(We encourage you to read all of Philippians 1 each day this week. As you do today, focus on verses 12-18, printed below.)
12 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. 13 The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. 14 Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time. 15 Some certainly preach Christ with jealous and competitive motives, but others preach with good motives. 16 They are motivated by love, because they know that I’m put here to give a defense of the gospel; 17 the others preach Christ because of their selfish ambition. They are insincere, hoping to cause me more pain while I’m in prison.
18 What do I think about this? Just this: since Christ is proclaimed in every possible way, whether from dishonest or true motives, I’m glad and I’ll continue to be glad.
“Really? Some preached Christ to cause Paul more pain in prison?” (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:10) Scholar William Barclay said, “Others were moved by what Paul calls eritheia… which originally simply meant working for pay. But the man who works solely for pay… is out solely to benefit himself… there were those who preached the harder now that Paul was in prison, for his imprisonment seemed to present them with a heaven-sent opportunity to advance their own influence and prestige and lessen his.”*
Lord Jesus, I like being looked up to and treated with dignity. That’s not bad, but Paul’s words remind me that how I’m treated is less important than seeing your message shared. Grow that attitude in me. Amen.
* William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p.24.
** Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 90). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Six months ago our entire world changed. Almost everyone was forced into a quarantine, unless you were an essential worker at which point you likely began working harder than ever. Many people lost their jobs or were furloughed, and those who didn’t lose their jobs were thrust into this new territory of completely redefining how we work. Visits with friends and relatives came to a halt. We settled into this new normal, learned to take things one day at a time. And many of us are now restarting that process to reconfigure our lives around in-home schooling for our kids. At its core, we, all of us, on some level lost control of our lives.
This has been a very humbling time for many of us. We have tried to grasp and hold onto whatever control we could; I know I have found myself there many times since March. But here’s where I appreciate Paul’s letter. He was sitting in prison, clearly having lost total and complete control over his life, and yet he holds on to the one thing that truly matters: love in Christ. In the midst of the most humiliating, painful place in life, he was able to find joy in love. And he held onto that with a tight grip. If he would have chosen to try to grip control over his circumstances, he would have found disappointment and bitterness. Instead he chose to grip the love found in Jesus, something no guard and no enemy could take away.
I’m sitting at my kitchen table writing this, watching my son participate in his second day of Kindergarten. I see the love his teacher is pouring into the class, and it brings me joy. He has the opportunity to feel the love and pride that my wife and I have in him, and it brings us joy. I’m choosing in this moment to hold onto love, to see the joy that my pandemic circumstances have highlighted. I’m choosing to remember and to know that I am loved by God.
You, too, are loved by God. So I’ll ask you: What are you still holding tightly to that you could let go of, in order to make room for love and the joy that Christ has in store for you?
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