Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Paul wrote to the Philippians from a Roman prison. He’d lost his freedom, he’d lost his ministry…you’d think he would be weary and discouraged. Instead, his letter bubbles over with joy, going so far as to say that he has ‘learned to be content whatever the circumstances’ (4:11). In this short series, we are going to look at just a few of this letter’s wonderful teachings to see if we can learn it, too.
First off, Paul addresses what we are living for. This is the top priority, the foundation on which everything else in life is built. If we get this wrong, we can expect to find weaknesses and wobbles higher up.
‘The important thing,’ Paul says, ‘is that…Christ is preached.’ In the context, we can surmise that the Christians in Philippi must have expressed concern about his ‘plight’. Perhaps they had heard that others were muscling in on his patch, preaching the gospel out of envy, trying to stir up trouble for him.
But Paul wasn’t concerned. He wasn’t threatened by someone else gaining attention and prestige while he was out of the way. What mattered was that Christ was being preached, and more people were coming to know him.
I can almost hear him giggling with delight as he describes how his imprisonment ‘has actually served to advance the gospel’ (1:12)!
Far from ‘languishing’ in prison, Paul was delighted. His personal comfort, fame, and success were entirely irrelevant as long as Christ was being preached.
When we serve a goal like being the perfect parent, getting the best sales figures, or even having the most successful ministry, we are doomed to a life of stress, anxiety, and disappointment. Nothing we do will ever be enough; there will always be someone brighter, better, and more driven showing up our efforts.
But when our focus is on Christ, when our desire is to see him glorified, not ourselves (which is what each of those other goals is really aiming to achieve), that desire is a success in itself. And when we see him being praised and worshipped, it gives us a greater joy than any personal success ever could.
So, as we step into 2021, let us lay for ourselves a foundation that guarantees success. Rather than resolving to become better versions of ourselves, let us resolve to live for Christ and glorify him.
Jennie Pollock is a writer and editor who lives, works, and worships in central London. She blogs at jenniepollock.com and tweets as @missjenniep. Her first book, If Only: Finding joyful contentment in the face of lack and longing, is out now.