Scripture | Philippians 1:12-18
On Sunday, we started a series on the books of Philippians: a letter written by Paul to the church in Philippi. To get a little background on how this church was birthed, Barry had us look back to Acts 16. Paul was initially headed to Asia to preach, but between the Holy Spirit changing his route and a vision that led him to believe God was calling him elsewhere, he ended up in Macedonia, Philippi instead. He shared about Jesus and one of the people who heard and believed was a woman named Lydia. Lydia then proceeded to share the Gospel with her household who all went on to follow Jesus!
As Paul and Silas were going on to another place in Macedonia to share, a slave girl possessed by a demon began to follow them, and eventually, Paul cast out the demon. However, the owner of this girl was angry about this and they had Paul and Silas arrested. But in the prison, something incredible happened. Paul and Silas were praising God, and suddenly an earthquake took place! All of the doors to the cells were opened and the jailer, thinking everyone would escape, was going to kill himself. But Paul called out to him to stop and reassured him that everyone was still here and that none of the prisoners had left. After hearing Paul and Silas’ words and the songs they were signing, the jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:30) This man’s entire household also went on to accept Jesus.
When Paul and Silas were released they were asked to leave the city. They went to visit Lydia, and then they left. But the church in Philippi was started with these two families: Lydia and her household and the jailer and his. These are the people Paul is writing to in the book of Philippians. It is several years later that he writes this letter, and the Philippian church had faced hard times and persecution for their faith. They were also discouraged to hear of the terrible things Paul was enduring. This letter was written to encourage them and remind them that nothing can hinder the progress of the Gospel.
This story of how the Philippi church started is pretty inspiring, but, as years passed and hard times came, it was easy for them to forget all of the amazing ways God was working, so they quickly become discouraged. This is something that can easily happen to us all. I can look back on my life and see God’s hand at work in so many different ways: the doors He opened, the people He put in my path, and the way He is always in control. Then, when hard times come, I can be quick to forget it all, just like the Philippians.
But, in his letter to the church, Paul wants to remind them of the power of the Gospel. He tells them, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” (Philippians 1:12) Paul is in prison, yet again, for telling people about Jesus. I have to admit if I was put in prison…again….I would probably be a bit discouraged, but Paul is not! He’s excited because even this obstacle he is facing is helping to advance the Gospel! As people talked to Paul, they asked him why he was in prison, allowing him to share the Gospel with them. Then those people told other people the story about why Paul was in prison and they got to hear about Jesus as well! Barry told us that Paul was encouraged by this because he knew it only took one time for someone to hear the Gospel and for faith the be awakened! He wrote in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing comes through the word of Christ.” This is why Paul is celebrating that so many have heard the Gospel and are now telling others without fear, because as more people hear, more people can come to know Jesus!
Paul ended this section of his letter with this, “Yes, and I will rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18) Even in his hardship, Paul rejoiced because he remembered all that God had already done and was still doing, and because he knew how powerful the Gospel is: that nothing could ever hinder its progress. Today let’s not forget the incredible ways God is moving around us. Let’s remember, like Paul, how powerful God's Word is and that no obstacle can stand in the way of the advancement of the Gospel.