[Based on Philippians 1:12-14]
Philippians 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
When the word “but” starts off a sentence, it denotes a shift in the thought of the speaker. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians to contradict the thoughts of the readers. “I know you would feel this way; BUT, you should understand it this way…” What Paul was doing was challenging all of his readers to rethink the circumstances of their lives. We might interpret the events of our lives in one way, but the Bible interjects with a “BUT” and says, “no, interpret it this way.”
What did happen to Paul? The context before and after this passage describe Paul was in chains and was sent to the higher Roman courts. Whereas any other normal reaction to the circumstances would have been anxiety, regret, shame, disappointment, worry, stress, fear, and any other negative emotion, Paul’s response was, “the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.”
Here Paul did not care about his own personal comfort, future prospects, finances, friends, family, or even his life. He had been calibrated by the Holy Spirit to seek the “furtherance of the Gospel.” It was not that the Gospel overshadowed his normal fears. Rather, he saw when bad things happened that they were in essence opportunities for the Gospel to go forward. But, how so, you ask?
Philippians 1:13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
The imprisonment of Paul was an opportunity to visit the palace. Think of it as a free ticket to Rome. Other versions state that the whole palace guard was able to hear the Gospel. The palace guard at this time was the Praetorian Guard: 9000 elite soldiers. Imagine the potential for the Christian message to be spread from the palace guards, to their dormitories and cafeterias, to their friends and family members.
As a Christian, the Lord does not seek wishful and positive thinking in us. Rather, He grants opportunities to His faithful servants, that at times of faithlessness, seem like crises. When bankruptcy, embarrassment, rejection, failures, and disease occur, seek opportunities for Christ. Hospitalizations are opportunities to witness to medical personnel. Bankruptcies are opportunities to witness to finance counselors. Imprisonments are opportunities to witness to corrections officers. What is shocking is all is done, even at the expense of being falsely labeled.
Philippians 1:14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Not only was it an opportunity to witness to non-believers, but it was a source of courage to the existing believers, “many of the brethren of the Lord.” They became more confident by Paul’s imprisonment, preaching and teaching the Gospel message without being afraid. Not only was the opportunity extended to those Paul came into contact with, but also those all the other emboldened believers came into contact with as well.
We never know who is watching or who is aware of our personal events and circumstances. We have a great influence on how we respond to various events in our lives. To the Christian, there are no bad events. Rather, it is Providence who leads us, as long as we have the objective of spreading the Gospel first and foremost in our hearts and minds.
In this sense, the Gospel-minded individual has not much to be joyous and thankful for, but in everything is to be joyous and thankful, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning all of us (1 Th 5:18). Let us be invincible Christians. Let us not allow the circumstances of life to control and dictate our futures. Instead let us allow Jesus Christ to guide and lead our motives, aspirations, intentions, values, and desires for the “furtherance of the Gospel.”