Keeping Joy in Ministry                 CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO

Philippians 1:12-18

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

 

The greatest preacher, other than the Lord Jesus, was the Apostle Paul.   Paul traveled far and wide preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. To read the details of his travels you can find it in Acts 13-28.

Paul lived and breathed the gospel of Jesus!   His deepest passion was always to spread God’s Word to those who have never heard of Christ.  In Paul’s day the Roman Empire governed and controlled the world.  You’ve heard the expression  “all roads lead to Rome”.  Literally, Rome was at the center of civilization and the road systems were such that all roads would take you to Rome.   Paul saw the wisdom of having a strong gospel presence in Rome which in turn would reached the entire world.

 PAUL’S  DESIRE TO VISIT ROME

Here’s what Paul said in Acts 19:21

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

The Lord told Paul this would happen….

Acts 21:10-11

10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

Paul’s friends  tried to persuade him NOT to go to Jerusalem….

Acts 21 –  goes to Jerusalem……..he gives witness to Christ……life is threatened by the Jews

Acts 23:11

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Paul made it to Rome….  However,  He came not as a preacher,  but as a prisoner.  He came along with other condemned criminals in chains.    From his prison cell,  Paul wrote  4 PRISON EPISTLES – Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and  Philippians.

Philippians – we call the Epistle of Joy!       The word  “joy”  and “rejoicing” is used many times by Paul to express how he looked at things…  EVEN BEHIND BARS  AND  CHAINED TO  A  ROMAN SOLDIER.

How did Paul maintain joy in ministry?

THE ANSWER IS FOUND IN THE LETTER HE WROTE TO THE PHILIPPIAN BELIEVERS….

  • We’ve already spoke of his PRAYER LIFE    see   v.4   vv.9-11 prayer for them
  • His faith in a sovereign God…who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ
  • Right purpose—His whole life was for the SINGLE PURPOSE to live for the GLORY and PRAISE OF GOD…

Paul maintained his joy in the ministry because his eyes were on the progress of the Gospel….

He was BOUND;  but the Gospel  was NOT BOUND!       Paul was locked up;  but the Gospel was unleashed in the hearts of many in Rome….and this increased the Joy in the heart of Paul..

LOOK at v.18……. Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice,  Yes, and I will rejoice…

This JOY IN MINISTRY  continued  REGARDLESS of WHAT HAPPENED TO PAUL…

  1. Regardless of What Happened to Paul…..V.12

Acts 13-28….  Follow the story of Paul…..

Here’s a summary of things that had happened to Paul.

1Corinthians 11:23-28

23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

 

  1. The Gospel of Christ was making great Progress

Paul  VALUED the Gospel;    He valued the Lord Jesus Above his own life.     See  v.21

FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN

I’ve counted about 19 times he uses the name of Jesus or Christ in this first chapter of Philippians.  In spite of his troubles, his trials, his sufferings,  Paul kept his focus on the Lord Jesus.    His joy was in Christ, not in himself.   He valued what he had in Jesus.

Listen to what he said in Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

 

Paul valued Christ;   and his life’s ambition    —  TESTIFY TO THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD.

 

Paul treasured what he had in Christ rather than his own personal comforts.   We’ve already seen his commitment to praying.   “always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1:4)

That’s how he stayed focused on Christ. He prayed constantly and his faith remained  fixed on Jesus and not on his circumstances.

When Paul described the advance of the gospel, he used the word  “furtherance”.  This is a military term used by engineers who would prepare a road for an advancing army by removing obstructions such as rock and trees.[1]

Paul was simply saying –  my imprisonment has removed barriers to the gospel.

Maybe, He didn’t see that at first.   He was locked up, but it actually unlocked opportunities for the gospel.    The Philippian believers needed to hear this from Paul.

They sent one of their own, Epaphroditus to check on Paul.  (You can see his name mentioned in chapter 2:25)  He served to be Paul’s messenger back to the Philippians and to attend to Paul’s needs.    Paul writes this letter to say…listen I am in prison, but this situation has really served to advance the gospel.

Paul had needs.  He had concerns.  It would have been nice to have had better accomodations.  You would think if Paul only had more freedom that the gospel would be more available to the people in Rome.  Being in prison seemed to be only a barrier to Gospel progress.  That’s what you would think.   Doesn’t it seem reasonable in the best interest for Paul to be out of prison, and also the best interest for the gospel?   Could this be like Peter in Acts 12 when he was put in prison for preaching the gospel of Christ?

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)

Prayers went up for Peter.  While Peter was sleeping in his prison cell bound with two chains that were attached to two soldiers, the angel of the Lord woke him up. The chains fell off Peter.  The soldiers were oblivious to all that went on. The angel must have given them something to knock them out.   The angel had to prompt Peter to get dress and to put on his sandals.  Peter must have been still sleepy.  The angel also said,  “wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

 

And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”    Acts 12:9-11

 

Peter was rescued.   Personal attention was given to Peter.  The Angel made sure he was dressed, had sandals on,   had his cloak and Peter finally CAME TO HIMSELF and realized he had been rescued by the Angel of the Lord.

The barriers were removed to release Peter and he continued to Preach the Gospel.   But that wasn’t the case for Paul.  The barriers were NOT removed to release Paul,  but the barriers were removed to release the GOSPEL MESSAGE!

Paul said to Timothy, listen  “I am bound with chains, but the word of God is NOT BOUND!

2Timothy 2:8   Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

 

Phil 1:12  what has happened to me has really served to ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.

NO WONDER PAUL WAS REJOICING!

He had another reason to rejoice….

 

  1. Witnessing for Christ became easy

The door to Paul’s cell was shut;  but the door to evangelism was open.

v.13 so that it has become……………………………..my imprisonment is for Christ.

The first question they ask…why are you locked up?     ANSWER: my imprisonment is for Christ.

I’m sure as Paul mixed and mingle around other prisoners… Prisoners would ask… “Hey, I saw that they brought you in  last night….what you in for?      ANSWER: my imprisonment is for Christ.

Paul had medical needs…. I would think they took Paul down to the MEDICAL Dept…to be check on by the attending doctor…. “that’s a bad cut you’ve got there  Mr… looks at his chart…finds his name.. Mr. Paul….  What happened to you?   why are you locked up here?    ANSWER: my imprisonment is for Christ.

Whereever Paul went throughout that prison…. He freely spoke of Christ….he proclaimed the Gospel.

 

v.13  (my imprisonment for Christ) had become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

in all the palace  kjv       Whole palace guard  NIV        the whole praetorian guard  NASB

The word used here describes the bodyguards for the emperor of Rome.  There were over 2000 top-notch soldiers who were paid very well and given special assignments.  One of their assignments was that of guarding the prisoners who were waiting to have an audience with Caesar, the Roman Emperor.

Paul was chained to soldiers 24 hrs daily.  There were 6 hour shifts which meant an opportunity to witness to 4 soldiers each day.   Paul was incarcerated for two years so there were hundreds and perhaps thousands of soldiers who heard the gospel.

Paul looked at the soldier he was chained to NOT as a restriction to sharing the gospel, but rather as a captive audience.   The solder could not go anywhere.  He had to hear Paul.  I’m sure Paul was very gentle, loving in his approach and didn’t try to ram the gospel down his throat.

NOTICE again in v.13   “….and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ….”

Not only soldiers,   THERE  were servants,  dignitaries, high ranking officials, and just plain common people who heard of Paul and why he was in prison.

Why are you locked up?    What did you do?     Why are you in prison?    That begins the opportunity to witness for Christ.   They come to you.

Paul had some freedom even as a prisoner to proclaim Christ.

Acts 28:30-31

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

For 2 years…. Paul waited for his time to present his case and defense before Caesar….The wheels of justice were very slow in those days….  No such thing as a speedy trial….unless you’ve got a lynch mob

I like what Chuck Swindoll said of Paul:

”Paul chose to count his blessings rather than list his disappointments…….What seemed like a delay had proven to be a divinely appointed opportunity for the message of Christ.”[2]

Paul was CHAINED TO  a Roman soldier…..

We are chained to something….    Whatever your situation might be…  don’t think..there’s no way I can be used of the Lord…  don’t look at the end of your chain and think  THIS IS A BARRIER to the Gospel…..the gospel is NOT confined to what’s at the end of your chain…

What’s at the end of your Chain………

  • Caring for an elderly person who needs round the clock care
  • Raising children and caring for their needs…and the tremendous responsibility that comes with that….
  • Difficult place of employment…. Very limited as to what you can do or say in regards to the gospel…

I’ll never forget this one visit I made in a nursing home….seeing one of the members of the church where at the time I was the pastor…this lady was in her right mind…but was unable to get out of bed…totally disabled…laying flat on her back….  After a brief visit…I said to her that I will be praying for her….  She grab my hand and pulled me in closer to hear her say…  AND I WILL BE PRAYING FOR YOU…SHE REALLY MEANT THAT….SHE CREATED A MINISTRY RIGHT THERE…A PRAYER MINISTRY…..MAYBE SHE PRAYED PAUL ‘S  PRAYER…  V.9

Use what you’ve got…. Be a witness for Christ…..right where you are…..

 

  1. Fellow Preachers became much Bolder to speak the Word without fear

 (vv.14-17)

 

(1)        Preachers with Sincere Intentions  

v.14 most of the brothers have become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment…

they are much more bold to speak the word without fear

v.16  they preach out of love….they look at Paul being in prison for defending the gospel

Paul’s sufferings….actually bolstered their confidence;     it gave them courage to step out and speak boldly for Christ.

We read in Acts 8:1 – there arose a GREAT PERSECUTION against the church in Jerusalem…however, the persecution didn’t  shut down the gospel…  it didn’t silence the preaching….next few verses says….. Acts 8:4   those who were scattered went about preaching the word

On January 1956 -an incident took place in Ecuador …in the Amazon jungles of South America…-   Jim Elliot along with his four fellow missionaries were viciously killed by the natives they were trying to reach for Christ.   Jim Elliot was a graduate from Wheaton college…and the results of his martyrdom …a great number of missionaries came from Wheaton college to continue the work,  so did Jim Elliot’s wife and the wives of the other missionaries who were killed.    The mission to the Auca Indians continues on even today..

It’s true that the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed for the church.

Paul’s witness continued with his fellow brothers in Christ…..  especially those who were SINCERE,  courageous, and proclaiming Christ in love …and from good will…..

 

(2)        Preachers with Selfish Ambition

v.15  some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will

v.17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition not sincere but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment

Envy – jealousy— green-eyed jealousy  is  rampant in ministry today.

Jealousy ….Like acid…it will burn a hole in the container that contains it…

Like someone said…   we are our own worst enemy….

Paul had his enemies….

These are NOT false preachers….  They do preach Christ… they have a gospel message…and people can hear the truth and be saved….

But there’s something else  that’s  sprinkled in their delivery….  You could sense the envy,  the jealousy,  the competitive spirit they had against Paul.

We don’t know exactly why they were against Paul.    It may stem from Paul’s success;  his giftedness;  his receiving revelations and understanding mysteries….his authoritative message… and all the epistles that he wrote which is recognized as part of the Holy Scriptures—the WORD of GOD….

They were jealous of Paul…   they used his incarceration as an opportunity to discredit the ministry of Paul.  They tried to get a group of followers….and they couldn’t stand the fact that Paul was the leading Apostle…He was the One that everyone  went to…..

 

The remedy for envy, rivalry, a competitive spirit, is make sure we stay humble before the Lord…  Paul said in 2Cor. 4:5

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Paul says —  we are only  SERVANTS for Jesus’ sake…

This jealous spirit is something all of us must watch out for….  But especially among those who minister the word……

If Satan can’t corrupt your heart with a love of money or with sexual sin, he may try this tactic: envy and rivalry.  Consider a story from the 4th century on the sin of envy…

Some inexperienced demons were finding it difficult to afflict a godly hermit. They lured him with various temptations, but the man kept denying their allurements.  The demons reported their problems to Satan.  The evil one told them that they had been far too hard on the man.  He suggested a more effective strategy:  “Send him a message that  his brother has just been made a bishop of Antioch.  Bring him good news.”     The demons used the Devil’s  scheme,  reporting “the wonderful news”  to the pious hermit. On hearing this message, the godly hermit fell into deep, wicked jealousy.

 

It’s sad to say…. The sin of jealousy, and rivalry,  the spirit of competiveness..is epidemic in ministry….

……  here’s the truth….   It’s not about me….    It’s not about you…

It’s about Jesus…….  It’s making much of Christ….

The flesh loves to be made much of…..  it loves to be praised, and honored, and adored….

 

Paul DID NOT   rejoice in his ministry….    He could have said… look at me…look at what I have had to put up with…………..Look at what I had to endure…..

 

v.18—here’s his focus…   on Christ….  He rejoiced that Christ was being preached…

 

  1. He kept his focus on Christ

v.18  KEPT HIS FOCUS ON CHRIST

 

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Paul could have spent  4 chapters  blasting away   at  His  critics…..

He stayed with the Gospel…

Paul could have worked at developing a….

  • Political gospel…. And try to change his circumstances  POLITICALLY..  with the thought that political change would FAVOR the advancement of the gospel….
  • Social gospel…..and try to change his circumstances ECONOMICALLY… with the thought that economical change would FAVOR in more people responding to the gospel…

 

 

Paul could have looked at the soldier at the END OF HIS CHAIN……  and think….  I will start a revolution …. A political revolution….one soldier at a time….

He could have  gotten on his soapbox with each soldier…..and talked about all his critics out there….all those preachers…who were motivated by envy, rivalry, driven by selfish ambition…seeking to add affliction to his imprisonment….

  1. He looked at that soldier….and thought…. Time is short…. This person is either  IN CHRIST   or

Out of CHRIST….    I will by the grace of God….seek to advance the Gospel   ONE Soldier at a time….

 

 

[1] Turning Toward Joy, David Jeremiah

[2] Laugh Again, Charles Swindoll,