Some churches approach ministry like they are planning a marketing campaign. They talk about platforms and branding. They use social media to create a positive public image. The more people who know about the church, the better their image and the more successful they think they will be.
Maybe that’s why God’s strategy with the apostle Paul seems incomprehensible to many of us today. It also puzzled the Philippians. What was God thinking? What possible good could come from Paul’s imprisonment? In verse 12, the apostle points out that the effect of confinement was the opposite of what one would expect. Instead of hurting Paul’s reputation and hindering the spread of the gospel, its message was heard “throughout the whole palace guard.” This comment suggests that Paul was imprisoned in Rome.
Paul’s circumstances also had an unexpected effect on others who proclaimed the gospel. Instead of making them afraid, it made them bold. They became even more confident to speak out. Perhaps the most shocking thing Paul says here is his observation that some preached with selfish motives. Like some churches today, they approached ministry as if it were a competition. But still, Paul could rejoice that “Christ is preached.” This fact suggests that, although they acted with impure motives, they were not preaching false doctrine (v. 18).
The gospel is still the gospel, even when those who proclaim it act in an unworthy manner. In saying this, Paul was not dismissing the importance of character. Instead, he expresses his confidence in God’s ability to accomplish His purpose despite the failings of those who represent Him. Paul may have been in chains, but the gospel could never be bound.
>> Does it feel like your circumstances stand in the way of your usefulness to God? Remember that He is the God of your circumstances as much as He is the God of your salvation. God has placed you there to glorify Christ. Leave the results to Him.
You are sovereign over the outcome. You are not limited by our circumstances or our failings, nor do You rely on our strength, wisdom, or good motives to advance the gospel. Your will shall be accomplished.