An Attitude That Destroys Barriers
Title: AN ATTITUDE THAT DESTROYS BARRIERS
Text: Philippians 1:12-21
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…though it’s an unalienable right according to our Declaration of Independence…the pursuit of happiness is illusive…always out of our grasp. As we have already discovered in our series on Philippians, happiness doesn’t come from without; it comes from within. Happiness is not dependent on outward circumstances, but on our inner mind-set. It’s a choice, not a pursuit. If we pursue happiness instead of choosing joy, we will never find it. On the other hand, we can choose joy even in the midst of bad circumstances.
The difference in the two mind-sets is thus: The wrong mind-set needs certain things before they can be joyful; the right mind-set needs virtually nothing tangible to give them joy. The wrong mind-set is dependent on others to provide joy; the right mind-set creates their own reasons for joy. The wrong mind-set sees joy as being out there, always in the future; the right mind-set chooses it now, making it a reality. Paul nails it home when he penned these words: Phil. 4:8.
As Paul pens this letter, he is in prison in Rome, but as we will see tonight, instead of the gospel being hindered by his chains, it spreads to some unlikely households. His chains actually advanced the gospel. Read Text.
1. Starting in verse 12, Paul is musing over his most recent circumstances. Many would think they were horrible and unjust. How did Paul view his circumstances? (As progress of the gospel so that the Praetorian Guard heard it.) 1:12-13
Insight: Since Paul was unjustly imprisoned, the soldiers witnessed his character and attitude, and it broke down a “holier than thou” preacher image they may have had towards him. His attitude captivated their attention.
The word Paul uses for “progress” (prokope) in verse 12 is an army term. It means “to cut down in advance.” It referred to cutting down trees and brush and removing barriers that would hinder the progress of an army. Paul saw his imprisonment as a way God was cutting down all the barriers so that the gospel would advance in Rome, and in particular to a group that was previously impossible to reach.
2. Anyone have an idea of what the counter-part would be to the Praetorian Guard today? (Since they were a hand-picked group of soldiers as Caesar’s personal body guards, today it would be the Federal agents of the Secret Service.)
3. Describe the circumstances during Paul’s imprisonment that lead to the gospel being heard by the Praetorian Guard. (Chained to him for 6 hour shifts for over 2 years; during this time they heard him pray, preach, and dictate epistles; they listened as he conversed with others about forgiveness through Jesus Christ; so this way the gospel penetrated an otherwise impossible to reach group.)
4. Now for the crucial thing to grasp…do you see anything here that would give you the idea that Paul begrudged this security arrangement? (No; he wasn’t hindered as a preacher; he just viewed them as a captivated audience who got six uninterrupted hours of exposure to the gospel.)
Insight: Paul was still a preacher…but only to a smaller crowd. This way the gospel infiltrated into Caesar’s household. 4:22
Insight: None of this would have happened if Paul had chosen to complain to God in front of the guards about his circumstances. Someone is always watching how we deal with our trials. If we choose to focus on how the Lord is using our circumstances, we are witnessing by our life testimony.
5. What causes someone to share Christ with others even in persecution? (Deep convictions, zeal for God, the fire of the Holy Spirit within them, a testimony that cannot be silenced.)
6. Paul’s imprisonment created an incentive for others to preach. The incentive worked two ways. How so? (V.15 – some gained courage from Paul and doubled their efforts to gain lost time for Paul’s constraint. V17- others preached out of selfish ambition.)
7. What do you think the selfish ambitions were that Paul mentions in verse 17? (Perhaps to gain some of Paul’s disciples or advance their own popularity.)
8. What was Paul’s attitude while all this was going on while he was stuck in prison? 1:18 (So what! Whether they preach by right or wrong motives, or they take pot-shots at me, if Christ is preached, that alone intensifies my joy! The message is what matters to me, not the messenger.)
Insight: If we will work at developing the right attitudes, God will work at expanding our ministry. Don’t let someone’s wrong motives rob your joy that Jesus is being preached.
9. This proper focus helped Paul to face the uncertainty of his future that he elaborates in verses 1:19-21 How so? (Because the gospel was spreading and people were proclaiming Christ all because of his imprisonment, Paul was greatly encouraged.)
Insight: You won’t find any self-pity in these words, because for Paul the most important thing in life wasn’t his plans or his personal comfort…it was exalting Jesus. He then declares one of the biggest truths that helped Paul endure through all his difficulties with joy, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Insight: For Paul the pursuit of happiness was the pursuit of Christ…and that created unending joy.
Many around us are still caught on the American Dream treadmill of pursuing happiness. They think that lasting joy is out there, just waiting for them when they buy that new car or home. They still think how good life would be if they only had certain things. They still haven’t found that happiness and they are desperately watching us for the source of our joy. Now, because of Paul, we can share it with them.
I don’t know about you, but I gained some valuable insights from Paul in this lesson.
- He shows us how to handle difficult circumstances.
- He encourages us to speak out with courage.
- He models maturity with rotten personalities and to stay focused on the message of Christ.
- He shows us how to accept all circumstances as an opportunity to show the character of Christ.
Spirit filled people like Paul don’t walk by too often…but he encourages us to be the next one! Do others know about Christ because of your deep convictions?