. He knew God is able to bring good out of a bad circumstance/suffering. He knew he was chained, but God’s word was not.
2. God is able to use envy and rivalry to advance his mission (vv. 15-20)-
- In Philippi, like today, there are those who preached the gospel out of envy and rivalry- Doing it out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, stirring up trouble. Such people do ministry to build a name/glory for themselves and not to save lives. They do not preach the true gospel. They teach another gospel which is not gospel at all. Does this matter?
- The second group preaches out of goodwill- Paul represented this category of preachers. They did ministry in love, sacrificing their all.
In both of these cases, either with good or bad motives, Christ is preached and the gospel is advancing and bearing fruit. The spread and multiplication of God’s word is not limited by evil motives. God can use any means; He can use any raw material to advance his gospel. He can use our enemies to bring some to salvation. Even through the ministry of defrauders God can save some!
He is able. And so we should rejoice that God is able to use evil intentions to accomplish his purposes. No weapon formed against the church shall prosper.
In all these Paul maintains a joyful attitude. He has plenty of reasons to complain but he chooses to be joyful, But why? He says “I know” (term used in v 12, 19 and 25). He knows that in the end:
- Things will turn out well for him- He admits that eventually things “will turn out for my deliverance” v.19. Deliverance from prison and/or salvation in the next life- through prayers and help from the Holy Spirit.
- In the final run he will not be ashamed- v, 20.
- It will result into sufficient courage- to do more, suffer more? v20.
- Christ will be exalted- by life or by death-v20.
3. God is able to use our life or death to promote his glory (vv. 20-26)
God is not limited by what we do in the span of this life.
Being conscious of this, Paul found himself in a dilemma.
He was torn in between two alternatives:
- Continuing to be in the body– To him this meant an opportunity to engage further in a fruitful labor. He admits this option is necessary for the Philippians because he will have opportunity to work for their progress and joy in the faith. Also being with them will make their joy I Christ Jesus to overflow on his account. This alternative is good for “them”.
- Departing to be with Christ– To Paul this means being separate from the body that is prone to weaknesses and evil plots of men. It means being in the very presence of God where there shall be no prison, pains, cry, sin, sicknesses, and death. It is an option that guarantees eternal joy and fellowship with Christ. This alternative is a true gain for Paul!
Through our lives and ministry we are building a spiritual legacy that will outlive us. In our lives, accomplishments, and service Christ should be exalted/glorified.
4. God is over all Circumstances of Life (vv. 27-30)-
“Whatever happens”- they say, life happens. Life is full of happenings. But believers in Christ should:
- Conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (not circumstances). Circumstances change but we should not change because our lives/attitudes and responses are anchored on the solid and unchanging gospel. The ‘manner worthy of the gospel’ involves imitating Christ, and living a holy life.
- Stand firm in one spirit– contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
- Be courageous and strong in Christ– Not frightened by those who oppose you, because they also oppose God.
Because of God’s sovereignty, we should be joyful and hopeful in every circumstance. Knowing that God is able; and that we have been called not only to believe in him but also suffer for him.
Read also more on Paul in the book of Philippians