Sermon Series: The Joy of Partnering In Ministry
(A Study of the Letter of Philippians)
What Happened To Me
Have you ever asked yourself this question during times of difficulties, trials, tribulations, and challenges: What’s happening to me? It is true that challenging circumstances often times throw and defeat the believer. John McArthur says “one of the surest measures of a Christian’s spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob him or her of their Spirit of joy. Paul’s maturity is evident in the present text as he makes it clear that difficult, unpleasant, painful, and even life threatening circumstances did not rob Paul of joy but rather caused his joy to increase”.
Life has a way of throwing circumstances our way to breaks down to our knee caps. From one situation to the next it appears that attack is greater than the first. As matter of fact, R.A Williams of McCoy Memorial Baptist here in Los Angeles explains Psalms 3 like this when David says “O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, God will never rescue Him!” Pastor Williams illustrates the text in this fashion: “Trials, tribulations, and enemies are like roaches, they wreck the house at night but scatter when the lights turn on.”
By the time Paul writes the letter to the Philippians, he had experienced serious hardships of every sort. Paul was chased out cities, shipwrecked, placed in jail, his ministry motives were attacked, his integrity had been questioned, and when he wrote this epistle, he was a prisoner in Rome chained night and day to a Roman soldier. No privacy when he slept, ate, wrote, prayed, preached, taught, or visited his friends. Paul was watched 24 hours a day with the possibility of receiving the death penalty. But no matter what he was facing he didn’t allow it to detour him from his desire purpose in life. Paul’s desire should likewise be our desire in life. I believe his desire in life summarizes verse 12-19:
Honor God and promote the gospel no matter what circumstances of life may come your way!
How we handle/respond to life’s difficulties will determine if we’re honoring God and promoting the gospel or dishonoring God and suppressing the gospel.
Well, it is my sincere goal and desire to see the church of Jesus Christ to honor God and promote the gospel. How do we honor God and promote the gospel? Verses 12-19 teach us how the circumstances of life can be used by God for the furtherance of the gospel. Three (3) lessons we can learn from Paul:
I. Let Your Witness Speak For Itself – v. 12-14
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Paul faced a dark circumstance. He was a prisoner in Rome. The dark circumstances stared Paul right in the face. No circumstance could ever be any more severe no matter what they were. Paul was waiting to appear before the Supreme court of Rome. He had done nothing that should cause his arrest and imprisonment. Yet there he was, and he was having to wait to arrival of his Jewish prosecutors with their trumped up and malicious charges. He was imprisoned for over two years, and as is the case with all prisoners, the days wore on ever so slowly, hour by hour and day after day. Whatever the pressures hung over Paul’s head, his tribulations were intense and protracted. But notice something about Paul….
He didn’t grumble and complain
He didn’t questions God and wonder why
He didn’t whine and murmur
He didn’t fall to pieces
He didn’t curse God nor give up his faith
What we must understand is that just because you’re in the will of God doesn’t mean that you are exempt from suffering, pain, and unpleasant situations. Paul is riding down the street of being in the will of God and yet still finds himself in a situation that is unworthy of his desired purpose of honoring God and promoting the gospel.
Where Paul is positioned now is not uncommon to a witnessing attitude he’s had from the start of his ministry. It was common to express, as he did in Acts 28:20 where he says “I am bound with this chain” and in Ephesians 6:20 he calls himself an “an ambassador in bonds”.
His circumstances or the things pertaining/relating to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul did not ignore his imprisonment and he didn’t allow his imprisonment to get him down. While in prison Paul still held the proper perspective of sharing the gospel. He took advantage of his unpleasant situation to share Christ with those around him. What an example!
His witness spoke to the unsaved – v. 13 – Whom did Paul what the gospel? His first contact of sharing the gospel was with the Praetoria Guard, the elite of the Roman army. These soldiers were the Imperial Guard of Rome, men who had been hand picked to protect the emperor and to carry out the major armed functions of the state. There were sixteen thousand of them, most of whom were stationed in Rome at any given time. These soldiers guarded and were chained to the wrist of Paul day and night for two years. Here’s what I like about Paul’s position, those guards got an ear full of the gospel from Paul for two years. Winning people to Christ is no easy task it takes time. Paul’s example teaches us to view every situation in which we find ourselves as an opportunity for spreading the gospel. With this in mind, the Christian can, see a hospital bead as a pulpit and the hospital as a mission field. We cannot save anybody that’s the work God but we can leave a favourable impression of our Christianity on those who don’t know God.
His witness encouraged believers to share the gospel – v. 14 - Not only did Paul’s witness affect the unsaved but it also encouraged other believers to be fearless in their sharing of the gospel. As they saw how God protected him and blessed his ministry despite persecution and imprisonment, their courage was renewed and intensified. What we must understand as believers is that how we respond to life’s situations has a tremendous impact on other believers as well. What they see within us can encourage or discourage them. That’s why we must be careful of what we post on facebook, Twitter, Android and any other social network. Those who no me know I love Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Franky Beverly featuring Maze. Those of you who know me know I like to dance. But those who don’t know me will think I’m hypocrite which then can affect my ability to encourage others to share their faith fearlessly. The unknown writer of Hebrews says “Layside every weight and the sin that does so easily beset (Hebrews 12:2). The instruction is that we should give up those things that weigh us down but also that we should not become a weight for somebody else.
Let your witness speak for itsel!
II. Let Your Faithfulness Speak For Itself – v. 15-18
Like the Lord during His earthly ministry, Paul too had many detractors. But one of the most discouraging experiences in life is to experience the envy and jealously of fellow preachers, co-laborers, and pulpiteers. It’s a sad scene (and I love my preaching partners) to see how much jealously and envy is in the pulpit. There are some preachers who won’t listen to another preacher. And those who do stay listen criticize the message rather than trying to hear a word from the Lord.
Upon attending the prayer bowl this year, I found myself critiquing the messages. One message I was very critical of it. What I think is one the most easiest text preach this guy ripped it in pieces (not in a good way). As I was leaving with a pastor friend, we started to reflect over the messages we heard for the day and right when I was about to criticize the message, he responds: “man that guy preached his butt off and I was blessed!” At that point I had to repent, because while I was complaining about the interpretation and structure of the message I was quickly disarmed with my friend being encouraged by the message.
It was at that moment that decided to keep my mouth shut and listen to the voice of God during every message.
While this is my commitment it’s not true of so many others. Envy and jealousy is running buckwild through pulpits throughout the country. But Paul teaches us that a mature believer holds no personal jealousy nor desire for credit or prestige.
Verse 15 teach us about the MOTIVE of preaching. Why do we preach? When we preach is it to be seen or do we truly have a sincere desire in furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ through our preaching?
Verse 16 teach us about the MEASURE of our preaching – “defend the gospel”. Defending the gospel is not with violent acts. I believe when Paul says “he was brought to a Roman prison to defend the gospel” had nothing to do with violence. Think about it, he was chained to a guard 24/7. But I believe defending the gospel is that of remaining faithful to preaching gospel. In other words, the best way to defend the gospel is to make the decision to stay faithful to the gospel message. Don’t change it, don’t add to it, just preach it as it is!
Verse 17-18 teach us about the MISSION of our preaching – “Christ is being preached”. Paul is an example for all of us to follow. Paul didn’t get caught in the foolishness of defending the gospel being critical of other preachers. He recognizes their attitude and actions but the final analysis is that Christ is being preached. Do you not know that God take what we may consider the worst message and save somebody. Not because the message was well structured or the preacher had pure motives but because Christ is being preached. Thank God for all those who preach Christ in the pulpit. May the gospel further because of their efforts.
Verse 18b teach us about the MANNER of our preaching – “So I rejoice”. Paul did not rejoice in the impure motives of those preaching. It is Paul’s attitude that while the primary motive of those guys is to preach out of selfishness by exalting themselves at Paul’s expense. He is confident that the sovereign God nevertheless honored their message when Christ is proclaimed and for that he rejoices. We may not agree with peoples motives in the pulpit or in the streets but rejoice that Christ is being preached the less and God will work out the details.
III. Let Your Deliverance Speak for Itself – v. 19
The statement of this paragraph Paul declares, “For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will turn out for my deliverance”.
While in prison Paul still has a faith that looks to a happy ending. Paul is certain that God will save and deliver him from the situation. He is sure of God’s help and deliverance. Why? Two (2) reasons:
· Prayer – What a glorious teaching for a church, prayer works. We that when the people of the church prayer for their leader, God works on his behalf to continue the work of furthering the gospel.
· The Spirit’s Help – We prostitute the Holy Spirit as if He’s some magician that can trick God into dishing out blessings. The Holy Spirit is much more than that. He’s our helper.