The tenaciousness of Paul reminds me of the story of the little girl who could not sit still on a long flight across the country. I’m sure this little girl felt “imprisoned” in this flying tube in which there was no escape. She kicked the seat until the businessman in front of her asked her mom to control her and tell her to stop. So, the little did stop. She unlatched her seatbelt, jumped up, and ran down the small aisle to the bathroom or wherever else she could run to amuse herself. She bothered everyone along her way.
With all the passengers wanting to quiet her, a crew member came over took the little girl’s hand and led her back to her seat. She told the girl’s mom; she must control her daughter and that she must stay in her seat. The mortified mom shot “the mom look” to her daughter who only smiled in return. Wait, what?! “Why are you still smiling?”, the exasperated mom asked her rambunctious daughter. Her reply? “I may be belted to my seat, but in my mind, I’m still running around!”
We laugh, but we have to applaud the tenaciousness of the little girl who is not giving up her inner freedom.
Paul is in a small jail cell for speaking truth about Jesus. Others, outside the jail, speak about Jesus hoping to benefit themselves, gain popularity and power in his physical absence. You would think that jail would shut Paul up resulting in a suffering ministry that would dwindle in numbers. But no, in Paul’s mind, he is still “running around” telling his jailers and their families and anyone else who stops by, the message of Jesus Christ. Pure joy of Jesus oozes from every pore of Paul’s being as he relates, “everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a platform!”
And the message prospered as many received Jesus because of the jail experience.
Philippians 1: The Message
They Can’t Imprison the Message
12-14 I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah.
15-17 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.
18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!
And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a platform! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his prize. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
22-26 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.
27-30 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.
WE MUST ASK OURSELVES—
Is there anything that we think stands in our way of spreading the message of Jesus?
Are we “running around”, no matter what is happening to us or around us, still telling the Truth of Jesus to a world in desperate need of Him?
Do we celebrate with others who lift up the Name of Jesus?
Do we worry about competition? Yikes, run from that thought, please.
And are we willing to suffer when attacked for believing in Jesus? “… the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.”
Are we living in ways that show the Message of Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord? How? In what ways?
Do we work together to “Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God.”
It all depends on where our joy comes from, doesn’t it?
You are my joy, hope, peace and contentment. In you, I have everything I need, no matter what is happening to me or round me. You provide your joy in all circumstances. Your joy cannot be taken from me. Others may try to hem me in, shut me up, but your joy is eternal and still has the run of my soul. For this, I am most thankful. Continue to enlarge your work of the joy of your salvation in me.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen.