Adversity Advances the Mission

by | Jan 14, 2024 | Podcast, Sermons

Information about this sermon:

Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Philippians 1:12-30

Most people believe that becoming a Christian means a life of prosperity. When adversity comes it makes us think that something is wrong. Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us that God uses what we experience as adversity to continue advancing the gospel in the world. The gospel expands in times of conflict, suffering, and even death. We are never promised a prosperous life, but we are promised that Jesus, who faced the conflict, suffering, and death willingly, will be right there with us through it all.


Man I was just uh as we were singing the song Christ is mine forever more uh I I I was struck with the with the line mine are days here as a stranger Pilgrim on a narrow way one with Christ I will encounter harm and hatred for his name are some heavy words aren’t they harm and hatred for his name that’s not that’s not something that we like to to think about as a follower of Christ and yet uh it fits so well with our uh where we are this morning as we continue our our series uh on the Paul’s letter to the Philippians the main theme as we began last week is Paul’s concern for the uh the Believers in Philippi that they continued to advance The Gospel Mission and how appropriate it was for us as as we went through the book of Acts and really felt the Holy Spirit nudging us that we were to to push further into into Mission and reaching others for Christ sharing him with the with a lost uh a lost world that needs him uh so desperately but advancing the gospel is hard and it’s often faced if we take it seriously uh with a lot of adversity but the message we hear from Paul today is that uh the gospel continues to advance not uh not uh that adversity doesn’t uh doesn’t bring it to an end adversity actually does the opposite it continues to advance the gospel which is was completely countercultural right uh and counterintuitive to to the way we think or what we are looking for but the gospel continues to advance even in the midst of the adversity that we face in the mission of sharing Christ with the world but just to uh to bring us uh to recap a little bit from where we were last week Paul we really saw in the power of what he was communicating was in his prayer that he prayed for the Believers in Philippi Phil the Believers in Philippi were facing all kinds of external pressures uh they were outside cultural uh opponents uh who didn’t like them very much there were the the inside the church there were the judaizers who had come and were trying to uh uh drag them away from a gospel of grace and trying to uh to tell them that they needed more that they weren’t good enough that that there was more than just faith that would would save somebody they needed to subject themselves to the law and all of the uh all of the um the rituals of becoming a Jew first they were also facing uh their own economic strains things weren’t going for them from uh from that kind of standpoint they they were struggling strling in in many ways but in Paul’s prayer for them there were three things that we talked about last week that he prayed for them that their love would abound more and more that they would approve of what is excellent and that they would be filled with the righteousness that comes from Christ alone and what was surprising a little bit about that prayer was you know what what they were facing were all external pressures that were coming at them but Paul when he addresses them in his prayer and what he sees as the greatest need in their lives it wasn’t external it was all internal it was all for themselves that their love would would abound more and more because the issue they were facing was fear we talked about this last week that fear is actually the opposite uh of love it’s not hatred it’s not apathy it’s fear that resides beneath it all and that that the call was that for their love to abound more than more and more that the perfect love of Christ would cast out all their fear and they would love one another the other the other danger was their own moral failure so that his prayer for them was that they would approve of what is excellent that they would love the things that God loves because there’s nothing that deters the the mission and the advancement of the gospel than our own moral failure right and even worse of that is when we’re just shown to be Hypocrites telling people all how they should live and be better when we ourselves and the and the secret places of our lives are doing no better and that third that they’ be filled with the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ it showed that the real danger was self-righteousness the real hindrance to sharing the gospel for others to come to know Christ through through through our gospel Proclamation it is our own self-righteous Pride that just turns people away acting like we know it all but through it all Paul also revealed this that there’s nothing that can stop the Gospel Mission that he who began a good work in you will see it through through to the end to fruition in the day of Christ Jesus that’s the promise that we have well today in verses 12 to3 Paul’s continuing along the same line of discourse encouraging them uh in the face of the adversity that they’re going through to keep on advancing The Gospel Mission don’t quit and in fact the the theme of this verse as I talked about just a moment ago was that instead of being a hindrance to the advancing of the gospel adversity is actually something that serves to advance the gospel in the world we’ve seen this from the beginning we’ve seen this from the early church as they fac persecution the gospel spread the church grew we see it in other cultures right now that are considering or continuing to see persecution physical persecution that the gospel’s spreading and it’s growing there the gospel grows in the face of of adversity and so I want to begin to walk through these uh these verses together I encourage you to either open your Bibles to Philippians chapter 1 or your insert or your your bulletin that you have with you uh as we work through some of the these verses together starting in verse 12 Paul and writing this letter to the Philippians he he says I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole Imperial Guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ and most of the brothers having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment are much more bold now to speak the word without fear so what Paul’s telling them is I know you’re going through a lot but what what I can share with you in my own life is that actually the gospel is continuing to advance even though I’m going through adversity myself I’m stuck here in prison I I I’ve been thrown here unjustly uh and I’ve demanded to see the uh to see the emperor and to have my case heard as we learned in our in our walk through the book of Acts uh but he’s but he’s just sitting there and he’s suffering and he’s facing adversity and yet in the midst of the adversity he’s telling the gospel continues to be spread uh and he gives them two examples doesn’t he the first example is uh that Christ has become known throughout the whole petorian guard uh and to everyone else now why would this be such a great example for for Paul well this guard was incredibly important in the Republic days it began as a small escort that projected commanders and governors and uh and Generals uh that was tasked with just their protection but by the 20 27 BC Augustus the the first emperor took it a step further and he added 4500 men to the petorian guard uh and they became his uh his bodyguards right he became the muscle uh and in fact this group would become a little bit more notorious as uh as the Empire continued and got more and more corrupt uh if you wanted to overthrow the emperor you had to appease the petorian guard who were quite willing to do it at the right price uh but the point is this is an incredibly in fact some of the petoran Guard actually would sit on the Council of advice for the emperor himself this was an incredibly powerful and influential group and so Paul when he’s saying like hey I’m in prison but the whole petorian guard has now heard the word of Christ they know why I’m here in prison I’m here because of Jesus Christ for his gospel sake uh and that only happened because of the adversity that I’m facing and then the second uh example that he gives is that it fostered courage in the brothers right that the brothers that who were there in Rome uh they in by seeing his courage and what he was going through and the way the gospel was continuing to be heard and uh by by the Boran guard and the way that Paul was courageously continuing to preach Christ crucified uh it gave them courage it gave them boldness to be able to continue to share the gospel and the mission in their own lives and what Paul has experienced as I said just a minute ago it’s been repeated over and over and over again again that the church flourishes and grows in the midst of adversity and in persecution you know when things get stale I don’t say they don’t Advance because God promises he’s going to advance the gospel but when things get stale is when we’re in times of prosperity and great comfort we become more introspective don’t we we worry about ourselves we get selfish and that’s when the gospel stalls but when persecution happens that’s when we see the the gospel the importance of the gospel and the depths of it uh and people coming to to know Christ uh and so Paul’s trying to tell them it’s through adversity be encouraged you’re facing adversity but this is when the gospel advances and then he gives them three areas in particular of adversity uh that can be a a hindrance that can cause us uh to begin to become introspective that can get our attention away from the mission and start thinking about ourselves more uh that are that can jeopardize the partnership and the gospel uh that we have with with each other and with Paul as he was writing to uh the Philippians and the three the three uh the three issues that can cause us to become more introspective are external conflict relational conflict death and suffering you know relational conflict death and suffering that these are the three things that can cause us to begin to look internally and to become selfish in our Focus instead of continuing to push forward and advancing the gospel and proclaiming Christ to others but as always with Paul Paul doesn’t address the issue by giving them an attack plan about how they can defeat the external enemy that is all around them he deals with how these issues threaten their own hearts and for us today how do these issues of of of con relational conflict of death of suffering how do they threaten our own hearts that cause us to go introspective that cause us to stall in our passion to share the gospel with others and to advance The Gospel Mission of sharing Christ because that the Real Enemy isn’t out there the Real Enemy the real threat’s in here it’s in our own Hearts you know when I was uh playing football I remember in our in our uh wait room there was quotes everywhere you know inspirational quotes that are supposed to get you um and uh one of them I think I think it was Vince Lombardi who uh who who said that that pain makes cowards of us all right there were many days I looked up at that thing and I thought I want to punch him in the eye but there’s something about that I think that the the fear of of relational conflict the fear of death the fear of suffering it does make cowards of us all and it makes us cowards because we think that we’ve got to buckle down and just worry about ourselves and not worry about those who are perishing around us and so Paul goes into these three areas of relational conflict that he’s facing he then he then talks about death itself and then he talks about suffering as they serve as being a threat and a cause for us to to concentrate on ourselves instead of others so I want to look at these in verse 15- 18 uh Paul talks about this relational conflict in in a way of sharing his own testimony of what’s uh going on with him and so this is this is what he wrote 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 the former proclaimed Christ out of selfish ambition not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment what then only that in every way whether in pretence or in truth Christ is proclaimed and in that I Rejoice now the issue here is a little unique it’s a little different than I think what most of us have experienced when we have relational conflict when it comes to to sharing Christ with others in our lives for Paul here uh what would it be why why would anyone preach a gospel out of rivalry doesn’t that seem a little bit odd right hey I want you to be saved so I can really stick it to

Paul like it does doesn’t make much much sense right like it wouldn’t bother us right like that our friend that we may have a little issue with or that they’re sharing Christ with our other friend and he received them and uh you know what doesn’t hurt me like you know I’m glad glad you did that uh so so what what was going on here well Paul’s referring to those folks we began talking about last week those judaizers those folks who had come into the church behind him and were trying to discredit him and and didn’t like the gospel of grace that he was proclaiming and we’re saying that you know yes Jesus saves uh but you also have to be circumcised you also have to follow the the law and become fully Jewish in order to fully experience the salvation of God to truly be loved and to be favored by him which was the anti-gospel El that Paul had been been preaching and it was these folks who were coming in and preaching the gospel uh trying to stick it to Paul saying hey Paul we’re winning all these people over for Christ while you’re stuck there in prison uh we’re really getting you so they they weren’t doing it out of pure intention uh they were doing it just out of Envy just trying to stick it to Paul but yet what Paul comes to is that in the end it doesn’t matter does it don’t only thing that matters is that in every way whether in pretense or in truth that Christ is Proclaim proclaimed and it’s in that that I that I have that I Rejoice well how can we relate that to us right when we’re facing relational opposition for for sharing the gospel because we don’t run into this exact same situation uh this one was a bit unique I mean we may at some point but I’d say universally we probably don’t uh but we do face conflict relationally or we fear it we fear the any kind of conflict relationally with those around us maybe that we work with that it kind of scares us away from from being bold and courageous with sharing the gospel with those around us and I don’t mean doing it in an insensitive way uh but it makes us afraid to do it because we don’t want to we don’t want to rock the boat we don’t want people not to like us we want to be liked we want people to uh to to want to be around us because if we share R boldly maybe some people will get resentful won’t they maybe even worse they they’ll want to afflict Us in some way they’ll really want to come after us and attack us like the judaizers were trying to do to Paul but instead of of telling us well here’s how you should go out and and take the offensive and take care of those people those uh people who were trying to uh to to afflict you Paul makes this point that all that really matters is that Christ is proclaimed and that I Rejoice the proclamation of Christ is all that really matters now that’s a bit convicting isn’t it because if if it were really our hearts intent that the proclamation of the Gospel was all that matters then there would be no fear there would no be fear of any kind of relational conflict with anyone you know all that we would care was that they heard the gospel you know if they if they don’t like us or if they want to afflict us that’s fine but that’s not how we we feel fear we feel fear conflict and opposition though we being told are inevitable is what’s really Paul’s telling us it’s inevitable it’s going to happen it’s why that song was so powerful we didn’t pick that particular song for for the message that I was uh that uh but as as as as Debbie was reading the passage this this song came to mind uh but that really mine are the days here as a stranger Pilgrim on a narrow way one with Christ I will encounter harm and hatred for his name he’s saying it’s inevitable but don’t worry all that matters in the midst of it is that Christ is proclaimed the only danger the only thing that we really need to worry about is if it shuts us up and if it causes us out of fear not to share the gospel with those who so desperately need it the next section is in 19 to 26 and this is what uh what Paul wrote for I know that through your prayers and help of the spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my Deliverance as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body whether by life or by death for to me to live as Christ and to die is gain if I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor for me yet which I shall choose I cannot tell I’m hardpressed between between the two my desire is to depart and to be with Christ for that’s far better but to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account convinced of this I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus because of my coming to you again see Paul’s addressing here I think the second fear that can cause us to to turn Inward and become selfish and that’s the fear of death we all have a certain fear of death don’t we and yet Paul tells us that that he knows that through the the the prayers of the Philippians and through the help of the holy spirit that this present this present adversity that he’s facing that it is going to turn out for salvation he’s sure of that but Paul ultimately isn’t talking about his fre freedom and exoneration from prison I mean he’s hopeful for that he’s trying for that he’s doing everything he needs to do to try to to get there he’s talking about a greater Freedom a greater salvation that he knows in Christ in the face of death and that’s why he says to live as Christ and to die is gain what he’s telling us is to die is better how’s that for rocking our worlds to die is better we do everything we can do to avoid it everything we spend Millions it’s a billion dollar industry right to do everything we can do to avoid death but Paul’s telling us to die is better to be with Christ forever it’s totally countered to culture our culture it’s countered to what our own hearts are always telling us to live as Christ on the other hand it means to serve other people right that’s what he’s telling us if if I’m to live it means I’m to serve you as Christ has called me to serve it’s to continue this Gospel Mission to continue it on but to die is better in fact he says you know he says that I’m not sure which I want to choose he’s being really honest I don’t know because to die and to be with Christ man that would be great that’s what all this has been about I want to be with him forever you know in the Hebrew culture death was was something that in many circles was considered uh to be um sort of a failure the failure of Shalom of God’s blessing in their lives a prosperous life the wholeness of life that death broke it and then in that way it was a failure in the in the Roman World death was definitely seen as a disgrace and a failure a bad thing right but Paul here death isn’t a bad thing death is Victory death is Victory the real struggle is to continue living death isn’t something for us to fear is what Paul’s proclaiming because Jesus conquered sin and death death on our behalf in First Corinthians Paul wrote it this way death is swallowed up in Victory oh death where is your Victory oh death where is your Sting the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law but thanks be to God who saves us through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ the threat to the Gospel Mission is it can be a fear of death of what’s going to happen to us but when we really know that our Victory is through Christ through his victory on the cross that we’ve been made Alive With God forever and that it is better to be with him it completely eliminates the threat death isn’t something we have to fear Tim Keller said all death can do now to Christians is to make their lives infinitely

better infinitely better what an amazing word because of the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ uh I’m going to paraphrase paraphrase the the final section in verses 27 through3 um but Paul Paul here talks about the next threat and that is the suffering so not only is it the the relational struggles that we have with other people and the conflict uh there’s death itself and that fear can hinder Us in living into the Gospel Mission but then there’s suffering suffering is another fear uh and Paul though then drops this bombshell in verse 29 he says this to them for it has been granted to you for Christ’s sake not only to believe in him but also to suffer for his

sake So Not only was it was it God uh that God had appointed them to believe so God had done the work in their own Hearts to the Holy Spirit of bringing them to a place of faith in Christ they’ve also been appointed to to suffer how many of you signed up for

that yeah that’s right we didn’t realize it you did sign up for it but you didn’t realize it but that’s what it means to follow Christ is to enter into his suffering with him and we’re told consider it all joy to be deemed worthy of suffering as Christ suffered with him suffering isn’t a sign of weakness or fail failure it isn’t uh it’s part of the plan it’s part of God’s plan this is good news that we’re advancing it isn’t about health it isn’t about wealth and it isn’t about prosperity it’s about people who are out there who are walking in darkness coming into the Light of Christ it’s about the Dead coming to life Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good he came to make make dead people alive that’s the mission that we’re on Keller again said the Temptation for those who are suffering is to assume that because we can’t think of any good purpose God may have for our suffering that there can’t be any we don’t know the purposes of God in all our suffering but we do know the greater purpose it’s for the advancement of the gospel because the gospel advances in the midst of our adversity whether it be in the midst of our own relational conflict whether it be in the face of death itself whether it be in our Suffering The Gospel continues to advance and we can sh as we share Christ with those who so desperately need him in Egypt some of you you may remember this uh in 2017 in an historic Coptic Church in Egypt on Palm Sunday there was a bomb that went off killing 50 parishioners and injuring hundreds of more uh but just hours after the black last amid the the outrage and the grief uh father Boule uh George stepped before a pack church and he gave the terrorist a three-point sermon that went viral after that worldwide and it was entitled the message to those who kill us and his three points were simple but not cliche he said thank you we love you and we’re praying for you he said thank you because the terrorist gave the Dead the honor to die as Christ had died because the terrorist shortened the victim’s journey to their Heavenly home because the terrorist allowed Christians to fulfill Christ’s words in Luke 103 behold I send you out as Lambs among the wolves and because the terrorist actions made people mindful of their Eternal Destinies the church was in fact now overflowing with people who didn’t ordinarily come then father George said we love you because even murderers and thieves love those who love them but only follows of Jesus are taught to love our enemies and then he closed his message with we’re praying for you because he reason if a terrorist if a terrorist could taste the love of God even one time it would drive the hatred right out of his heart was a powerful example of what follower of Christ and advancing The Gospel Mission is all about friends the gospel were advancing this good news of Jesus is that he faced incredible opposition he faced unimaginable suffering and he faced death itself he didn’t avoid it he entered into it and he enter into it because he loves you and he loves me in the midst of our advancing the gospel the opposition the suffering even death it isn’t a surprise it’s something we should expect and we know this that he is in the midst of it with us walking with us and loving us in it to the very end



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