Fridays in Philippians: Affliction by Way of a Brother

Thanks for joining me for our Fridays in Philippians Devotion.  Today we’re unwrapping Chapter 1 and verses 15-18:

Philippians 1:15-18: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. KJV

We saw in our last few devotions that Paul possessed an inner joy in spite of his adverse
philippianscircumstances.  He didn’t permit his difficulties to rob him of joy or his affliction distract him from his mission.  Even though he suffered injustice, was falsely accused, imprisoned, stripped of personal liberties and treated like a common criminal, he kept his eyes on the bigger picture.  He trusted that God’s Kingdom was being advanced in spite of his personal trials.  He saw how his own incarceration was causing other believers to wax bold.  He was able to share the Gospel with the guards and other prisoners around him.  Paul exemplified the spiritual truth that, by keeping your focus on the right things, God can give you peace and joy even in difficult circumstances.

It’s one thing to keep a positive attitude when the source of your affliction and adversity is an unbeliever.   It’s an entirely different thing, however, when it’s your own brothers and sisters in Christ that are afflicting you.  When we’re persecuted by the unbeliever, it sometimes serves to strengthen our joy. Knowing that we are being persecuted for the cause of Christ and that we are in “fellowship” with His suffering can actually bolster our joy in those trials.  But being mistreated and falsely accused by those in the body of Christ is much more difficult to handle.

Paul exemplified the spiritual truth, that, by keeping your focus on the right things, God can give you peace and joy even in difficult circumstances.

But Paul possessed joy and peace when he suffered at the hands of unbelievers or believers.  Neither scenario was able to steal the inner peace that came from his trust in God. He was still able to rejoice (vs. 18)!  He was still able to see that the purpose of God being fulfilled was more important than his own personal comfort.

There were fellow Christians who were taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment.  While Paul was able to move freely in his proclamation of the Gospel, they hesitated to move against him. But now that he was in prison, they saw it as their opportunity to advance themselves.  They were using Paul’s incarceration as a means to promote their own personal agenda.  They preached Christ, but their real objective was to gain adherents for themselves.  They apparently thought they could enhance their own positions by degrading the apostle – perhaps even implying that Paul was somehow guilty or deserving of his situation.  These divisive and opportunistic “brothers” where trying to steal away followers.

First, Paul was falsely accused and imprisoned by the heathen. And then, his Christian Philippiansbrothers “added affliction” to him rather than bringing him comfort or relief.  What an opportunity for the enemy to plant discouragement, self-pity and even resentment against God.  But Paul would not have it! He chose, once again, to see the good!

He told the Philippians, some people preach Christ for the right reasons, and others for the wrong reasons, but I rejoice because Christ is preached!  What an incredible attitude!  Imagine how many Christians might respond: “How can God let this happen to me?”  “I hope God punishes them for their wrong-doing!”  “I hope they fail utterly!”  But Paul rejoiced!  He saw the bigger picture. He didn’t condone preaching from false motives, but he knew the hearers would be saved when Christ was preached.  False ministerial motives cannot cancel the truth of the Gospel.  It is the power of God unto salvation!

Paul pointed out to the Philippians in verse 18, (in the NIV) “what does it matter?” What a great question.  What a great phrase to ask when suffering persecution or adversity.  If you can say this, it can help alleviate a lot of stress and worry:  What. Does. It. Matter?  Some people get stressed over things that really don’t matter.  Let it go.  It’s not worth stressing over.  It’s God’s business.  My life is in His hands.  He is in control.  All things work together for the good.  His Kingdom is being advanced.  What does it matter that some are mistreating me or that I’m suffering persecution or personal discomfort?  Paul’s ability to keep his eyes on what really mattered was a key to him having a joy that adversity could not erode.

~Matthew Ball

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