Finding Joy in the Advancement of the Gospel

Find Joy in the Gospel

Losing My Religion, Finding My Savior Day 3 is inspired by this sermon.  Do I find joy in my circumstance, or do I find joy in the gospel?

Roman prison, more disgusting than I imagine

It is easy to slip into poor interpretation of Scripture.  Poorly interpreting Scripture leads to poor application.  I’ve said, “What this verse means to me is _____?” far too many times.  Once, I  recognized this error in a friend and offered him my copy of Reading the Bible for all it’s Worth (affiliate link).   See, we often go straight to application of God’s word, without understanding the context or original meaning.  In order to have good theology, we cannot miss those things.

paul writing

Is this how you imagine Paul writing his letter to the Philippians?

We are separated by time and culture, and not enough of our preaching includes the details that are necessary to understand God’s word.

Prisons were not like this image at all.  They were cells dug out underground, approximately 12′ deep.  No designated place to empty your bladder or bowels.  There was no one to bring you fresh straw to sleep upon. No cleaning crew to tidy your space. Those things only happened if a loved one came and took care of that. Does that change your view of Matthew 25:36?

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.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Philippians 1:12-17

 

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

That was my day yesterday, the day I was SUPPOSED to publish this.  When “Little baby, don’t eat that poop” is not the worst part of your mom-day, you know it is rough.  All I can say is that running water is my favorite aspect of modern life.  A day without it working properly is hard.  Showers, dishes, laundry, all depend upon it.

Find joy in suffering

Years back, with a new baby and my husband’s job loss and interview after interview and a tight budget, I was frustrated.  I thought I had followed God’s will, and I was not experiencing financial freedom (despite working that debt snowball).  My husband is a faithful, honest, and hard-working man, yet he didn’t have the dream job.  After several months, he wasn’t even getting calls for interviews.  Bitterness crept in and I was starting to question God.  I thought I was suffering for the sake of the gospel.  After all, all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose?

purpose is God's glory

How did Paul find joy in his circumstance, but I could not in mine?

 

Paul followed God’s it led him to prison.  He is likely surrounded by his own filth, and he mentions disputes with other preachers of the gospel.  Yet, he had joy and I did not.  He says “Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”  That is it, his joy was in the gospel going forward.  My search for joy in a good marriage, motherhood, work, relationships, a good church was just as futile and misplaced as those who search in drugs, money and sex.

 

Find joy, despite loneliness

This illumination of God’s word changed me forever, in the best way. However, it was still a lonely path. It felt like I left EVERYTHING behind, for one thing.  Does that remind you of anything you’ve read?   I didn’t feel I could speak to any of my old friends.  How could I possibly share my experience without hurting them? How could I even mention what I’d learned without seeming like I was chastising them?  It would appear to be speaking against leaders that I loved deeply.  I didn’t know how, so I stayed isolated.

Building new relationships was not easy, because my work schedule was the same: evenings and weekends, and we still didn’t have a car.  So for a year, we went at it mostly alone (aside from Sunday interactions and a few text messages).  It was lonely, but I found so much comfort in the Lord.  So much peace at understanding my purpose being his glory.  We found joy in the humility of knowing that God revealed this to us.  We learned how to find joy in difficulty, by the grace of God.

find joy

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