Short Meditations in Philippians: 7. Confident to Rejoice
Phil 1:18c Yes, and I will continue to rejoice
We jump a few verses now and come to Paul’s outlook, which is one of rejoicing and, when you see it on context, it may appear at first sight somewhat surprising. Paul gives us a hint of his situation in verse 12: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel,” and then in verse 13 says, “I am in chains for Christ.” i.e. he is in prison! For being a Christian! He is being persecuted – and he is still rejoicing!
Now Paul isn’t a masochist and so isn’t rejoicing just because he is suffering in prison. No, he sees that in his situation – as trying as it no doubt was – there were good outworkings for the Gospel – and he rejoices over that.
The first thing is that although he is in prison – and known publicly to be there for preaching the Gospel, it has emboldened other believers: “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.” (vb.14) i.e. they see that being put in prison for your faith isn’t so terrible and it doesn’t stop the Gospel being spread.
Second, the overall truth is that, “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (v.12) He points out that the Gospel is being preached by various people and sometimes not for the best of motives (v.15), but if he is the cause for others to preach the Gospel, for whatever reason, that is fine and so he concludes: “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.” (v.18)
It’s a funny sort of passage of Scripture that doesn’t seem very enlightening at first sight, but then when you think about it, you realise it presents a real challenge to us: will I look for the good in whatever trying circumstances face me? The truth is that the Christian life isn’t always as comfortable and easy as we might wish it was, nor for that matter, is life in general. As we said before, illnesses strike, accidents can occur, jobs can be lost, things go wrong in relationships, we can receive opposition, and so on. In all such times life can be difficult.
But then there is that challenging verse: “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) Not only will there be good things coming out of the bad, but there is God working on our behalf in the midst of it. Can we believe that? And if we can, can we rejoice, can we praise Him and give thanks in the midst of it, even before everything gets easier again?