How can you stop someone who is obsessed with the Gospel?
If you tell him or her to stop, they only grow in their zeal. (Acts 4:19-20)
If you take away their home, it’s ok because they have a greater home in Heaven. (John 14:2)
If you take away their freedom, then they write letters, books, and share the Gospel with their fellow prisoners. (Acts 16:25-30)
If you take away their life, it is gain for them. (Phil. 1:21)
You simply cannot stop someone who is obsessed with the Gospel.
As I study Philippians, it is quite obvious that Paul is obsessed with the Gospel. Despite being in chains and with the possibility of losing his head, he is encouraged and even ecstatic by how the Gospel has gone forth.
Like a missionary sending his supporters a letter, letting his supporters know how their money is contributing to the spread of the Gospel, Paul writes the Philippians to let them know. And, of course, the Philippian church would have been worried for Paul. Their missionary was in prison. Unable to move about, freely spreading the Gospel form house to house and town to town. Instead, he was stuck in a Roman cell waiting to hear what would happen to him.
If a missionary you supported was put in jail, would you be tempted to feel like you are wasting your money? I think the Philippians would have been tempted to feel this way, and at the very least would have been tempted to question the Lord about why He would keep the great apostle Paul in chains for so long. But they should have known better. The Philippians, of all people, should have known that Paul in prison meant that the Gospel would spread. The jailor himself, who almost committed suicide on the night Paul and Silas worshipped God after being beaten, would have most likely still been a part of the Philippian church. He knew first hand that Paul in prison meant that people were going to get saved.
And that’s exactly what was happening. Paul reassures them, saying, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12). Paul is so obsessed with the Gospel that he thinks prison has been a blessing! The Gospel is advancing!
There are two reasons for this.
The first is the praetorian guards
“…so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else…” (Phil 1:13).
These guards were Caesar’s soldiers. They would take six-hour shifts in being chained to Paul. Four men a day for weeks would take turns being chained next to the evangelist. What do you think they talked about? The weather? Paul would have certainly told them his incredible story. He would have told them about Jesus and would have begged them to repent of their sin and turn to Christ. They, in turn, would have gone home, and, typically, like with any man, the wife would ask them how their day was, and they would say, “it was fine,” and that would be the end of their conversation. But not on a day after talking with Paul. They would have told their families about this incredible man with his incredible story, and the Gospel would spread throughout Rome at an uncontrollable rate.
Who are you chained to? Some of us have spent far more than six hours with someone and have yet to share the Gospel with them. Perhaps you should set up a six-hour rule of sorts that if you spend a considerable amount of time with someone that they will hear the gospel.
Second, the Roman Believers
“…and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil 1:14).
This, in my opinion, is one of the most shocking verses in the Bible. Christians in Rome would visit Paul, and upon seeing him and his faith, would walk away more likely to share the Gospel! Not less likely! Despite the fact that they could go to jail for sharing their faith, or even lose their life, they walk away from a man who is in jail for sharing the gospel and leave more likely to do that very thing! That is the power of being around someone who is obsessed with the Gospel.
Do you have this kind of impact on believers around you? Do people walk away from talking to you, more likely to follow Christ or less likely? Are you an encourager or a discourager? Frankly many Christians through their gossip and complaining attitude can really sour fellow believers.
Paul, despite facing terrible circumstances, is able to rejoice. It must be said that some of the believers who are encouraged to preach Christ are doing it for selfish reasons. He goes on to say, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife…” (Phil 1:15), and yet, despite what would be so discouraging to have people speaking against him, Paul says famously in Philippians 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.”
That is a man obsessed with the Gospel. You put him in jail? He rejoices that the gospel is spreading. (Phil 1:12) You tell him that preachers are using him and maligning him? He rejoices that at least they are preaching the Gospel! (Phil 1:18) You threaten his life? Well, for him to die is gain (Phil 1:21). You simply cannot steal this man’s joy!
Many things attempt to steal our attention away. Whether it is our jobs, our homes, our cell phones, or our families, it is so easy to become obsessed with the world. Paul was tempted like us; he was just a man, but he was a man who was obsessed with the Gospel. The reason why he loved the Gospel so much was because the Gospel is about Jesus Christ. For Paul, life was worth living because Jesus was His Lord, and for Paul death was worth dying because it meant being with His Lord. He was obsessed with Jesus, and couldn’t help but talk about Him and couldn’t wait to be with Him.
How about you? What are you obsessed with? Be obsessed with the Gospel–it is the only thing worth living for and the only thing worth dying for.
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