The Single Mind - Cont'd
Verses 12-13: I suspect that at least initially, if we were the
Philippians, we might be inclined to respond to Paul accordingly. "Paul,
we truly appreciate your love and prayers. You are a great man of God. But
we've go to ask. Why are you in jail? Why has God put you there? You can
accomplish many more things if you were free! Think of all you have done.
You have served God without reservation; therefore, why does He treat you
this way?" Have you even felt like asking these kinds of questions about
what you have observed in the lives of believers? Is this a reasonable question?
Implicit in these questions is a fear. "If God treats Paul this way, then
how will He treat me?" And second, there is the belief that, bottom line,
the quality of life depends on the quality of circumstances. There can be
no joy unless circumstances allow for it. Can you give any examples of this
kind of thinking?
It certainly seems as if these were the questions the Philippians were asking,
for Paul answers them. Why do you think he isn't overwhelmed by his imprisonment?
He makes it quite clear the reason God has allowed him to experience the
difficulties he is dealing with, is because they will advance the gospel.
Paul's focus on God and His work causes him to see his suffering in light
of the carrying out that work
and specifically the spreading of the
gospel, which has occurred throughout the palace guard. As Paul was chained
to individual soldiers, he had witnessed to them. They were, so to speak,
a captive audience. The guard knew Paul was a prisoner for his belief. And,
as we know, over time, believers were found in Cæsar's household.
"All the saints send you greetings, especially those who
belong to Cæsar's household" (4:22).
The second group affected by Paul's witness was made up of other believers
who, through Paul's example, were able to depend on God for the courage to
speak out for themselves. And so the gospel was spread even further.
I come back to an example in my own life, not given because I feel I'm a
good model, but because it shows how God brings blessing out of trials. Some
years ago, when Janette's and my marriage was in trouble, I had to step out
of ministry, temporarily. As part of a statement to that effect, I let it
be known that we were going for counseling. Now while I wish we never had
to have gone through that period, our own lives clearly benefited from what
But also as we were willing to admit we needed help, a number of other couples,
who also were in trouble, were finally willing to admit it and get help.
Through our trials, others were able to deal with theirs. And so with Paul's
suffering for the gospel, others were willing to take on the same risk. The
important thing wasn't life being comfortable. The important thing was, and
still should be, the serving of the Lord and the carrying out of His work.
Verses 15-18a: What added to the burden of Paul's circumstances was
the voices of those who said he was getting what he deserved. These critics
were others who gave out the gospel. In fact, Paul notes two groups that
were speaking out of different motives. The first spoke from envy and rivalry,
while the second spoke from goodwill and love. I appreciate Chrysostom's
observation of how Paul tells his readers about this.
"Note Paul's wisdom. He does not hurl around scurrilous accusations. He calmly
describes what has come to pass.
Though the aim and motives on which
they acted were corrupted, still the preaching itself was not corrupted.
And the preaching of Christ occurred despite it all. Homily on
Philippians 3.1.1" 1
I pray that we can respond to adversaries in the same way. And while I'm
sure Paul was hurt, at the same time, he could rejoice. Why? Because the
gospel was being given out, even if by those whose motives were less than
pure. Keep in mind, people have been saved under the ministry of those who
aren't saved themselves. Remember, it is God's word and the power of the
Holy Spirit that saves. They can do so, even through someone who is lost.
Even televangelists sometimes tell the truth.