Read Philippians 1
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 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.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Life Worthy of the Gospel
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Philippians is known as the happiest book in the Bible because Paul writes with a tremendous amount of joy. In this book he’s just so overtly excited and optimistic about life. In this first chapter we read that he says, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (v. 4). Clearly, Paul has such a depth of friendship with the Philippians that it gives him genuine joy. And we also read him say, “I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (v. 25). So not only does he enjoy his relationship with his friends, but he wants them to enjoy their relationship with God, just as Paul does.
We can learn a lot here from Paul’s joy. He’s found joy in his relationship with God, and he’s found joy in his relationship with other believers. What’s evident is that he doesn’t find his joy from his circumstances. As Paul is writing this he is chained up in prison in Rome. He has every reason to complain and be discouraged. Surely God has forsaken him and his friends have forgotten him! But rather than letting his situation determine his belief, his belief trumped his situation. He knew that God was God over the perceived “good times” and the perceived “bad times.” Paul knew that God would work through it all. So whether he was in chains or not, whether he was alive or not, he was convinced that God would work it together for his good.
As we read Philippians, we need to ask ourselves where we find our joy. Would we be able to have joy if we were in prison – apart from comfort, coffee, and our cell phone? Would we be able to rejoice in our Savior even when our situation feels bleak? Our joy shows us that which we rely upon. As Christians we can have joy in every season because we know the One we trust in is good. He’s with us, for us, and working all things for our good. And if that’s true, we can rejoice in the Lord whether we’re dead or alive, in chains or free.
- How do circumstances tend to affect your joy?
- Why do you think Paul is relatively unaffected by his situation?
- When have you seen God work in your life through a difficult situation?
Did You Know?
Notice Paul’s description of the gospel advancing in verse 12. The gospel doesn’t merely spread like other information. It advances and moves forward, building upon itself and then spreading throughout the world (all the way to Rome, the capital of the Empire).