Antony Spencer 11am 2nd June 2013

St John’s Small Group Study Notes

From Antony’s sermon on 2nd June 2013

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Passage: Philippians 1:12-26 – Godly Perspective

I wonder if you have taken stock of where things are in your life recently. What do you measure things against – what is the plumb line of your expectation? (Regular progression in life, growth in influence, comfort, affluence etc.)

In Philippians 1:12-26 Paul is giving a personal reflection on where he is up to as he faces trouble. He’s most likely in Rome under house arrest and though he is unsure how things will go he is really keen that His hearers have the right perspective on the story of his life.

Twice in this passage (v12,19) Paul uses the phrase ‘what has happened to me’. It’s not clear what that phrase refers to – does it refer to Paul’s immediate circumstances where currently he’s in prison or does it take a longer view as it refers to the various twists and turns of his ministry since his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus?

‘What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel’
In verse 12 Pauls says what has happened to him has really served to advance the gospel.
Looking back over the 30 years or so since his conversion Paul could quite easily see that many times and events served to advance the gospel …

The 3 years he spent preaching in Damascus; his time based in Antioch from which he was sent out on his mission trips to Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. All these things you can see served to advance the good news that Jesus is the saviour.

But there are more difficult things in the mix too. There’s a 10 year gap when he is believed to be in Tarsus – a time of obscurity, formation perhaps. There’s rejection, flogging and even stoning. There are riots, ridicule, shipwreck and imprisonment. It’s not quite so easy to see how this trouble along the way served to advance the gospel. Yet that is exactly what Paul is saying; now he’s imprisoned – denied liberty to go where he will – even this has really served to advance the gospel! Paul is sure about this because previously the Lord had told him (see Acts 9:15,16; Acts 23:11)

Paul’s attitude makes us question our attitude and perspective when trouble comes. What do you think when trouble comes?
Do you expect trouble or is it unwanted – a sign things have gone wrong.

When trouble comes is it a sign that you have stepped out of God’s favour.

Is trouble always a result of spiritual warfare … where there’s enemy opposition – perhaps a sign we are on the right track (see the Parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)

Jesus says that the right perspective is to expect trouble … not to look for it or to court it but to know that there is trouble in this life and trouble is in the nature of being a disciple of Jesus in the world. Check out what Jesus said about trouble … Matthew 6:34; Matthew 13:21; John 16:33. How would you summarise Jesus teaching?

Paul’s plumb line for his life is Christ’s purposes – the advance of the gospel. So it is that he is able to make sense of his current situation.
V13 Everyone knows that he is a prisoner because of Christ. He is not a criminal and Christ’s name is proclaimed.

V14-18 Pauls’ view of other people within the Christian community is measured against the call that Christ is preached. Even those who oppose him are judged against this criterion not on the strength or blessing of their personal relationship.

Some people v14 and 16 – knowing that Paul is imprisoned for the defence of the Gospel and motivated by love – are encouraged to preach the gospel more courageously and fearlessly.

Others – v 15 and 17 are rivals who are insincere and envious of Paul. They wish to promote themselves as they preach Christ and see this as an opportunity to stir up trouble for Paul whilst he’s incarcerated.
V18 Paul notes what’s true but irrespective of the motive of the preachers He delights and rejoices that Christ is being preached. This is the main thing.

What’s happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Having spelt out that what’s happened to him has served to advance the gospel, in verse 19 Paul now says that what has happened to him will turn out for the wellbeing and advantage of his soul – irrespective of how it turns out. Having appealed to Cesar Paul is waiting for an appointment and a verdict. Presumably, the verdict can go either way – acquittal or death.

Pauls’ aim is that Christ will be exalted in his body – whether by life or death v20.

Then in verses 21-26 Paul writes with amazing clarity and perspective on life and death. ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’. The quality of Pauls’ life with Jesus – the life that calls us to die to ourselves – sets Paul’s priorities now: peace, purpose beyond himself, life now that lasts beyond the grave. Such is his commitment to Christ that Paul is torn between life and death as a martyr. Paul spells out the benefits of both possibilities …

Illustration for Sermon Notes





Though he finds it hard to choose, because dying so that he will be with Christ is better by far, Paul comes down on the side of staying because – as v 24 puts it. In choosing what is best for other people Paul reflects the mind of Christ. Something he develops in the early part of the next chapter (Read Philippians 2:1-4).

Win or lose, comfort or trouble, live or die … Christ and His purposes is the objective of Paul’s life.

Having explored Paul’s godly perspective how do you respond?

1. Christ and His purposes is the objective of Paul’s life. What is the objective and expectation of your life; regular progression in life, growth in influence, comfort, affluence etc.

2. How do you deal with trouble that comes as you seek to serve God? … do you know Christ’s peace in the midst of it? How might God be using trouble in your life?

3. How do you deal with the prospect of death? Do you see being with Christ as better by far? Does my life matter only to me or to others?

6th Jun 2013 Posted in: Sermon Notes by Fran Varley 0

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