“But I would that you should understand brethren, that the things that happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel: so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, in all other places ….” Phil. 1: 12-13.
I suppose that hardly a day passes that we Christians don’t complain about something. We fuss about being handicapped in one way or another: that we are hedged in and are undergoing irritating and uncomfortable testing; or that we are tempted to the edge of our strength. Consequently, we grumble and are unable to do what we would like to do for the Lord.
The above Scripture text is one of many revelations into the ministry life of the Apostle Paul that proved the mettle of this man. His life as an apostle had been anything but easy. He was continually extinguishing brush fires of false teaching and practices in the churches he founded. He had problems with individual believers who were making a mockery of the Blood of Jesus. Add to that the repeated attacks of the unbelievers, Jew and Gentile, and you see a man who had plenty to complain about — but never did!
Are you contributing to, or hindering the advance of the Gospel? In the Scripture above Paul is writing to his beloved Philippians while a prisoner in Rome, and he is assuring them that his present circumstances are contributing to, rather than hindering, the advance of the gospel. What a remarkable statement
The key word in this Scripture is the word “furtherance.” I discovered that it was translated from a Greek word used in the first century to describe a company of woodcutters, who proceeded ahead of an army, and cut a road through a forest so they could advance. Paul is literally saying that his circumstances at the moment, were simply “divine woodcutters” cutting a path through the opposition so the Gospel might advance. Incredible! In prison, liberty gone, totally handicapped, chained to a Roman guard. But Paul says it is all God’s woodcutters making a road for the Good News!
You see, something was happening that the Roman government never anticipated: the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being preached from the pulpit of the Roman Empire. Detachments from the Praetorian Guard (the emperor’s elite unit of 10,000 palace guards) were the soldiers assigned to guard the Apostle 24 hours a day. As each detachment came on duty, Paul saturated them with the Good News, and they would in turn carry the message back to the palace barracks. Gradually the entire unit and the palace staff were soaked with the Good News.
And there were even more “Divine Woodcutters.” Brethren in Rome, jealous of Paul, were preaching the Message more energetically, simply out of envy. Other brothers friendly to Paul, out of love, began preaching with added enthusiasm. Paul’s response? “It makes no difference to me the why’s behind it; the woodcutters are at work, the gospel is getting out, and I’m glad.”
The Apostle’s message here refers to experiences that eventually come to the life of every Christian. All of us may not spend time in a prison or experience anything as drastic as Paul. But there are times when the walls seem to close in upon us, and barriers appear out of nowhere — things like difficult personal circumstances or physical problems. All such roadblocks, even though they are the work of the enemy, or even our own failure to heed God’s Word, can be turned into “Divine Woodcutters” contributing to the advancement of the Gospel … Through you!
Listen, Beloved, we do not glory in hardships and problems; but in the midst of them, we can become closer to Jesus and more dependent upon the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we ultimately overcome all of them and grow more efficient in proclaiming the Word.
Paul accomplished some of his greatest work when limitations upon him were the strongest. Listen to him as he speaks in Second Corinthians 12:9, paraphrased: “My weakness is no big deal anymore. I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power instead of showing off my own power and abilities. Since I know my whole life is all for Christ’s glory, I just get happy about it, and about all the persecutions, insult, hardships, and difficulties … for when I am weak then I am strong and the less I have the more I depend on Him!”