Rejoicing in God’s Grace –
Part 1 – Philippians 1:12-26
Understanding what makes another person tick – what drives them in life – can be an incredible insight to discover. And this is precisely what we see in this next section of Philippians – the heart and mind of the Apostle Paul. Often in his letters we read Paul’s teaching about what Christ has accomplished for us and how Christians should live in light of this (which will come later in Philippians). However, in these precious verses it’s like Paul is having a heart to heart with us and revealing ‘what makes him tick’, what motivates this apostle and brings him joy amidst his struggles.
In 1:12-26, Paul shifts from his opening prayer to giving an update on himself and the results of his imprisonment. And, again, here we must marvel that this chained apostle is rejoicing despite his circumstances! It is this joy that reveals so much of Paul’s heart and attitude. In vs 12, Paul tells us that the gospel is advancing and in vs 13-18a he explains in what way. First, the good news of Jesus had been spreading among the palace guard as they caught wind of why Paul was in chains – for Jesus. But also the gospel was spreading outside the prison as some of the brothers, inspired by Paul’s willingness to be locked up for Christ, have become emboldened to preach more fearlessly (vs 14, 16).
This is remarkable! While Paul has been temporarily stopped from proclaiming the message of forgiveness found in Christ, the very message he was imprisoned for has increased its volume both in and outside the prison walls. And because of this Paul rejoices (vs 18a). This first section illustrates what Paul is doing with his down time in prison. He is rejoicing because he is actively observing God’s grace at work in his world. This is undoubtedly a challenge to us on how we are facing this present COVID-19 crisis.
How much time do we spend scrolling the news feeds unwittingly fuelling our anxieties? How much are we letting our minds be consumed with fear by what is happening around the world at present? Paul’s example challenges us to fix our eyes elsewhere. Not to be ignorant of what’s going on – but not to be consumed by it either. This example encourages us to carefully look for the grace of God at work in the mess of life and to rejoice in it – when we see it!
What is God up to? How is His gospel spreading in this season? One way it has been spreading has been the increase of gospel content flooding the internet, as many Churches around the globe have been forced to go online. Praise God! Another grace we’ve seen has been the increase of ‘seekers’. Many Churches have reported more people, who were previously uninterested in spiritual things, have been jolted from their apathy into prayer and searching for hope and meaning! Praise God!
Friends, let’s practice the art of active observation in order to see the divine fingerprints around us – that we might rejoice in God’s grace! And let’s share these joyful observations with one another – to double our joy!
Your brother in Christ, Craig Stalder
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