One of the general principles that comes through in the book of Philippians is that if you’re going to learn to be happy, joyful, you must learn to be joyful in the situation, in the problems, in the very experiences of life. The same applies to your engagement in advancing the gospel of Jesus.
The background of the story today is that Paul for the last 4 years has been miserable in circumstances. He’s spent 2 years in prison in Caesarea for a trumped up charge. Then he’s put on a ship to go to Rome to appear before Nero who is not exactly known for his niceties towards Christians. On the way he’s shipwrecked, stranded on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, waits the winter there, continues on to Rome, spends another 2 years in prison awaiting trial to be executed. During this 2 year period in Rome he is chained to a guard for 24 hours a day. He has absolutely no privacy. Every 4 hours he gets a new guard. Yet in spite of all of these situations, Paul says in Phil. 1:18 “I rejoice and I will continue to rejoice.”
What’s Paul’s secret? How does he stay so happy, positive, joyful in spite of the fact that everything has not turned out the way he planned it?
The word advance that appears twice in chapter 1 (v12 & ‘progress in v25) is a nautical term that describes a ship making headway against severe winds. It is a technical term that describes how a blacksmith lengthens out a piece of iron by smashing it with his hammer. It means progress, promotion and success.
Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. He meant to have a crusade. Instead, God put him in prison where he would write the New Testament. He’s chained to the palace guard, the praetorian guard with the crack elite troops of the Roman Empire, personally chosen by Caesar were his body guards. They were the highest paid people of the empire. When they retired after 12 years they were made leaders in Rome. There is not a more strategic group that Paul could witness to if he’s going to reach the Roman empire.
God puts Paul in Rome, Nero pays the bill and chains a future leader of Rome to him every 4 hours. In 2 years at 4-hour shifts, Paul had spoke to 4,380 guards. These guards had an inside route to the emperor and as a result even some of Nero’s family became believers. Some historians claim that Nero had his wife, mother and children killed because they became believers.
Paul had a captive audience. v.14: “Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
His attitude towards problems encouraged other people. Courage is contagious. It spreads like wildfire. Other believers became bold because of Paul being bold. The cause of the gospel was advanced, no matter what his circumstances were.