Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.
Have you ever known somebody that has a one-track mind? You know the type of person I’m talking about… every story, every new idea… everything has to do with that one subject. It’s more than a hobby, or even an obsession, it becomes a way of life and eventually overtakes their entire character.
The Apostle Paul was much like this. Everything he did, everything that was done to him… it all resulted in the proclamation of the gospel. If Paul was shipwrecked, it was for the glory of God; if he was thrown out of town, it furthered the gospel; and as we see in Philippians, not even time in jail could deter him from his mission. Rather, it would only lead to “the greater progress of the gospel.”
Can you imagine what life would have been like if you were Paul’s assistant, or one of his closest friends! How do you think your life would have been affected if you spent all your time following someone like this around? I don’t think I could have handled it… at least, not if I were living like I am now. It seems to me that there would only be two choices for those closest to Paul. I figure they would either have to distant themselves from him out of conviction, or take up the call and start sharing the gospel out of inspiration.
Which reaction would you choose? Could you be a friend to someone who shared the gospel with every single person they met, in every situation? Or would the pressure become too intense, forcing you to distance yourself, so as not to feel guilty for your nonparticipation? There is little doubt that this would be a tough decision to make. I suspect, however, that you have already made the decision, whether you realize it or not.
Let me ask you this: How much time do you spend reading the Bible? How many verses or passages can you recite from memory? When was the last time you set down and purposely tried to study and understand a passage or a story? Is it too close for comfort? It has been for me, and I imagine that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.
What do you do when you read that Paul shared Christ while in jail? Does it give you a hunger that draws you closer to the Lord? Does it stir you to the same passion Paul felt, inspiring you to be a witness for Christ, even in the midst of trial and confusion? Or does it convict your spirit so much that you can’t handle it? Are you reminded all too well of the apathy you’ve been feeling towards the urgency of the gospel? Do stories such as Paul’s bring you closer to the Word, or distant you? Do they inspire you or are they a source of conviction?
Hebrews 4:12 teaches that, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When the word cuts you, I wonder what you’ll do.