Joy of Adversity
Paul is in Rome awaiting his trial. Will the verdict be life or death? Paul rejoices regardless of the outcome. In Christ, you can have joy in spite of adversity because God always wins! I have played games with children who constantly change the rules. If you had the high score, they would say the low score wins. If you had the low score, they would say the high score wins. It can be frustrating playing a game knowing it is impossible to win.
But in your trials, rejoice because the ultimate victory is always yours in Christ. He is going to win — nothing Satan does thwarts God’s victory.
Open doors. (12–14)
Paul’s imprisonment appears to be a setback to the advancement of the gospel. But God! Instead of an obstacle, God used Paul’s suffering to “advance the gospel” (v. 12). Amazingly, Paul’s imprisonment served to spread Christ’s good news. The open door didn’t stop with the guards but became a catalyst for sharing Christ around the pagan world.
Instead of resulting in timidity among believers, Paul’s imprisonment led to greater boldness. Satan is not creative. Over and over again, he attempts to frustrate the spreading of the gospel through adversity. However, today, as with Paul, we know God often turns persecution into open doors for Christ.
Mission accomplished. (15–18)
Some Christians were envious and didn’t like Paul. They wanted to see him remain in prison. They preached Christ, but with the hope it would stir up more trouble for Paul.
To Paul, it didn’t matter; he rejoiced as long as the mission of sharing the gospel was accomplished. This does not mean Paul rejoiced in his imprisonment or because people wanted to cause him pain. No, pain and hurts were real to Paul. His joy flowed from his ability to place his suffering in perspective. His difficulties resulted in Christ being preached! This God-given perspective is needed as believers face persecution around the world. We do not rejoice in the persecution. Instead, we rejoice that God furthers His Kingdom through those difficulties and troubles!
God honored. (19–20)
Paul expressed joy because he was convinced the prayer of the Philippians and the help of the Holy Spirit would result in his deliverance (v. 19). Though he anticipated a favorable outcome, his ultimate desire was for God to be honored. If the verdict were life, Paul would be set free to continue preaching Christ. But Paul did not fear death. His concern was that he bring disgrace to the gospel when he stood before the Roman tribunal. Nevertheless, Paul’s confidence was rooted in the Holy Spirit and the faithful prayers of the Philippians. He was convinced God would be honored as the Spirit of Christ was magnified in his life. Like Paul, you and I can honor God by being faithful to Him in life and death.
Christ alone. (21–26)
The tension for Paul was evident between living, which would be fruitful labor serving others, and death, which would fulfill his desire to be with Christ in glory. He was torn between the two. On a personal level, departing and being with Christ was far better (v. 23). For the church in Philippi, however, to remain and minister was better (v. 24). Paul expected to remain in the body to help the believers as they joyfully progressed in their faith (v. 25). Remaining would result in their glory in Christ overflowing. Paul looked beyond the present to the time of their joyful reunion (vv. 25–26).
Furthermore, everything is put in perspective concerning Paul — whether life or death, he existed with a singular passion for Christ alone (v. 21). Clearly, this is what Paul desired for the Philippians, and for you and me. Our problem is that we often only give lip-service to this lofty aspiration “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I can only imagine what we would be like today if we were a people driven by this singular passion.