Joy Filled Ministry – Philippians 1: 12-18

Good morning church! As we are all aware, we’ve been going through a series titled “Joy filled life” from the letter to the Philippians. Especially over the last few weeks, our main focus has been on the topic of joy-filled prayer – the how, why and what of joy filled prayer.

This week we turn our focus to “Joy filled Ministry”. Now we may think – does “ministry” only apply to pastors and church leaders? The answer is no. Every person who has received the gospel and placed their faith in Jesus Christ is called to ministry.

From a new born believer to a believer who’s been in the faith for many years – we are all called to ministry – to proclaims the grace of God that He’s revealed and promised through His Son Jesus Christ. So let’s read today passage from Philippians 1:12-18

Can our ministry truly be joy filled? Is it possible to live a life where we can daily experience joy as we share the gospel? And I understand why it might be hard for us to believe that truth. Maybe it’s our circumstances. Maybe it’s fears. Maybe it’s our reputation – all these things can make it difficult for us to see ministry as something that brings joy. I believe today’s passage offers us three amazing truths to encourage our hearts:

1. God’s purpose is greater than our circumstances (v12-13)

12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

I think it’ll be good to understand what exactly happened to Paul to get the context. What were the circumstances that affected him at that point?

  • Restricted Freedom: Apostle, pastor, author and global missionary – Paul – he should’ve been travelling to various cities preaching and teaching God’s Word. Instead he’s confined to a room where he’s under house arrest being bound by chains and being guarded by a Roman soldier 24/7.
  • Demeaning Status: He was labelled as a prisoner of Rome. Perceived as someone who committed a crime against the state. What does a tag of a prisoner/criminal do to someone’s ministry and reputation? It can affect it big-time.
  • Suffered for Christ: In the eyes of the world, life was quite comfortable and prosperous for him while he was an unbelieving Jew, but the moment he turned to the Lord things started to get really tough for him. He didn’t do anything deserving to be arrested and tried in a court. The guilt that he’s being charged for: proclaiming God’s love and rescue through Jesus Christ. He suffered for Christ.
  • Delayed Justice: Years have passed since he was arrested in Jerusalem. Multiple rounds of interrogation and court hearings took place but with no result. Eventually he had to appeal to Caesar and that’s how he arrived in Rome. While he wrote this letter, the hearing with Caesar was still pending. So he’s not received justice till then.    

You can see and understand how this was not an easy time for Paul and yet we see him make a remarkable statement where he says that all this served to advance the gospel! How can something so difficult serve to advance the gospel? The answer is in v13.

13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

What’s unbelievable is that the imperial guard are a group of 10,000 soldiers who are personal body guards of the Emperor. Influencers? Absolutely – Big influencers. And the “rest” can probably refer to the members in Caesar’s palace and even the city. We know in Philippians 4:22 – in Paul’s closing words of the letter he mentions “saints from Caesar’s household send their greetings”!!! Isn’t this amazing that members of Caesar’s palace and maybe even the royal family turned to Jesus Christ through this situation?

Because God is God & because He is omnipotent – He can use unlikely individuals in unlikely situations to reach unlikely people groups with the gospel!

Unlikely Individuals: Paul – the renowned cross-cultural missionary – who would’ve thought that God would chose him to minister out here!

Unlikely Situations: Another interesting observation is that this fruitful ministry did not take place in a huge hall or a stadium but rather in prison!

Unlikely People Groups: This was probably the last place most believers would chose for ministry because if things go south then it could mean immediate death because you’re directly approaching the ruler of the powerful Roman kingdom.

I’m sure for many of us – as believers we earnestly desire to serve the Lord and be active in ministry. Although we desire fruitful ministry, the problem is that we want to chose our own mission field! We think “if I had a better job, then I would serve God fully”, “if I go to so and so place, then I would be more active in sharing my faith”, “if God could change my circumstance, then I will be able to serve Him better”, “If God could give me better people around me, then I’ll minister to them better”. So we want our own mission field but that’s not how God sees it.

God says “You are in the perfect mission field that I’ve appointed for you right now”. You’ve been uniquely placed in this phase in life, in this unique circumstance and among these unique people because you’re in the perfect position to make Jesus known”.

Some of you might be thinking “Man, I’m in this current circumstance as a consequence of my sin, can God still use me?” If you repent of your sins, turn away from it today and trust in the forgiveness & purpose that God has for you – you can still be used by God! God is more than able to do it over.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

How do we know if it’s true? Well when we look at the Bible we see numerous stories of men and women that have messed it up. Jacob, Moses, David etc. But when they understood the faithfulness and mercy of God, they turned to Him in repentance and God used them.

Unless God calls you to another place or another situation, remember that you are in the best and perfect mission field for God to use you to reach unique people with the gospel. That’s our calling! It might look different from the person sitting next to you. That’s fine. But this is the right mission field.

2. God’s faithfulness is greater than our fears (v14)

14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[g] without fear.

What’s interesting is to see how Paul’s imprisonment is now influencing and encouraging other believers to speak and share the gospel fearlessly. But how was that possible? How can other believers get encouraged by the sufferings of a brother in Christ?

Here’s my thought on this. I think it might be because of the continual joy and witness in Paul’s life. They probably thought – “He should be depressed or frustrated or fearful or bitter by now” but for some reason he’s full of joy and persistent in witnessing. How come? Was it because Paul was emotionless or because Paul was in denial and didn’t accept his circumstance? No, I don’t think so.

Not only did Paul understand that God’s purpose is greater than his circumstances but he realized that God’s faithfulness is close to him, is near him especially when he’s going through difficult times.

Turn with me for a minute to Acts 23:11. This happens while Paul is still in Jerusalem before going to Rome. The Pharisees and Sadducees and all the Jewish leaders are interrogating him in front of a Roman tribunal. At one of the statements that Paul makes – the entire court room erupts in great violence. To the extent that the Romans are fearful that Paul will be torn into pieces. They quickly commanded him to be removed by force and brought him back into the camp before things got worse. You can imagine the confusion and fear that Paul experienced at that point. And then we read v11.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Our Lord Jesus is not someone who just commands us to witness for Him and live for Him while He observes from a distance. Our Lord is with us…He stands with us especially as we go through difficult circumstances. His faithfulness never departs from us! And that’s why even in the most terrifying and troubling circumstances we can still experience great joy and boldness.

Just think about the compelling statement we make when in spite of our circumstances we still joyfully minister to others. Instead of going further away from God during difficult circumstances, when other people see us grow closer to the Lord Jesus then they are emboldened and inspired. Not because they are bold and strong in themselves but because they’ve understood that God’s faithfulness is much greater than our fears!

3. God’s glory is greater than our reputation (v15-18)

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

What Paul says in v15-18 is that there were two types of people that were being emboldened to preach the gospel. One group were the ones with a sincere motive – they were inspired by Paul imprisonment as we read in the previous point.

But the other group were people who were using this opportunity to harm and damage Paul’s reputation. Although there isn’t too much mentioned about what they did, we know this for sure that they did it with impure motives for selfish gain.

Interestingly in v18 we see Paul make an unusual statement – he says whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice! Now Paul isn’t approving of their wrong motives…he’s clearly calling that as sin but he’s taking a step back to not make his personal reputation as the main issue. He wants to bring glory to God and isn’t primarily concerned about the hit that his reputation is going to take.

And here’s the principle I want us gauge: as we engage with people and share the gospel and when God gives us the privilege to see fruit in ministry, it could also invite envy from some people. They might come and say “I’m more qualified and more skilled – I deserve to have that ministry” and this selfish ambition might drive them to attack and damage your reputation. What should we do that time? Should we fight back? Retaliate? Give it back to them in their own terms?

I think we need to remind ourselves that it’s not about us ultimately. Our ministry is not about us but for God’s glory. The church is not ours but it’s for God’s glory! It belongs to the Lord Jesus. So even as we are fully invested in ministry – we are still in a sense holding onto it loosely.

Saju and I constantly remind each other and we always mention it to you all – that this church doesn’t belong to either one of us. It’s God’s church and He’s appointed us as overseers right now. When God say it’s time to step down from this role, we’ll do that. And this doesn’t only apply to pastors but also to all of us ministering to people around us, God’s glory is more important than our reputation. This deals with humility and that’s why it’s primarily a heart issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *