Philippians 1:18-21 (Devotional Thought)

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the 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 is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:18b-21 ESV)

When I was in the 5th grade my class used to take field trips to the local university swimming pool. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that it had a high dive. By high dive I’m not talking about the big diving board at your neighborhood pool, I’m talking about an Olympic size diving platform!

I was thrilled… then I was terrified. I didn’t get scared until I climbed all the way up to the top and stood out looking over the edge. Somehow the pool got a lot smaller. It wasn’t until one of the older students walked out to the edge with me, told me what to expect, and jumped with me that I ever really experienced my first jump off a diving platform… Then I was hooked.

For some people facing death can be terrifying. (I’m sure it’s a lot more scary than a kid looking down at a pool for the first time.) Unlike my dive platform experience… There is no one who has been there before to walk you through it… Or is there?

Paul is in chains and one of the very real outcomes of his situation is death. Yet somehow he finds a way to rejoice. He rejoices because he knows that he doesn’t walk through this dark valley alone. The church at Philippi is praying for him and of course he has the spirit of Jesus. Paul can’t help but know that Jesus has never left him. He remembers that first day when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus said, “Saul why do you persecute me?” He learned very quickly that Jesus is very much present with his people. Now that Paul belongs to Jesus, Jesus is present with him and Jesus will see him through this to the end.

This gives Paul hope and courage. He knows that God is not far away but He is right there with him. He can be bold because He’s not alone. He can be brave because Jesus has faced worse and will be with Paul no matter what happens. Paul doesn’t know what will happen, but God does and he can rest in that.

Paul has been on both sides of the coin. It’s ironic that we first hear about him when he is going around Jerusalem looking to throw Christian men and women into prison and now we catch a glimpse of him writing from prison accused of the very same crimes he accused those early believers. The persecutor has become the persecuted.

Pray that you will not be ashamed of Jesus today, and that you will have courage and confidence to tell others about him!

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Philippians 1:12-14 (Devotional Thought)

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 to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14 ESV)

Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians from prison in Rome. He was arrested for causing a riot. People were angry that he was preaching the gospel. He was a Roman citizen and had a right to appeal to the emperor and Paul claimed that right and was shipped to Rome. When he stands before the emperor he may be released or he may be killed, but at the time he writes this letter he is in prison.

When we go through difficult circumstances because we follow Jesus it can become easy to get depressed and wonder why we are suffering, but not Paul. Paul saw everything that was happening as God’s plan to take the gospel to a place it would have otherwise never gone. He was placed with Roman guards all day and all night, rather than telling them about how he was innocent or trying to convince them to put in a good word with someone, he was telling them about how Jesus had changed his life and could change theirs too! They were listening. Some, like the jailer from Philippi, were responding to the gospel and trusting in Jesus! And while the whole imperial guard didn’t sit down with Paul individually, he was making such big waves with those who were that they couldn’t help but tell the story of Paul, why he was in prison and about this Jesus that he preached. I imagine some people thought he was crazy, but others listened, and many believed.

This had another side effect. Other Christians had been watching Paul and when they saw that he was being bold to share the gospel it encouraged them to be bold as well. They weren’t afraid of what people would say anymore. They weren’t afraid of what people would do.

The gospel changes the way we look at our circumstances. Have you ever wondered why you live in the neighborhood you live in, attend the school you do, or have the interests you do? When you look at them through the lens of the gospel you see the reason you are where you are is to tell other people about Jesus. You may find yourself in a crumby situation like where you are sick and have to see doctors and nurses all the time, or at a school you don’t like. Think about this though, if God can cause use Paul being in prison to further the gospel then he can use you where you are.

What are the circumstances that God has placed you in for the purpose of telling others about Jesus?

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