I tried to post this late last night but for some reason it was a big ‘ol no go. So I’m going to combine day 2 and 3 today. I have purposed to read the book of Philippians everyday for the next month. Did you know Philippians is referred to as Paul’s “Letter of Joy?” Me neither. And I could use some joy right now, how about you? Join me as I read one chapter everyday for a week. Then on to the next chapter for the next week…for the next month.
My Journey to Joy
Yesterday I shared one way I chose to start reading Philippians; I marked certain words with different colors or symbols. I also shared the first revelation I’ve had reading Philippians chapter 1.
And now it’s today, or actually late tonight. Things are sort of messy here right now…a sick kid, a broken lawn mower, a leaky kitchen sink…we all have it don’t we…one way or another, one thing or another.
I can very easily sit down and consider all the things going flat out wrong–or maybe even just not quite right. Or I can ponder the words of St Paul, and ask myself some questions.
“Now I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
First question…do I see my trials, frustrations and sufferings as a means of grace for myself and way to advance the gospel?
Let’s work backwards from that question. How do I advance (build up, promote) the gospel? By what people see, hear and sense about me. I live it; that’s louder than any preaching from any pulpit. Driving a car with a prolife bumper sticker to the grocery store and then complaining to the checker about poorly behaved children in the grocery store does not promote the gospel, it promotes me. Or getting myself and my home neat and tidy for guests but letting my husband and children live in squalor the rest of the time does not promote the gospel…it promotes me. Or at Sunday Mass, sitting straight and tall, first pew, hugging and loving on others with a big ‘ol smile from ear to ear after Mass and handing out donuts to all the children with a smile…but getting in my car and complaining that so and so “has this–did this–did not do this–said this–supposedly said or didn’t say–wore this…” while I’m frowning at my husband and shushing my kids…again, not promoting the gospel but only myself.
In all three examples, I’m promoting myself. I’m advancing a nice, neat, convenient gospel. I’m not living it…I’m showing it off. Paul didn’t do that. You know how we know?
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
While St Paul is writing this lovely letter of joy to the Philippians, he’s sitting in prison…advancing the gospel. He is using his time in prison to encourage the faithful near and far, and to show that even in prison one can be joy-filled with Christ and for Christ.
St Paul is not putting on a good show for the Philippians on paper (for us, how about on Facebook or Instagram?) because he says even the guards know why he’s there. And they can’t believe this guy is in prison proclaiming the good news about some other “Guy” who is now dead, not only dead, but crucified. They want what Paul has…”Who” Paul has…and that’s how he advances the gospel. Paul is living out the gospel, not just preaching the gospel.
Those in closest proximity to our beloved saint, see him for he what he really is. Not some letter writing boaster, but a faithful servant…a joyful, faithful servant, even in crummy circumstances.
Those in closest proximity to me see me for who I really am as well. And now we’re to the first part of the question…Do I see my trials, frustrations and sufferings as a means of grace for myself?
And I’ll have to ponder that either privately or here publicly another time. I have a pretty sick boy who is awake, a baby that needs a nap and a house that needs some TLC.