Advancing the Gospel
What really matters to you? What do you live for? What gives your life purpose, meaning, significance? To help you answer those questions, consider completing this thought… “For to me, to live is _________________ and to die is ________________.”
Some might say, “For to me, to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind;”
or, “For to me, to live is my children and to die is to send them out of the nest;”
or “For to me, to live is my career and to die is to retire;” or “For to me, to live is to get likes and followers on social media and to die is to be unknown or unpopular.
Now, let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul wrote: 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21. No doubt, Paul was single-minded in life, and that single-mindedness was the source of his joy, no matter what he faced in life, or in death. He was singularly focused on knowing Christ and making Christ known. Nothing mattered more. As a result, nothing could steal his joy.
Paul had endured a lot of tragic circumstances before he made it to Rome, and when he finally arrived, he was in chains as a Roman prisoner; this was not how he envisioned sharing the gospel in Rome, but he was not deterred. In fact, Paul viewed what many would call tragedy as an opportunity to advance the gospel!
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. Philippians 1:12
If what Paul endured advanced the gospel, then it was all worth it for him! Do you know why? Because he was single-minded, fully focused on that purpose alone. In my study, I read that this word translated “advance” is actually a Greek military term that refers to the army of engineers that goes in ahead of the troops to prepare the way, to open the door into new territories. Paul discovered that his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry. And because of that, he was not overwhelmed by his circumstances and in fact, continued to rejoice!
This past Sunday, Watermark quietly celebrated the 16th anniversary of the launch of our church. We held our first public, weekly worship service the second Sunday in January, 2008. The journey was not always easy; in fact, we faced plenty of challenges along the way, not the least of which was being snowed out the very next week after our first service! I whined to Lori back then that Watermark may be done before we even made it to a second service… I think Jesus would have said to me, “You of little faith.”
Clearly, God had a plan for Watermark Church to advance the gospel in the greater Troutman community. What joy it has given me to be a part of it. Thank all of you who call Watermark home for your ministry partnership, as together we continue to make an impression and leave a mark for Jesus Christ!
God is using all of us who call Watermark Church home to advance the gospel, to make disciples. He can and will use you, in your personal sphere of influence to do just that. Pastor and Author Warren Wiersbe writes that God sometimes uses strange tools to help us pioneer the gospel. In Paul’s case, God used three tools to help Paul advance the gospel to of all places, Caesar’s Roman Pretorian Guard,…
God used Paul’s chains to help advance the Gospel. (Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul had an amazing perspective on the difficult circumstances he found himself in. Again, being captive in Roman chains was not the way Paul had envisioned advancing the gospel, but yet that is exactly what was about to happen! And Paul was not deterred or discouraged. (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
Paul’s chains did not bind him; in fact they freed him to share the gospel! You may think that you can’t share the gospel; that you are not free to do so. But when you have the same, single-minded perspective as Paul, your eyes will be opened to new territories God is opening for you.
Paul’s chains gave him contact with the lost. He was chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day. Paul literally had a “captive audience.” The guards rotated every six hours. Do you think they were exposed to the gospel? You better believe it! Where does God have you in chains right now for Christ’s sake and His glory? How will you let those chains “free” you to advance the gospel?
Paul’s chains gave him the chance to encourage his fellow Believers. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:14
Believers were inspired by Paul to “proclaim the gospel.” You may think that means to “preach,” but this word actually means to share the gospel in every day conversation. People were sharing the gospel in every conversation they had with those who did not yet believe. Not in a way that was heavy-handed and offensive, but in a way that was compelling and attractive. And lives were being changed for Christ’s sake! Will you see every conversation you have with those who don’t yet believe as an opportunity to advance to gospel… to share a word of truth, hope, grace?
For much more, including two other tools God used in Paul’s life, and will use in your life too, to advance the gospel, click here to listen to: Joy on the Journey - Part 2 - Advancing the Gospel.