Even When Life is Difficult

Today’s Reading: Philippians 1:12-26

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:4

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul teaches us that we should look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others – a lesson that is easier said than done. But first, Paul lived this kind of servant lifestyle as an example for the Philippians and for us to follow. His example shows us that looking out for the interests of others is really about serving to advance the gospel. He most definitely practiced what he preached.

And I want you to know , my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. – Phil. 1:12-14

Paul can find something to be thankful for EVEN IN THE MOST DIFFICULT OF SITUATIONS. In fact, he can be thankful for the chains themselves. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Paul praises God for the good that is coming out of the bad in his life. He is thankful for the effect his imprisonment is having on the whole palace guard. They know that he believes so strongly in Christ Jesus as the promised Messiah that he has been arrested and imprisoned for his faith. There must be something to this faith for Paul to give his life to it.

Paul is also thankful for the effect his chains are having outside the walls of the prison. Instead of running in fear, believers are gaining confidence in what God has called them to do. They are speaking God’s message of salvation through Jesus Christ without fear.

Listen carefully, sometimes our difficulties or our chains are more than just a chance for self-pity. Never in Scripture do we hear God telling us to feel sorry for ourselves. Instead we find verses like this:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:3-4

Paul goes on in his letter to talk about others who are preaching the gospel with selfish motives. They have made a competition out of it, filling the church with undertones of jealousy and rivalry instead of partnership and encouragement. They preach with selfish ambition, wanting to be the best preacher out there. Unfortunately, we see evidence that this kind of competitive spirit sometimes exists among believers today, whether it is an attempt to build the largest church or see the most fruit from the ministry we lead or get the lead solo in the Easter production.

But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. – Phil. 1:18-19

What a great attitude! Paul rejoices about his imprisonment and the good coming out of it, and he rejoices about the wrong motives of preachers because at least unbelievers are coming to a saving knowledge of Christ in the midst of the rivalry and selfish ambition. Not only does Paul have a good attitude, he works hard to preserve it – determined to make life about Christ and how He wants to use Paul in the lives of others.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires; I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me. – Phil. 1:20-26

Joy – definitely a theme of Paul’s in his letter to the Church at Philippi. Paul is a wonderful example of how the fruit of the Holy Spirit can play out in our lives. He can give us joy in difficult situations – joy that is UNEXPLAINABLE in light of what is happening around us. He can give us joy even when we see faults in the believers around us. We can pray for others to experience joy in their faith. We can let the joy of our salvation make a difference in the lives of others – those close to the difficult situation we are going through and also those watching from a distance.

God, make this the desire of our heart. Take away any rivalry, jealousy or selfish ambition in our attitudes. Help us to do everything for your glory and for the advancement of your kingdom. Change our hearts so that we can look to the interests of others, and not selfishly try to impress others or look out for ourselves. Fill our hearts with a love that abounds and a joy that is unexplainable. We love you, Father! Amen.