Gospel of Joy

In my study of Philippians I have been carefully looking at each paragraph of Paul’s letter, written during his imprisonment in Rome.  This morning as I read Philippians 1:12-14, I wondered at what he had to say to the blossoming church in Philippi:

“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.”

Here is Paul, a shipwrecked prisoner carted around with the Roman army for two years, before being placed under house arrest in Rome.  Here is a man who has every reason to complain, lament, and wonder at his circumstances, and yet he says “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”  How can he be so accepting, so content, while in chains? 

What stood out to me most in this paragraph is Paul’s lack of regard for, or mention of, himself.  He does not speak of his back pain from sitting on the hard floor of a cell, nor does he worry over the progress of the ministry without his influence.  To the contrary, the previous paragraph (verses 3-11) details the depth of Paul’s love and pride in the Philippian church in his praise of their faithfulness.   Paul’s mind is not fixed on his circumstances but on the mission of spreading the gospel.

Paul’s acceptance and contentment, and his consequential joy, came from the source of his dependance.  If Paul drew his happiness, resilience, or depth from wealth, position, status or any worldly thing, he would never have remained effective and joyful throughout his life in the ministry.  He rarely had extra money, he was never in one place long, the Jews had rejected him and Rome imprisoned him.  Paul’s joy had another source.

The focus of Paul’s life was to spread the gospel.  This purpose was his passion and the motivation for everything he did.  How do you think the entire imperial guard learned of Christ?  Certainly not by Paul pouting in his cell.  As John MacArthur wrote in a sermon on this passage, every six hours Paul had a different guard chained to him in his room.  Thus, every six hours he had another ‘captive’ to witness to!

As young women we can construct an idea that since we aren’t pastors, evangelists, or ministers that spreading the gospel is not our calling.  This is untrue.  It is the calling of every living Christian to spread the ‘good news’!  And if you really believe it, really love it, and really live it, telling others will come naturally — just as it did with Paul.  When the word of God, and His goodness, is our joy, nothing can take it away:  even the worst of circumstances.

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matt. 24:13-14)

To Think About

  • What is the source of your joy? How does it influence your actions in difficult circumstances?
  • Do you view spreading the gospel as an essential part of being a Christian?  Why or why not?
  • How is Paul’s example of joy in trial applicable to you today?