It is one of those phrases that most of us have heard a thousand times in our lives. Just think of the times someone has been telling you some story of things going on in their life or the lives of their children and when they reached a time to conclude the story they say, “At it turned out that there was some good behind it all.” Or it may have gone the other direction and they declared that “It turned out the one who acted so interested in how I was hurting was a crook trying to take me for a fool.
In Philippians 1:12-18 Paul was talking to the church in Philippi about the things he had faced as a prisoner for the gospel of Christ. He loved the church in Philippi and appreciated all the ways they had helped him in the furtherance of the gospel message. But, now they were deeply worried about him. H was their teacher, leader, friend and brother in Christ. He had not only taught them the good news of Jesus, he had shown them how to live as a Christian even when things aren’t going the way you would like for them to go. Paul knew they were worried about him and probably equally worried about themselves without the teaching and encouragement that Paul had always given them in their life of Jesus. I’ve tried to put myself into his place when he began thinking about these brethren and the close relationship he had with them. Likely the whole thought process started when he received the contribution he described in chapter four from them. Immediately after praying for them that they would abound more and more in love, knowledge and depth of insight, so that they would be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, he said, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ.”
Try to imagine Paul sitting there between two Roman soldiers that guarded him day and night. He was in his own rented house but it was as a prisoner. He was quarantined to the hilt. He couldn’t make any missionary journey’s. He could go visit friends he loved. He couldn’t even visit the local synagogue to share with them the message of Christ. So, how in the world could it be something that was beneficial for the spread of the gospel. Who could possibly take Paul’s place as the teacher, preacher and apostle for Jesus? Certainly he had trained some very good men, like Timothy and Titus who would do the best they could. But they could hardly fill the shoes of this man who had carried the gospel to more places and more people than anyone else alive at the time. Now he is imprisoned. I wonder how long after he was first placed in jail in Jerusalem and then Caesarea and now in Rome, before he came to the realization that this would somehow work out for the spread of the gospel in a more powerful way? Most likely him time in chains had now reached about four years. It was really just the early days of his jail and prison time. But I doubt that even Paul could have seen good in the whole thing near the beginning of the time. Surely he longed for those days when he had freedom to go from one city to the next preaching Christ and working with people of all kinds of backgrounds to heal their sicknesses and help with their problems, that opened the door for the hearing of the gospel message.
Somewhere along the way he began to see some positive things that were coming from his chains. He noticed that some were gaining greater courage to preach and teach the gospel of Christ to others that never had such courage while he was available. His being in chains opened the door for some who had much less knowledge, less ability and less vision for the future to preach the gospel to the best of their ability. Some of those who were preaching Jesus now were good, godly servants of God who wanted to be a source of help and encouragement to Paul while teaching others the way they knew he wanted to do it. Thank God for these friends of his who wouldn’t allow his work to fold when he couldn’t do it any longer.
But there were others who didn’t have good motives, who didn’t like Paul at all, and who didn’t really agree with some of his teaching that are now going out to tell others about Jesus in an effort to add to his pain and distress. They were hoping that every time he heard of them sharing the good news with another person it would bring him agony. What they never counted on what his longing for the gospel message to get out to be so strong that he was thrilled to hear that even these with wrong motives were still sharing the good news of Jesus and it would lead to many being saved.
I’ve noticed lots of times when someone who had great ability to serve in some great way in the kingdom was no longer available either because of death, ill health or just moving on that God led others to step up and take on the work in very different ways than the one before them. But the message was still getting out and the job was still being done.
What an amazing lesson, that God in his providence can bring about wonderful blessings even from the things that seem so awful and hurtful to us! God help us to have that ability to see that things that seem so painful to us may actually work out for the good of His cause and may lead to people being saved that never would have been otherwise.