“...according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
- Philippians 1:20
There has been much talk about purpose in the business world as well as the church. We have been taught to come up with purpose statements for our business, ministry and even our own lives. While there are some positive results to this practice, it could lead in the wrong direction. When we start with a purpose statement immediately it puts the emphasis on us. This takes place even if the purpose statement focus is humble. For example, we could have a purpose statement that says, “Humbly Accepting Gods Will.” If taken to the extreme this statement could cause us to be proud of our humility. This is impossible, of course. Attempting to move the Gospel forward, Christ should be the center and not ourselves.
In Philippians chapter one, Paul defines his purpose. His purpose statement would be unique compared to those we have worked with. He explains his imprisonment was positive. It was used to advance the message of the Gospel(vs. 12-13). In verse twenty, he explains the purpose of His body. Whether in life or death his body will be used to exalt Christ. His purpose statement would read, “I Exist to exalt Christ.” This statement could also be taken to the extreme. Yet, when you put it in context of Paul's situation, there is no selfishness or arrogance present. With all the persecution he faced he is not seeing a reason to complain or grumble. Instead, he is actually thanking God for using Him. What if this was our purpose in all we do? Regardless of how good or bad our life goes, we are thankful because He is being exalted through us.
Philippians 1:12 (NAS): Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel..
Inprisonment was the circumstance that Paul is referring. Instead of complaining and focusing on how bad things are, he took this as an opportunity to thank God. Why? Because the Gospel was moving forward. This tells us that the most important thing to Paul was the Gospel. For Paul nothing else mattered. Paul faced imprisonment, persecution, ship wrecks, flogging, stoning, lack of sleep, lack of shelter, lack of clothes and endangerment (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). All happened as a result of His obedience to preach the Gospel. He never complained.
As a minister I am asked to pray for people a lot and to be honest it is always something I have struggled with. To know what to say, how to pray, what to pray for, while at the same time making sure my prayers are Biblical. The conclusion that I come to is that yes, we can pray for healing and for God to intervene in our circumstances. At the same time we must never forget to ask God to use this situation for His Glory. “Jesus, use this situation to advance the Gospel.” This should be our priority, instead of Him removing the trial. There are many priorities we can have in the church. We can prioritize fellowship, facilities, something for the kids etc. The top priority in every church should always be the Gospel- The good news that Christ gave His life so that we could know Him (John 17:3, 1 John 1:7). All activities within a church should have this as the goal.
Thanksgiving is coming up this week. What are your priorities for that day? I would guess they involve food in some way. It’s amazing how during holidays we kind of over do it. One helping or plateful isn’t enough. We always must have more! Why? We do this for nourishment….right? Nope. We eat much more than we need. We do this because the food tastes SO good. We couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving where food wasn’t present (that statement alone creates weird feeling in my stomach). The same way that food is a priority for us at Thanksgiving, the Gospel message should be the top priority in our lives, relationships and churches. Nothing else matters, especially our physical situation. Instead of complaining about our circumstances, let’s be thankful because we know in some way God will use them for His Glory.
In Philippians 1:7, Paul states that he defends and confirms the Gospel (The good news of Jesus being our ultimate sacrifice). This is a continual list of what he is thankful for. He thanks God because of their participation in the Gospel (v.5). He also is thankful because God will complete the work He has started (v. 6). All of this can be summed up by saying that Paul is thankful for the Gospel and the difference it makes in peoples lives. He mentions three items in relation to the Gospel- imprisonment, defense and confirmation.
Imprisonment refers to the sacrifice of the Gospel. Regardless of what Paul faced, the Gospel was worth it.
Defense refers to apologia- this word means to give a verbal defense. The opposite is quietness. There must be a verbal defense of the Gospel. This is what makes preaching so important. There must be a moment in time where His Word is proclaimed.
Confirmation means that the Gospel has been proven with absolutely no doubt.
Does this describe what you believe about the Gospel?
Is it worth sacrifice? Is it worth defending? Has it been confirmed to you?
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