In the letter Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he states, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel…”
When writing earlier to the Corinthians, he said, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12;10 NET).
Here are the seven areas where Paul is content in adversity:
1> Adversity promotes the progress of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12 quoted above)
Paul does not discuss his discomfort but talks about how his imprisonment advances the Gospel message. The Greek word translated ‘advance’ is a military term that describes engineers preparing a road for an advancing army and removing obstructions such as rocks and trees. Paul’s circumstances had removed barriers to the advancement of the Gospel.
2> Adversity provides opportunities for witness
Philippians 1:13 NET “The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ…”
The guards assigned to prisoners awaiting a hearing before Caesar were chained to their prisoners. So Paul would have been chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, four shifts per day, for two years — meaning that Paul had nearly 3,000 opportunities for witnessing to Rome’s soldiers during his imprisonment (4:22; Acts 28:30-31; Ephesians 6:19-20).
3> Adversity produces courage in fellow believers
Philippians 1:14 NET “and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word fearlessly.”
Many believers became bold because they saw Paul’s courage.
4> Adversity proves the character of our friendships
Philippians 1:15-18 NET “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defence of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…”
Even in contentious circumstances, Paul’s goal was to deliver his message in a manner that would cause people to follow Christ.
5> Adversity brings growth in our lives
Philippians 1:19-20 NET “for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die…”
God works through both the prayers of friends (Acts 12:5) and through our personal determination. Despite his imprisonment, Paul has an attitude of eager expectation.
6> Adversity purifies our motives
Philippians 1:21 NET “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
Paul evaluates all experiences through his life’s purpose: “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
7> Adversity prepares us to see life and death in perspective.
Philippians 1:22-26 NET “Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I donʼt know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.”
Life offers the opportunity to serve the Lord more fully, while death offers the blessings of finally and completely knowing our Saviour.
Certainly something to think about as we now live in a new normal – Covid still killing people as we enter a third year of the worldwide pandemic and wars breaking out in many locations around the world with the emphasis right now on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Believers are facing adversity.