By Sam Opolot.
I love Paul’s letter to the Philippians, because even though it is written from behind prison walls it has a very joyful tone. The word ‘rejoice’ appears eight times in the four chapters of this book (NIV).
Ordinarily, a time in prison like all other times of difficulty is not a time to write a joyful and celebratory letter. It would be a time to mourn, a time to grumble, a time to complain, a time to be bitter, a time of sadness! It is not the case for Paul, at least not in this letter to the Philippians.
The question to ask is, what is it that makes Paul pen such a joyful and encouraging note instead of a sad, bitter and angry one? The Answer seems to lie in what is the most important thing for Paul. The most important thing and the reason for his celebration seems to be in what he says in this sets of verses:
“ I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,… And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear…..” and after noting that indeed some people preached Christ for all kinds of motives he adds “….in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…” Philippian 1:12 – 18
Paul certainly relishes and rejoices in the fact the Christ is proclaimed, his circumstances not withstanding, the most important thing is that the good news is being spread! I wonder if we too have a great urge to see the gospel proclaimed, to see the truth about Christ shared! I wonder if that is what brings us the greatest joy? Or are we locked up in the craze to “make ends meet”, have our struggles and pains overshadowed this great urge! Or could it also be that our success and indeed the craze for success has blinded us from seeking to engage in that which should be the source of the greatest joy! We have a challenge to give priority and due importance to the proclamation of the gospel no matter our circumstances.
I would like to note also that Paul is fully aware that he is not in this gospel business alone. He notes and celebrates the part played by the Philippian Church, (and I guess others too) in the ministry, for he says “…I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, … because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…It is right for me to feel this way about you all, …for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:3 – 7)
We can see that Paul recognises that his ministry is a shared ministry! We know that his ministry partners from Philippi have demonstrated in a real and tangible way their involvement with the ministry. For Paul had just received a gift of support from the Church in Philippi! It is therefore not surprising that Paul rejoices…first that the gospel is being proclaimed; secondly he is being supported in this work by those with whom he shares the same grace in Christ!
In January 2015, I was involved in coordinating a Bible Training Conference, which brought together 200 College and University students from across Uganda for five days of training! It was such a joy working with a team of teachers, trainers and volunteers in leading this conference. The beautiful thing was to see the variety of gifts and abilities that came into play to make the conference happen. It was a joy to see the diversity in the body of Christ – various ministries, various denominations, a variety of countries all working together to make the Conference happen! This leads to me ask these questions:
What skills do you have? What endowments can you bring? What resources can you bring? What training do you bring? We all must draw together bringing our various gifts and endowments for that which brings the greatest sense of joy- The proclamation of the gospel!