Something BIG: The Advancement of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12-18)
Written for HOMI 500 at Liberty University. Modified for this blog
Has anyone ever been part of something BIG? When I was in high school, I played basketball. Yes, I know what you’re thinking- 5’3- you? You played basketball in high school? Well, the roster said I was 5’5… I know. The realization of my lack of height actually caused me to consider another career path. Hence, the writing of this blog… Well, my junior year the Final Four Ladies’ Basketball teams were practicing in St. Louis. So, the local teams were invited to watch them practice. It was really neat experience. Skipping school to watch practice… I mean…Being part of something BIG of course. The FINAL FOUR teams!!! Also, I guess I should note that I didn’t really watch college basketball, but still we are talking FINAL FOUR here. AND I was there. I was part of it. For a second I forgot about my vertically challenged-ness and dreamed about playing college ball… for a moment. Ok that’s BIG… But I think we can go BIGGER!
Anyone remember October 2011 when the Cardinal won their 11th World Series Title? Now THAT was BIG! St. Louis had the BIGGEST celebration that lasted almost as long as Red October. Free Big Macs. Parades. Celebrations! An entire city… no an entire state celebrating a victory of one of our teams… Granted we weren’t actually part of that team… we didn’t actually go out on the field…we didn’t score any runs…field any balls… but they’re still our team. So, we claimed that win!
If you can remember the energy. Remember the excitement. I pray that everyone can have that attitude with today’s BIG idea: THE GOSPEL! The Gospel is advancing. That’s HUGE! We should be celebrating that. We should be part of that! This is BIG guys: As Christians, God invites us to join Him in sharing the Gospel.
Today we are joining someone who knew how BIG the Gospel was- Paul. You might remember Paul, the zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians. Then one day he met Jesus on the Road to Damascus and never looked back. He went from enemy of Christians to a zealous defender and sharer of the Gospel!
The Gospel Advances!
In Philippians 1 verse 12, Paul begins writing his friends in Philippi. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happen to me has really served to advance the gospel?”
WAIT! Timeout. What happened to him? Paul has a problem. Yet, the Gospel advances despite problems.
Has anyone here ever been in trouble? Come on be honest. Did anyone ever get sent to the principal’s office at school? Has anyone been in trouble for doing the right thing?
Well, that’s where we meet Paul. He has been put in prison for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is in trouble for doing the right thing, AND he is not sorry. Not one little bit. He understands how BIG the gospel is and that it must continue to advance. But he also knows his imprisonment might worry some of his friends who are also trying to do the right thing. So, he writes them this letter. He wants to encourage them so that they will not stop spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
See the Philippians were not just some random church. Paul knew these people personally. He helped establish this church during his missionary journey in Acts 16. He had friends like Lydia and the jailer who were still there standing strong in the faith. So, he wrote them this letter to encourage them. To remind them they are not alone. The Gospel is still something BIG and still worthy of being shared, despite the problems of being in jail.
See sometimes, doing the right thing as a Christian might feel like we’re “in trouble.” Maybe we don’t get invited to hang out with the cool kids at school. Or maybe our coworkers don’t invite us out because of our goodie-goodie-ness. But even then, God is in control. Seeds of faith are being planted. You are being obedient. Thus, the Gospel is still spreading in subtle ways.
But for Paul, this is not so subtle. He says in verse 13, “So that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Everyone knew that Paul was in chains for Christ. THE ENTIRE IMPERIAL GUARD! That’s amazing! That’s BIG! Can I ask: are your chains for Christ? Do others know that too?
Paul continues in verse 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.” Because of Paul’s imprisonment people have stepped up to share the gospel.
How many of you played sports growing up? Like I said earlier, I played basketball. So, let’s use basketball for an example. Pretend we are all on the same basketball team. Our team’s star point guard, who by the way is amazing at sinking 3 pointers, just got fouled out in the 3rd quarter. Are we going to just stop the game, shake/clap hands, and go home? NO WAY! We are going to fight with all that we have. Someone else is going to step up and fill the role of point guard. Someone else is going to put some points on the board. Are we disappointed that our star player is out? You bet! But it’s not over. Far from it! We are going to step up our game and fight harder. Our star point guard might sit on the bench and give the team encouragement, but he/she is not the reason those other players step up. There is something BIGGER here.
That’s what happened here. Paul was for lack of a better word, benched. He had to sit on the sidelines and encourage his team, Christians. And they grew in confidence and boldness, but the boldness and confidence did not come from Paul, it came from the Holy Spirit. In Acts 4:13, these uneducated men began to boldly proclaim Christ because the Holy Spirit came. Now, Paul is telling his friends in Philippi that people are gaining confidence and boldly proclaiming Christ! That’s the same Holy Spirit alive in you and me today, my friends. We are part of something HUGE! You too can (and will) grow in confidence and boldness for the Lord.
Verse 15 reads, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from GOOD WILL. The latter do it out of LOVE knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.”
If you want to show someone you love them what will you do? Do you give them a hug? Do you buy them flowers? Chocolate? Gifts? Do you go out and do something special? Do you do something for them, like make the dinner or a cup of coffee? Do you take them to a championship basketball game? Do you tell them about Jesus?
If you want to show people you love them in a BIG way, share Jesus. There is only one way to heaven. If you love someone, a friend, co-worker, neighbor, child, it is your duty to tell them about Christ. We do not want these people spending eternity separated from God because no one ever told them. We must show them love and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now that doesn’t mean shoving the Gospel down their throats. But we must be ready to share the Gospel when the Holy Spirit opens that door. Sometimes the best things we can do as Christians is live a life different from the world so that all can see the hope we have in Christ.
“Some indeed preach Christ from ENVY and RIVALRY.” Rivalry. This definitely brings me back to high school basketball. There are always those teams that seem to be rivals. So back to our basketball game. It’s the championship game against the cross-town rival. You are guarding their point guard who stops, takes the ball across her body, and out of nowhere she swings her elbow so hard she sends you flying across the court. Technical Foul. Now you score both free throws and the game is tied.
What was her motive? Ok, this is a true story from high school. You see… this girl didn’t like me very much after I broke up with her cousin… so I tell you, it was personal. It was rivalry. But guess what, the game is tied now. Despite her motives to harm me, my team advanced.
The same thing happens with the Gospel. Even when people are trying to hurt you, God can use it to spread His purposes. Verse 17, “The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.” Ouch. Someone wants to hurt Paul. The motive of the people spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ was from envy and rivalry. But the message of Jesus Christ was still spreading. That good news was still reaching people.
Sometimes when people are mocking your faith, they are actually planting seeds for others. Sometimes when people purposely leave you out because you’re the good Christian kid, they are reminding themselves that you are a Christian and will be there for them when needed.
Motives matter. But the Holy Spirit can use anything.
So, REJOICE! Verse 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” Rejoice! This is good news!
So, after being thrown across the court, my coach sidelined me. Does that mean I wanted my team to lose? Does that mean I didn’t cheer my team on? Does that mean I didn’t celebrate every single small victory of my team? No way! I probably celebrated more. I knew my coach was just trying to protect me. (That girl who didn’t like me was a big girl!) Goal! REJOICE. Block! REJOICE! Offensive Foul! Double REJOICE!!! Every small victory is a BIG victory when you are fully invested!
Be invested in the Gospel!
Someone heard the good news of Jesus Christ! REJOICE.
But that person was preaching from envy… REJOICE.
But that person loved the person she shared with… REJOICE.
The Holy Spirit empowered a person to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ- REJOICE!
If someone is planting seeds of faith in the name of Jesus Christ- REJOICE!
Things may not go the way you want them to go. You may be persecuted for your faith. You may be left out. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ will advance. You are on the right team. Share those victories. Cheer on your team. Help your team advance their goal- spreading the Gospel! Tell others about the hope you have in Christ!
You have hope because you are on the right team!
Be Part of Something BIG!
Your basketball team just won the championship game against a rival team. Are you going to be part of the celebration? Are you going to share the good news? Or are you going to sit on the sidelines and watch?
Friends, Jesus already won. He already defeated death! He came back! Then he told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).” This is a command to all who claim to be Christians, GO and MAKE disciples. How can anyone become a disciple if people do not tell them about Christ. We must share our faith. We must live out our faith. But there is even better news. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We have the power of the Holy Spirit! That’s HUGE! He will equip us to be WITNESSES for Christ. Notice the progression here:
1-Jersualem. This was their local community. So, first the disciples were to witness to their local community. Where’s your Jerusalem? Well, that would be your neighborhood.
2-Judea and Samaria. This is the region they were in. So, after the disciples witnessed to their local community, they were to reach out beyond that community.
3- And finally to all the ends of the earth. The Gospel message will spread all over the world through the witness of disciples.
Are you on that team? Are you witnessing to your neighbors? Are you being a disciple and a disciple maker? Or. are you going to sit on the sidelines and watch as the good news spreads or are you going to be on His team and share that good news?
The Gospel is going to spread. You are invited to be part of it. But that’s the thing about free will, you have to choose to let God use you.
If you are not sure what team you are on, I invite you to pray about this. Evaluate your heart. Evaluate your life. Does that team banner read Jesus or Me?
If you know that banner reads Jesus, I invite you to rejoice and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Find at least one person this week you can share the love of Jesus with. Maybe you can babysit for your neighbor with six kids who wants a break (hint hint), maybe you can give that elderly lady across the street an oil change in her car. Whatever you do though, make sure the person knows it is because you love Jesus and want to share that love with them.
Be part of something BIG!
Don’t just watch it from the sidelines.