Is it possible that the misery you have been through – or are going through – is exactly the secret sauce that God is using to inspire others and make […]
Is it possible that the misery you have been through – or are going through – is exactly the secret sauce that God is using to inspire others and make positive changes that you could never do yourself? Would it make it easier to face if you knew that your pain was necessary to change the world for the better? Your life, your choices, and everything you go through, have immense power to affect others.
This message is from my Twitch channel’s Devos & Chill series where, on Thursdays, I give a short message before we get into the gaming. Please join us!
I’ve been giving a series of devotions recently from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and it’s been a real blessing to see Paul’s perspective on what he’s been going through.
If you know the context of Philippians, you’ll remember that Paul, as he’s writing this letter, is sitting under house arrest – and has been for the past 2 years. He was accused of some terrible things by the Jewish Ruling Counsil in Jerusalem, and, as a Roman citizen, used his right to appeal his case before Caesar. And so now, he’s in the city of Rome, awaiting trial before one of the worst men in history – Nero – to see if he will release him or have him killed.
When the Philippian church heard about Paul’s situation, they kind of freaked out – and for good cause! One of their favourite people in the world, the man who planted their church, had pastored them for a while, and who they had supported when he left them to spread the gospel throughout the world – was now, seemingly, doing the opposite of what he was meant to. He was supposed to be travelling, planting churches, meeting new people, going back through the churches he’d already planted and taking care of them – but now he was… stuck in one spot… and could be dead any day because of something he didn’t do.
When the Philippians heard this, they immediately gathered up some funds to pay Paul’s rent, appointed some people to go help him, and sent along a letter. And, judging by what is in Paul’s letter – there was a lot of worries listed.
In the studies I’ve already gone through we’ve noted how, right at the beginning of the letter, you can see Paul’s love for these people, flowing off the pages. Philippians is a love letter from a pastor to his church. He longs to be with them, he is thankful for them, he wants nothing but the best for them, and he assures them that even if the worst should happen, God will continue the amazing work he began among them – because Jesus is their saviour and Lord, not Paul.
The section we’re in right now, in chapter 1:12-14 is when Paul addresses the issue of him being stuck under house arrest, and lets them know that even though things look bad, even though it looks like his missionary work has stopped, God has been at work in ways they wouldn’t have ever imagined!
Let me read this section: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Last time I spoke, we emphasized how God can do some pretty amazing things when our situations look bleak. In fact, it was because of Paul’s imprisonment that he was able to bring the gospel to people he never could have before. The whole imperial guard now knew Paul’s testimony, what Jesus had done for him, and the injustice of being under arrest. Plus, as people in and around Rome learned what Paul was going through, it didn’t make them afraid to speak about Jesus – but actually emboldened them to share their faith even more!
And that’s the part I want to park on today. Last week we talked about how sometimes it’s when our life-plan looks like it’s gone off the rails that God’s work is really starting to get warmed up – but what I want to emphasize today is the ripple effect Paul’s faith had on the people around him.
Look at the beginning of verse 14: “most of the brothers”. “Brothers” there is actually a gender neutral term – like saying “mankind” means both men and women. So, imagine how many people that is. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in around 57 AD, and was writing this letter to the Philippians in around 62 AD. That means the Roman church had been around for at over 5 years. That’s a lot of people who have been absolutely set on fire to spread the gospel because of what Paul is going through.
Look again at the next part of verse 14: “having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment”. That’s a weird statement when you think about it. As the believers in Rome learned that the Apostle Paul, the greatest living Christian missionary, had been falsely accused, brought to Rome in chains, locked in with a Roman guard for 2 years, waiting to stand before the insane Emperor Nero — it… “made them more confident”… it made them “much more bold” to talk about Jesus – a subject that was absolutely going to get them in trouble.
Maybe they lacked boldness before. Maybe they were just letting Paul do all the work. Maybe the fear of the government and their neighbours made them a little scared to talk about Jesus in public – but now, hearing Paul’s story – seeing Paul’s courage – and most of all seeing that Paul had such a strong faith in Jesus that he would willingly put himself into this difficult position – caused them to re-evaluate their faith, check their motives, rediscover their purpose, ask themselves why God had saved them in the first place, why God had raised up a church in Rome in the first place.
Think about it: It was because Paul, years before, had obeyed Jesus by going to Jerusalem –knowing he’d be in trouble, knowing he’d be attacked, knowing he was putting his life on the line – trusting Jesus so much that he was willing to go through so many trials, so much suffering, months of travel, a shipwreck, years in prison – it was because trusted God’s plan that much, that all of Rome was now being affected by the gospel, years later. God’s plan for spreading the Gospel in Rome wasn’t to let Paul preach. It was to stop Paul from preaching – so that many, many others would do it for him.
Seeing what God was doing through Paul gave the Romans a level of “confidence in the Lord” that they hadn’t had before.
My point today is this: How you live your life has ripple effects you can’t anticipate.
We live in a deeply individualistic society. We’re told constantly that the most important person in our life is ourselves. How many commercials did you hear this past Christmas where they said, “When you buy a gift here, we’ll throw in a gift card, or you’ll get something free, because you deserve something for being so great! After all, it’s really all about you, right?” And when it comes to personal morality, our own personal sense of right and wrong, we’re told that, “people should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else”.
What all of these things forget is that there is no such thing as living apart from others. Radical individualism is a myth! Everything we do we make has a ripple effect. Everything everyone else does impacts us too.
The relationships you choose have an effect. What you do with your money and what you choose to watch have a ripple effect. The clothes you wear, the way you spend your time, the words that come out of your mouth, the classes you choose in school, the good deeds and the bad deeds, even the look on your face, all have ripple effects. What you do behind closed doors, in the darkness, thinking no one will see – that ripples out too. In your attitude, in your perception of others, in whoever was on the screen while you were “alone”.
So does your inaction. Choosing not to do anything, choosing not to get involved, choosing to drop your responsibilities, to give up opportunities, to throw up your hands and give up, has a ripple effect too. Others will be effected!
And that ripple, that tiny wave, the one that you started… keeps going. It’s not just you. It goes beyond you to the person next to you, into your family, your friends, the community around you, your work, your team, your church, your town… even the people you connect with online and beyond.
And if you don’t believe me, take one thing that has effected you, or someone else, good or bad, a positive thing or a negative one, and trace the origin. Work backward to find where the ripple started. If someone abused you, or gave you a gift, stole something from you, or said something nice, trace it back.
What caused that person to hurt or help you? What influenced them? Where did it come from? What happened that hour, that day, or in their whole life, to bring them to the place where they made that happen? Who else was involved? Where did that gift come from? What situation caused that person to want to steal? As you trace, you will never find the origin… until you get all the way back to Adam and Eve. Why?
Because everything ripples. Everything we do touches others.
So, let me encourage you today – and here’s the application – to consider your life, your faith, your decisions, your priorities, your actions – just as the Roman church did because of Paul. Meditate on your own life and then ask yourself these questions:
First, what in my life is having effects on people that I never considered before?
Second, whose life has effected me in a positive way, that I need to thank?
And then, as you live today, and this week, take that into consideration and live well.