‘Sorry to hear about what happened!’ When I hear this, I think of Paul writing to the Philippians. Two years in jail, a long sea voyage as prisoner, now two years in bonds again! This pioneer’s prayers seem unheard and his potential untapped. We would be filled with resentment, regret and remorse. Listen to Paul: ‘I therein do rejoice and will rejoice’ (1:18). How could he have this bold, positive attitude?!
Philippians is Paul’s ‘missionary letter’ after receiving financial support for his outreach (4:16 when at Thessalonica and in Corinth 2Cor. 11:9). Paul maintained himself working as a tent-maker (Acts 18:3; 1Cor. 9:12) and did not ask or accept money for preaching the Gospel. He did this since false teachers as charlatans with wrong/selfish motives, abused people and disgraced the Gospel.
This was the first church Paul had planted in Europe during his second missionary journey (51AD, Acts16). It composed of an interesting cross-section of members: A wealthy aristocrat women (Lydia), lower class social menace (demon-possessed slave girl and a blue-collared government workers (jailor). Of all the churches he planted, this was doctrinally the purest, least problematic, most generous and with a genuine, personal concern for this missionary’s wellbeing. Ten years later, when he was imprisoned in Rome they sent Epaphroditus (2:25-30) with this offering and touched by their sacrificial love, Paul sends back to them this joyful letter.
Note how central the Gospel was in Paul’s life! He was thankful for people’s participation in the Gospel through prayer and financial support (1:5). He was mindful he was there for the confirmation of the Gospel (7). Whatever his circumstance he was careful it resulted in the advancement of the Gospel (12). He was acutely aware he was divinely appointed for the defense of the Gospel (16) and not ashamed to contend for the Gospel (20). He insisted Christians work side by side proclaiming the faith of the Gospel. Above all no matter what, they were to live a life worthy of the Gospel (27).
Amidst evangelical scandals and persecution, how we need Gospel-driven ministers like Paul to model the Gospel’s saving power! When bewildered, stressed or disheartened I draw strength from 2 phrases: ‘What does it matter?’ (18) then determine ‘whatever happens‘ (27) and things do happen: disappointments, even death! At any rate we must discern and demonstrate: What is best (10), excellent or Christ-like; What is really important (18) viz. sharing Christ, and What is truly worthy of the Gospel (27).
It’s not about [despicable] ME, but its all about… the GOSPEL! Whatever happens to us, we must remember: ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing!’ and often the main thing is the plain thing… the Gospel!