Persecution & Suffering: 29

In Philippians 1:12-17, Paul says, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Paul writes this from prison and he is speaking about his imprisonment. He is noting how many good things have resulted from his persecution. All the soldiers in the palace guard and indeed, everyone who heard of his imprisonment realized his mistreatment was for the sake of Christ. All the followers of Christ who heard of his suffering, were emboldened to speak out more confidently in sharing the gospel more widely and without fear, seeing how God was strengthening and using Paul from prison. Paul sees how God’s Kingdom is being advanced both among believers and unbelievers alike, since God is making His name more famous even among those seeking to hurt Paul.

In other words, Paul recognizes that in Christ, we win no matter what the enemy tries to do to stop us. I spent years working closely with the major house church networks in China. They have a slogan that goes like this: “If you imprison me, you free me to share the gospel openly. If you put me in solitary confinement, you enable me to meditate on scripture and to pray. If you beat me, you allow me to glorify God. If you seize my home or farm, you are freeing me to travel widely to spread the gospel. If you kill me, you are sending me to glory.” That slogan makes it clear that no matter what the enemy does, we win. Everything the powers of darkness do to try to stop us, only serves to advance the cause of the Kingdom.

Therefore, we can and should rejoice in our difficulties. Paul did. We can. God uses our troubles for our good and His glory.