Philippians 1:12-13 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
Paul had experienced serious personal trouble, even fearing for his life on many occasions. You might think that he would take the opportunity of a letter to the mature believers at Philippi to seek help, relief or even an effort to see him freed from his imprisonment. But, that is not what we find at all.
What we do find is a tender and self-less spiritual mentor who is very concerned that the trouble he had faced may have served to discourage the growing believers in Philippi. So, in writing to them, he downplayed his own suffering and sought to encourage them. Paul had a tender care and compassion for others, even while he himself was suffering greatly.
We learn from Paul’s example that selflessness in suffering is the mark of a spiritually mature believer.
The fact that Paul downplayed his own suffering and quickly went on to encourage the Philippians not only says wonders about him and his sacrificial spirit, but it gives us tremendous insight into the values of the Philippians as well. Firstly, Paul knew that they so loved him that his trouble could have greatly distressed them. Secondly, Paul knew they were so devoted to the advancement of the gospel that learning of the gospel’s success would help them to see beyond the earthly troubles to God’s divine purpose behind it all.
The response to trials is often what distinguishes genuine believers from unbelievers. It is also that which distinguishes mature believers from immature believers (Matt 13:20-21).
The false believer does not run to God in trials, but away from Him. He doesn’t trust God’s divine wisdom through trouble, but questions it. He doesn’t suffer graciously but anxiously. He doesn’t endure trouble, allowing trials to mold and shape him – instead he seeks to escape trouble at all costs. It is often suffering which causes the false believer to renounce his faith in Christ, hoping for an easier path in the world.
On the other hand, it is suffering which causes the faith of a genuine believer to be put on display. His faith is tried, and found true (1 Pet 1:6-7). It is strengthened as it is exercised (James 1:3-4). He is lead to trust God in ways and to a degree which he had not before. The genuine believer sees God’s sovereign hand at work behind all trouble and humbly submits to it. As a result, he comes out of trials far stronger than he was when he went into them.
Paul knew that the Philippian church as comprised of mature, genuine believers. For this reason, he knew that if they understood that God used his trials for good, they would be both comforted and encouraged. And so, he tells them “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel”.
The above is an excerpt from Pastor Rick’s study through the book of Philippians