Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.
When the Christians at Philippi got word that Paul was imprisoned in Rome, they became very distressed at his situation. When Paul heard about the Philippians’ distress, he became distressed at their distress. So what did he do? He wrote them a letter of encouragement. He assured them, “Don’t worry about me. All of this is working for good because it’s helping me achieve my purpose in life.” Paul was a man who understood the power of a positive purpose. And he had the same purpose in life that you and I have–to glorify God.
First of all, a positive purpose in life has the power to provide joy in unwelcome circumstances. Paul said, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
When you ask some people, “How are you doing?” they give you a lot more information than you really want. They will inventory every ache, every pain, every bad feeling they’ve had. Well, the apostle Paul wasn’t that way. Although he had a long list, he just tells the church that although his circumstances have been negative, they’ve turned out for good.
In fact, if you want to know the circumstances that Paul makes a passing reference to in this chapter, you have to go back to the book of Acts. In Acts, we find out that Paul traveled to Jerusalem to deliver a love gift to the saints, but while he was there he was falsely accused of desecrating the temple. So the Jews had him arrested. Then the Romans thought he was a fugitive. So Paul became a political pawn between the Jews and the Romans. He spent two years in prison as they argued about what to do with him. Finally Paul told the authorities, “I’m a Roman citizen. I need to make my case to the emperor.” So he got permission to go to Rome. Paul then got on a boat to sail toward Rome–but the ship wrecked in a terrible storm. He was stranded on the island of Malta for three months. Finally, he was able to arrive in Rome at last and make his appeal to Caesar. He was in prison for two years awaiting the verdict of his trial.
Those are Paul’s circumstances. But instead of becoming bitter about them, Paul said, “I want you to know that these few negative things have happened to me, but they have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” The Greek word translated “progress” in this verse refers to a woodcutter who would go ahead of an advancing army in order to cut down trees so that the army could move forward. So Paul was saying, “The negative things that happened to me have cleared the way for the advance of the gospel. That’s why I can rejoice in these things—because they are clearing the way for my real purpose in life: to make Jesus Christ known to as many people as possible.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power of a Positive Purpose” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.