Both salvation and suffering are gifts from God. We don’t choose our salvation and we don’t choose our suffering. God saves us by grace alone and this same grace enables us to persevere in the suffering He chooses for us. Like Paul, the Philippians would suffer for Christ’s sake. You and I will too. The conflict believers face is the same, even though the circumstances might be different. Therefore, put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:10-17). Submit your suffering to Christ, asking Him to use it to sanctify you and advance the gospel of Christ.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he was confined to prison, awaiting his hearing before Caesar (see Acts 23:11; 25:9-12; 26:32). Although he was chained to a soldier at all times, he was able to write letters, have visitors, and boldly proclaim the gospel (28:30-31). During this time Paul’s suffering served to advance the gospel throughout the entire imperial guard, as well as all associated with it (Phil. 1:13). But he was also a witness to his fellow Christians in Rome. As they witnessed Paul’s boldness while in chains, their boldness grew to proclaim the gospel in Rome without fear. They learned that God could turn even prison into a place of gospel advancement. When your present circumstances are not ideal, remember that God often leaves us where we’re at for the advance of His gospel.
Suffering to Advance the Gospel
Sadly, there were some believers who were glad Paul was imprisoned (Phil. 1:15, 17). Even though their message was the same as Paul’s message, their motives were not. They were envious of Paul’s gifts, so instead of partnering with him, they were glad he was imprisoned. It is remarkable, then, that Paul is able to rejoice that their message of the gospel is going forth. Regardless of their motives, he rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed.
Not all were envious of Paul. There were some who preached Christ “from good will” and “out of love,” recognizing Paul was imprisoned for “the defense of the gospel,” and wanting to partner in truth with him (Phil. 1:15-16). This is the example we should follow. Plead with the Lord to purify your motives, especially when you see envy and rivalry in your heart. Ask Him to keep you faithful to proclaim Christ. Ask Him to help you partner with others for the gospel instead of competing with them.
Serving Others for their Growth in the Gospel
Paul’s mission in life was to make Christ known. Through his words he proclaimed Christ and by his works he adorned its proclamation.