Sunday, April 25, 2010

Philippi - Sharing the Gospel

Philippi - Sharing the Gospel
Intro.: A while back a book caught my attention.

  1. When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

  2. The book caught my attention, but I never read it. On the other hand most of us have been caught by surprise when something unexpectedly bad happens to good people.

  3. Let me give you an example. Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications. I’ve been a preacher with much success and also have had some success as a writer. Some say I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader most places I’ve been. I’m over 50 years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places, I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I’ve not gotten along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you.i

  4. If you had not guessed, this is Paul's job application. Bad things to happen to good people.

  5. I want to read one passage that may help us to understand how Paul felt about one difficult situation he found himself in.

Read: Philippians 1:12-18


Trans: Where is Paul I prison?

Remember, that as Paul writes, he is in prison – probably in Rome, but worry about where later.

T.S. In the next few minutes I want look at three things that make Paul excited in Philippians 1:12-18

  1. Paul gets to preach the gospel

    1. I am occasionally surprised by the people of scripture. They don't behave the way I expect them to, their attitudes are different, they see things differently.

    2. And Paul is no different here – I mean, if I were stuck in prison for something I did not do, I would be stressed out. Big time.

    3. He is excited about being in prison – why? Because he still gets to share the gospel.

    4. His audience is limited.

(Ill.) We get excited when we hear about men like Martin Luther who began the Reformation and the very direction of cultures were effected. Or John Wesley or George Whitefield, two men from England who sat on opposite sides of the theological wall. But they had one thing in common – they both preached to thousands in the fields of 18th century England. Or even today, people are drawn to large churches.

    1. But not Paul – his audience as he writes is limited. One or two men at a time. Members of the Caesar's Praetorian guard were stationed one or two at a time around Paul – but day after day, week after week, he will be sharing his faith with a good number of Caesar's personal army.

    2. Paul did not have a huge audience at this point in his life. The letters he wrote would influence far more people than he ever could in that prison cell. Yet, he knew that his task was not to count numbers, but tell those who crossed his path about this person he had met, about this man who had changed his life, about Jesus Christ.

(Appl.) It is not the number of people whose lives we touch that is important. It is that we are being faithful to what God would have us do. For some, that will be a large church. For others, it will be a small church. And for some, it will only be the few individuals that cross our paths. Our goal is not to count – but to serve the one who died for us on that cross 2000 years ago.

  1. Strong believers get to preach the gospel

    1. Paul is not the only one who is empowered to preach while he is in prison. There are two other groups.

    2. Paul has around him a faithful group of men who seek to honor their lord in what ever way they can.

    3. They recognize, as do all of those who come in contact with Paul, that he is in prison, not because he has done anything wrong, not because he has injured anybody, but because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

(Ill.) John Foxe entered Oxford still a boy. He was eventually elected a fellow of Magdalen College, and from 1539 to 1545 he studied church history. He converted to Protestantism and was forced to resign his academic position as a result. In 1550 he was ordained by Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and he became friends with Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale, and Thomas Cramner. But when Queen Mary ascended the throne, tilting England back into Catholicism, Foxe fled. In Switzerland, he heard horrible news filtering from England. Latimer, Ridley, Cramner, and countless others were being captured and burned.

An idea formed in Foxe’s mind, soon obsessing him. He would compile a record of the persecution of God’s people. Despite living on the edge of poverty, Foxe spent every spare moment on his project. He labored by day in Oporinus of Basel’s printing shop to support his family, but by night he pored over his manuscript. He wrote vividly, giving details, painting word pictures. In 1559, Foxe published his book on the Continent—732 pages in Latin. Returning to England under Protestant Elizabeth, he resumed pastoral work and translated his book into English. John Day published it in London in 1563 under the title Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perilous Days Touching Matters of the Church.

But Foxe wasn’t finished. He spent four years traveling across England, interviewing witnesses, tracking down documents, finding letters. After long days of church ministry, he sat by flickering candlelight, continuing his writing. In 1570, a second edition appeared—two large volumes totaling 2,315 pages—then a third and a fourth.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was one of the most important events in Elizabeth’s reign, having an extraordinary impact on Britain. Copies appeared in every cathedral alongside the Bible. Vicars read from it during Sunday services. Francis Drake read it aloud on the western seas. It inspired the Puritans. It took the world by storm.ii

(Appl.) There are two errors that we sometimes fall into. The first is that being persecuted for my faith, for your faith, is something new. Nobody has had it as bad as me or as you. Not true. Jesus was persecuted, Paul was persecuted, most of the disciples experienced some kind of persecution during their lives.

There is another kind of error – that of thinking that living in the 21st century, we no longer have to deal with persecution. While we don't see much of it in America – there are parts of the world where converting to Christianity means being ostracized from the family and or community. There are parts of the world where converting to Christianity can be a certain death sentence.

    1. One might think that Paul's imprisonment might be a signal to keep the faith under wraps – after all, who wants to end up like Paul, in prison.

    2. Listen to what Paul says, “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” There may be some who are holding their tongues, but most, most, are encouraged as they watch Paul and are willing to share their faith with a world that is just beginning to understand what it means to follow Jesus.

    3. For some, suffering may slow them down. But for Paul and many of his fellow believers, Paul's suffering become motivation for spreading the Gospel.

  1. Weak believers are also preaching the gospel

    1. I should not surprise us that Paul is preaching the gospel. And probably only mildly surprised that there are believers who are sharing their faith.

    2. But something falls apart – you see believers, like so many others, have lots of motivations. Paul reminds us that some are sharing the gospels out of goodwill. But there are those who are jealous of Paul's reputation – they want to be known as the Paul of Rome rather than Paul of Tarsus.

    3. Peter, in his first letter, puts envy right up there with hate, lying, and fraud.

(Ill.) A little snail that lived by the ocean noticed with envy the big and beautiful shell in which the lobster lived. “Oh! How this little shell of mine pinches,” whined the little snail. “What a grand palace the lobster carries on his back! I wish I lived in his place. Oh! Wouldn’t my friends admire me in that shell! Think of a snail living in a mansion like that!” In time a wonderful thing occurred. The watching, envious snail beheld the lobster work right out of his shell to grow up in another, larger one. When the empty, metallic green shell of the lobster lay neglected on the beach, the snail said, “Now I shall have my wish. Hurrah! The little snail is going to live in a lobster shell!” In his pride he cried out to the birds overhead, “Ah, the little snail is going to live in a lobster shell.” He cried to the cattle in the field, “Oh, oh! Now you shall see. The little snail is going to live in a palace.” So the birds and the cattle in the field were curious and they watched the little snail. The snail pulled himself loose from his own little shell, and cried, “Well, I’m glad to say I’m through with you. Goodbye. You’ve pinched me and pressed me for the last time. I am going to live in the grand lobster shell.” The birds and the animals saw the little snail proudly crawl into the towering lobster shell and he huffed and puffed and blew and gasped in an effort to make himself fit. But with all his efforts he felt very small inside the grand lobster shell. He grew tired, too. That night he died because the great empty shell was so cold. A wise old crow then said, “You see! That’s what comes of envy. What you have is enough. Be yourself and save yourself from a lot of trouble. How much better to be a little snail in a comfortable shell than to be a little snail in a big shell and freeze to death!”iii



  1. iStreiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter : Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.) (280). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

  1. iiMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

  1. iiiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

No comments: