Don't Give UP!

{Philippians 1:12-19; NLT}
12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives.16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News.17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

Many of us who follow Jesus are deeply burdened with concern for the people in our lives who don’t know Jesus. Therefore the problem we face is not one of compassion or understanding what the need is, but the lack of motivation to do something about it.

When it comes to evangelism, like many other areas in our lives, most of us see all sorts of obstacles in our path that prevent us from adequately sharing the Gospel. The result is that we don’t even make the effort because we believe the task to be impossible.

This isn’t just  about “door to door” evangelism, which has its own unique set of issues. We do this with all the small opportunities we have to engage in a spiritual conversation with a person. Most of us have all sorts of fears and worries wrapped up in sharing God’s love with another person.

One of the key differences in people who are successful compared to those who remain with the status quo is the ability to overcome obstacles. We recognize the influence of the apostle Paul on the early church. One of the reasons he was able to have such an influence is because he did not let obstacles prevent him from doing God’s will.

We see Paul’s commitment to God’s will in this passage from Philippians.

  1. There was a DEFINITIVE ADVANCE of the Gospel (vv. 12-14).  Many of us would view being in prison as a huge obstacle that blocked our ability to share God’s love and truth with people. Paul acknowledges that fact, because the phrase, “And I want you to know” would be better translated as, “You will never guess what has happened!” The Philippians, like us, assume because Paul is in prison he is limited in his ability to share the Gospel. Even though he was limited, he took advantage of the opportunities that he had, and the result is that his guards began to convert to Christianity.  Not only did the guards convert, but because of Paul’s boldness, other Christians were being energized with courage to evangelize. Nobody expected Paul to continue to evangelize while in prison, but he did. Just because sharing the Gospel is difficult or will have little impact does not justify us not reaching out.
  2. Other people had DIFFERENT MOTIVES for sharing the Gospel (vv. 15-17).  There were people who were preaching  the Gospel because of their love for Jesus and for Paul. There were other people who were sharing the Gospel for different reasons. Their motives were born out of jealousy and rivalry with Paul. They wanted to be  recognized, to make the right connections, and to make Paul’s life more difficult. Paul doesn’t go into great detail on this, but I imagine that this created another obstacle for Paul to overcome. One of the ways Paul could continue to teach was through writing.  If there were evangelists running around trying to discredit Paul, then that would make his letter writing less effective. Thankfully Paul did not give up on his letter writing. Since the New Testament is largely made up of his letters. The opposition of other people was another obstacle Paul had to overcome.
  3. In spite of the obstacles there were DELIGHTFUL RESULTS from the Gospel being shared (vv. 18-19).  Even though life was difficult, Paul was able to rejoice. He rejoiced that his mission was being accomplished. People all over the Roman Empire were becoming Christians and following Jesus. That is what Paul wanted to happen, because that was the mission God called him to do. Even though things were not going as he had planned, Paul did not give up, and that meant he was able to see God use him to make a difference in the world. What a great reminder for us! Even in the most difficult circumstances God can use us to accomplish His purpose in the world.

Too many of us have a tendency of giving up too soon. This means we fail to see transformation happen and we fail to experience God at work in the world.

The example of Paul is to not give up. No matter what the obstacle is we are to continue to do the work God has called us to do. This is the way we get to experience God at work in the world and to see the lives of people transformed.

Questions to consider:

  • What is an obstacle you face in sharing the Gospel with people?
  • Why do you think Paul was able to look past his obstacles and continue to evangelize?
  • How do we get the motivation to move past the obstacles in our way?

Outline from Sermon Seeds.

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