Philippians 1B: A series of reflection on scripture
Insights - May 9, 2021 Author: Jeanette Green

Philippians 1B: A series of reflection on scripture

Follow from the beginning
Read Chapter 1A first

Chapter 1: 12-19

Phil 1:12>I want you to know, my friends, that the things that have happened to me have really helped the progress of the gospel.

When I read the book of Philippians for the first time, I was going through an emotional breakdown and a resulting spiritual crisis. Paul’s attitude puzzled me. My brain, after having been conditioned by this world for more than three decades, couldn’t make sense of his hope, his solid faith.

But God helped my heart to hear this: the things that had happened to me, all the pain and heartache of my past, have a purpose. God has written my story, has planned my life so that it brings glory to Him. In some obscure way, my life helps the progress of the gospel. And so does your life, including all your failures, your questions, your pain.

Today, as I read the scripture, God highlights a few other points:

1) Divine bondage

Php 1:13- As a result, the whole palace guard and all the others here know that I am in prison because I am a servant of Christ.

Christ sets me free. Yet, He does not do it, the way I think He does. For a very large part of my Christian journey, I believed that Christ’s death on the cross has purchased for me, a happy, carefree, pain-free life. But I discovered that the freedom Christ gives me, makes me free, indeed. Even if I remain in difficult circumstances, those circumstances can not rob me of my eternal inheritance, and the peace and joy of being loved by Jesus. The times I feel ‘imprisoned’ by my circumstances, I still belong to God, and He is still in control. I am His servant. He calls me to lay my life down so that others can be saved. He does use my situation to touch others, in His mysterious way, even when I can not imagine how. I am in ‘divine bondage’, which is freedom from this world.

I am aware, though, that I can sometimes become ‘imprisoned’ because of my sin. So, when I go through times of ‘imprisonment’ I seek wisdom – did I sin, do I need to repent, is God disciplining me? But when I am in divine bondage, God assures me of His purpose in my situation.

A scripture that comes to mind now:
Joh 9:1-3 >As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, "Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?" Jesus answered, "His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him.

2) Chains embolden
Php 1:14 - And my being in prison has given most of the believers more confidence in the Lord so that they grow bolder all the time to preach the message fearlessly.

I used to think of life’s difficulties – suffering, persecution, chains – as hindrances and as against God’s will. How can people be encouraged, how can faith in God be strengthened, as a result? I can’t understand it. But it is the message of the cross. Jesus willingly laid down His life, and endured tremendous suffering, for us to be saved. Paul followed in His footsteps. And I am called to do the same – to pick up my cross and follow after Jesus.

When, by the grace God gives me, I remain firm in faith while I am in ‘chains’, when I remain joyful in Christ and keep my eyes on the unseen, God somehow uses the example of my surrendered life to bring life and freedom to others. Most of the time, I might not see what God accomplishes through my situation, but I have His promise, that He work all things together for the good, of those who love Him and are called together for His purpose.

Besides that God uses my ‘chains’ to embolden others, I have lately discovered that God uses them, also, to embolden me. Through my struggles, the thorns in my flesh, He frees me (gradually) from a people-pleasing spirit and from yearning for the pleasures of this world. I become conscious of the brevity of human life and focused on why I was born – to live for God, to love Him above everything, and to let His love flow through me, to others.

Conclusion:
For a large period of my Christian journey, when I suffered and when my prayers for healing, for deliverance, appeared to go unanswered, I got the impression that evil was winning over good. That somehow, ‘the enemy’ was more powerful, than God. Because if Satan was causing my struggles, and if I have repented from known and hidden sin, even repented for generations gone before, and prayed all the prayers I could pray, and declared scripture, and believed, why did my struggles continue?
During that time, God whispered in my heart, “The Light is greater than the darkness.” And then, God took me on a journey to learn the truth of what He said.

Now, I know that God is sovereign and that all authority belongs to Him. Through my current study of Philippians, God has given me a deeper understanding of this. The chronic pain I live with, the financial difficulty that limits my life, my ‘chains’, are not my punishment for sin or because of a lack of faith. My difficult life circumstances are ‘divine bondage’ that makes me truly free. And instead of destroying faith, God encourages and emboldens me and others, through the testimony that flows from my freedom, despite my ‘chains.’

Next week, I journey further through Philippians. I’d love for you to walk along! So, if you’d like, read Philippians chapter 1:20-30, this coming week.

Prayer:
Father God, King of kings and Lord of lords. You are almighty God, to you belong all authority. We thank you, God, for the cross of Christ. Our human minds cannot grasp Your ways. But You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you, God, for opening our hearts, for giving us understanding. Thank you, God, that You do the impossible. That You make us truly free. Please help us discern between ‘bondage’ resulting from our sin, and ‘divine bondage’ that is for Your glory. Make our hearts willing to obey you, help us to fully surrender to You.

Father God, I confess that I didn’t understand the message of the cross when I first believed. I could not accurately count the cost before I set out on my journey of faith. Along the way, false doctrine clouded my heart and embittered me. Of your other children experienced the same. I come before You, now, for myself, and for others who have anger and bitterness in their hearts towards You – take our spiritual wounds, and heal them, oh God. Let us know the Truth, the Truth that sets us free.

Pour your oil of joy over us, into us, and strengthen us with Your peace. Help us to endure and to remain firm in faith. Release a spirit of boldness in us, one that helps us to walk out our lives with determination and to remain confident in hope. And if it pleases You, bless us with glimpses of how You are using our ‘chains’ to your glory.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Read part 1C next

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