River City Spokane


Indestructible Joy: Philippians 1:12-18


What’s up everybody! This is pastor Kerr Howell. Welcome to Gospel Home Brew a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you, so that you can help it stir in your spouses, families, classmates, and co-workers.

Last week we looked at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. I hope that by us brewing through theses verses nine through eleven you treasure prayer more and that your prayer life is directed to what God desires for you and those around you.

Let us continue our look at this letter by focusing on the next six verses. Here Paul will reveal to us how me maintain our joy by focusing on Jesus, His gospel, and His glory. So let’s begin by opening your Bible up to the letter to the Philippians and looking at verses twelve through eighteen. Let’s read it together:

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. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)

Today we have every type of communication. From face time to Skype, text messaging to voice recognition, from instant messenger to electronic mail (e-mail). I do not know if you know this but our church supports missionaries and church planters around the world, from Bible translation in Papa New Guinea to a church planting coach in California. We have built close relationship with some of these and we value when we get a letter or email from those we love and are on mission together with. We love of gospel partners because they desire to see what we desire: the fame of God’s name.

With the technology we have today, missionaries that we support can Skype or email us from around the globe. We can easily be in tune with what is going on. The apostle Paul did not have any of these technologies, but he was able to write a letter to his supporters and partners in Philippi, and they were so eager to hear from him and what was happening to him and around him. In verses twelve through twenty-six Paul is giving the Philippian church a report on his present situation and the consequences of his situation, and his outlook on the future. Paul dripped with hope!

Not hope in his safety, but hope in spreading of God’s good news for cosmic rebels. The verses we will look at today is the report on his present situation and what is happening because of them. Paul knows who is in charge of his situation. He is not doubtful, but hopeful. This part of the letter is easy to break down. Verses 12 through fourteen Paul conveys his positive attitude and outlook on his situation. He is positive for one main reason: the gospel is advancing even where he is presently held: prison. This fact alone has a lot to teach us! Paul even mentions two particular ways the gospel is advancing: people are hearing the gospel, and others are speaking the gospel boldly. And Paul has the audacity to say that both of these are happening because of his imprisonment. Then in verses fifteen to eighteen Paul addresses the motive of the sharers (evangelists) of the gospel. One group are envious and the other group are partners. You can only imagine the difference just by the words Paul writes down.

The perspective that Paul has is remarkable. He is so focused, so gospel-centered, so Christ-enamored. Most of us, if we were in Paul’s situation, let’s be honest would be whiners and complainers. He is not upset he is not in the “mission” field and he is not upset by how he is being treated by his critics. I mean this man is stuck in prison, but he is able to rejoice. How?

Because Paul cares about the gospel; he cares about Jesus being proclaimed.

This is why he is able to rejoice.

What must your situation be in order for you to rejoice in Jesus? Does everything have to be working in your favor? Does your pay and job have to be perfect for you? Does you kids have to act right and do right? Does your family and friends need to stay healthy? Do you have to feel Jesus at all times?

In these verses God, through Paul, has to say a lot to us. Our Christian walk is draining and not easy. He are called to lead our families, be an example in our vocations, grow in our love and faith in Jesus, share the gospel with those who do not want to hear it or think they need it, be generous givers, take the slander of critics, and maybe even be threatened with our lives or livelihood. The pressure is real and God knows it is really better than anyone else. Yet Paul, who knows these difficulties (and even more) intimately, is telling the Philippians and us, “I rejoice, and so should you.”

But how does Paul maintain his joy?

Paul shows us that they key to maintaining joy is simple: stay focused on Jesus. He is not saying to put your thoughts and emotions in la la land. He is not saying everything will be easy and that God will always make your situation comfortable. He is saying that we must fight for joy, because there will constantly be things, situations, principalities, and people who are fighting against our joy. We must make the gospel the focus of our lives. Paul is asking is the gospel being preached? If so rejoice. Is Jesus Lord? Rejoice. Do you know Jesus? If so , rejoice. I known that life can be hard, but when we keep our focus on Jesus, we have reason to sing and rejoice—even if we are in prison.

Paul was a man that knew pressure. I mean, he was dealing with critics that were determined to undermined him and we envious of his influence and wanted it themselves. He was dealing with the pressure of Rome itself. But in this letter to the Philippians Paul has his eyes fixed on the glory of Jesus. If we too desire to maintain our joy, we too must keep of eyes on Jesus. This letter shows us that we do not need to be overly concerned about what others and saying and doing. We do not need to measure up to someone else’s standard. Comparison can be an enemy of joy. It distracts you, leading you to either despair or pride, and ultimately takes your eyes off of Jesus.

Learn this lesson from Paul: focus on Jesus and treasure his glory above all things.

So let’s look more closely to this passage. We will break it down in two parts: maintaining joy by putting the gospel first and by caring more about Jesus’ glory than our own glory.

The Gospel First

After praying for the Philippians, Paul discloses his report. Instead of focusing on his location (life in prison), Paul takes a divine perspective on the whole situation: reminding the church that God’s mission is being accomplished, people are being positively impacted by his imprisonment, and the more and more Christians are being emboldened.

One: God’s Mission is Being Accomplished (1:12)

Paul begins by encouraging and letting the Philippians know how God is at work through Paul’s chains. Paul starts his report by saying, “what has happened to me.” He could be referring to everything that has to him in his ministry or just his current situation. It is really not important for us to know exactly what he is talking about, but it is important to see what he is making clear: everything that has happened to me has served to advance the gospel.

The word advance in the Greek give a picture of an army blazing a trail before combat, progressing in wisdom, and growing influence. This word is showing us that Paul has joyful that the good news of Jesus is making way into new territories. I can see Paul chuckling as he writes this sentence. It like him saying, “guys, the Romans thought they could keep me quiet, but all they did was give me an captive audience that I could never had reached before. I mean not only are the guards and Roman officials hearing the good news, but since I have been in the great city of Rome, many others are also being impacted by my witness of Jesus. They are realizing why I am here: to share with them really good news.” God instead of letting his most powerful missionary walk freely to new territories, like Spain, God desire for Paul to be imprisoned. See the providence of God at work here. Paul did. It was through the imprisonment of Paul that God was making his gospel known throughout Rome. Trust me, God knows what he is doing in your life.

We hardly ever realize how God might be using our suffering to advance the gospel. I want to share with you are story that happen to me, one of the other gospel home pastors Thomas Lambert (who you will hear from in next week’s podcast), and our church community. We as a church were blessed with a church family member named Mona Dryden. Mona is with Jesus now! She is seeing dying is gain. She became part of our church family member by a relationship I made with a co-worker when I work as a bus boy and waiter last year at Red Robin Yummm! This co-worker, Ayesha, first became church family member at River City and she invited her mother Mona to join the mission. O how thankful we are to God for bringing us Mona. Mona was a part of our church family for one year, and when she came she was battling stage four cancer. Our church loved and served Mona in her life and even in her death. This happened from bringing her to hospital appointments, brining her food, and opening our home to hold the reception of her funeral. Mona was a woman to her family and church family that would proclaim the words of Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” She was a selfless woman and constantly put the needs of her family and church family before her own. So here is the story.

Towards the end of her life she was constantly being admitted to the hospital. And me and Thomas and other church members would visit her on a regular basis. We also made sure her daughter, Ayesha, who was talking care of her was also taken care of. So on one particular night she was admitted to the hospital for pain in her body and extremely low blood pressure. She waited in the lobby for hours and when admitted in the emergency room she was stuck there for four hours before she was given a hospital room. For a woman in pain this could have been a very agitating time. Thomas and I arrive about nine o’clock at night, and by this point she was in the emergency room chair for hours. She was in the fetal position trying to find a comfortable position. She was resting and I kissed her on her forehead when we arrived. The kissed caused her to wake up and smile. That smile was priceless! I asked her the first question everyone asks when they visit someone in the hospital: How are you feeling? Her response is why I am sharing this story. Her response reminds me of Paul: a man focused on Jesus and not his location and situation. Mona was a woman that was Jesus focused. Her response was, “Hey Thomas and Kerr how are your babies doing? Oh, Thomas did were you and Rachael able to purchase your home?” I can honestly it caught us both off guard. Here is a woman dying of cancer, who has been in an uncomfortable position for hours, and all she wants to know in how our children are doing and if my gospel home pastor was able to buy his house? We told her how our children were doing and Thomas said, “Yes, Mona we got our home.” Then Thomas told her what the house looked like and how excited there were to have a home in a neighborhood to start a gospel home in. She smiled and said that was good. She never really talked about herself the whole visit. He talked a little more. We prayed together and let her rest. When Thomas and I walked to our vehicle, we both were amazed how Mona could care so much about us and so less about herself. This woman had massive impact on us and our church. We miss her dearly.

When we are in the middle of our suffering, we never really know what will happen, but like Mona, we must trust that God is sovereign and that He can and often does advance the gospel through great personal hardships, such as imprisonment or cancer. Our job is to stay faithful, joyful, and Christ-focused through the suffering, confidently trusting in His wise and sovereign will. And because God is sovereign and is advancing his gospel, we should also view our and those we love circumstances as opportunities to share the gospel. Do you think where you are in life God is not at work. Think again. Where you live, work, or your current health situation is no accident. These are God-ordained opportunities.

I do not know your story, but I know mine. I was converted by a girl in college I was actually trying to have sex with. She did not know my motive or my disgusting heart. But her heart was Christ-focused. She gave me a Bible and told me I should read it. And the rest is history. Embrace this pattern: see your circumstance as opportunities to share the gospel. Tammy never knew my heart then, but she was the one God used to see my heart change. She used her opportunity with a pervert to see him (me) become a convert of Jesus. Thank Jesus for Tammy!

We must live on mission in view of God’s sovereignty, and then we will experience indestructible joy.

Others are Hearing the Gospel (1:13)

Paul is rejoicing because he has an captive audience. His first impact that God has made happen was the gospel’s impact on the guard himself. This is not new to Paul. Remember the jailer in Acts? As Paul lived and taught, the Romans guards were hearing the good news. At that time is has been recorded that there were about 9,000 of them, and many were impacted. Paul was consumed by the gospel. Even in prison he put the gospel first in his affections and priorities. Man, is this a lesson for us? Paul is saying to us to put the gospel first in our relationships, our circumstances, and in our love for our neighbors. Talk about the good news of Jesus’ death, resurrection, reign, and return all the time. This is how we will be able to rejoice despite circumstances.

Let’s be honest we can easily talk about others things and fail to address this most important message. Maybe, our failure to talk about the gospel with our neighbors and unbelievers is tied to our lack of talking about the gospel to anyone, including your gospel community. Whether you are a accountant, internet math teacher, serving at a homeless shelter, a stay at home mom, or caring for AIDS victims in Africa, put the gospel first. In order to do this, we must first put the gospel first in our own lives, thoughts, and actions.

People are Sharing the Gospel (1:14)

Paul was fearless, and we know because of this others were influenced to be fearless. Paul says that when other hear about his witness as a Roman prisoner, others were inspired to greater faithfulness. Not only was Paul having impacted on others, but he was impacted the “brothers.” We are called to impact others with our lives, but we are also called to impact each other—the body of Christ (the church)—with our lives. Through Paul’s sufferings, other Christians were becoming more confident, more bold, and were sharing the gospel with no fear. We know stories like these to be true. From Paul to Jim Elliot, from Mona to those we love and admire. The book of Philippians should cause us to pray and pursue several Christian qualities, and one of them must be courage.

Why is it easier for us to find courage in physical matters, but not spiritual matters? Why are we cowards when it comes to sharing the most important message with those we love and are in relationship with? It is because there are deeper conflicts happening. Because speaking the gospel is warfare. By Paul putting the gospel first, ahead of his selfish ambitions, his desire for comfort and ease, Paul was not freaking out. Instead, he was rejoicing and making the most of his opportunities. Let us be a people like this. Join me in this mission and let us see what Paul rejoice about more than anything else.

Loving Jesus’ Glory More Than Our Own (1:15-18)

We know by what Paul wrote that some believers were inspired by Paul’s imprisonment and some believers were not. These tow groups of believers looked at Paul’s imprisonment differently.

Check Your Motives (1:15-17)

Some were envious and became rivals, while others prove to be partners. Some sought to change the mission and some sought to continue the mission. Some were power hungry. Look the leader is put away, now is our time to shine. Others were Christ hungry. Look our leader is put away, now is our turn to continue what he started. Paul’s imprisonment revealed the hearts of those influenced by him. Some were blaming Paul for his imprisonment, but others were glorifying God because of it. Beware of jealousy and envy in your Christian walk. Beware of the temptation to promote yourself in your Christian walk. Remember it is not a competition, but a shared mission. Do not be surprised if others envy you. Do not let it puff up your head. Pray that God would continue to give you a heart to serve out of love for Him and others. Also, notice that Paul does not defend himself. He knows who his defender is. This section of the passage should ask us a very personal question that will expose our heart. The question is this: why do you serve Jesus?

Christ is Proclaimed No Matter What (1:18)

Paul can rejoice despite all this because the gospel matters most to him. He can rejoice no matter the motive of the sharers because Jesus is being made known and glorified. To Paul the message mattered more to him than the messengers. The main question Paul was asking himself was: Are they preaching Jesus? If so rejoice! And then we should pray about the questionable motives. Our hearts are very deceptive, and even the best Christians can do dumb things for bad reasons. This does not excuse sin by no means. But it does help us remember the centrality of the gospel and the weakness of human instruments. Your faith must not be held on to because of a leader, but because your heart has been enraptured by the Savior. Paul’s heart was and this is why he could rejoice no matter what. Paul loved to see Jesus made known and glorified above glory of his own or the sharers of this good news. What glory do you care about most? Your joy is indestructible based on how you honestly answer this question.

This is Pastor Kerr. I pray that you are a person that puts the gospel first, that cares more for Jesus’ glory more than your own, that you put others before yourself, and that Jesus stays as your focus. Enjoy next week teaching lead by gospel home shepherd Thomas Lambert as he talks to you about a life worth living and a death worth dying.

See you in two weeks.

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