And I am going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. (Philippians 1:19-21)
Yesterday, we discovered that Paul had learned to see how God brings good out of chaos, blessing out of burden, and greatness out of abasement. This is truly a place of contentment – one we’d do well to learn in our present day society. I imagine all of us face our own circumstances, unwanted as they may be, in differing ways. Some of us will actively seek the easiest, quickest resolution to the circumstances, just so that we can move on. Others will wallow in the self-pity of the moment, never truly grasping the blessing of the trial. While still others of us will say we are doing well, content in the moment, all the while secretly chafing to just be free of the present circumstance.
The lesson of contentment is not merely a lesson of “accepting what comes our way” – it is learning to see the value in the moment, regardless of the circumstances we face. The degree of excellence that is available in the moment is equivalent to the vantage point from which we view the moment. We will do well to change our focus – looking at our circumstance from a new perspective. A vantage point is one that gives strategic advantage or a comprehensive view. Paul had a vantage point of knowing with absolute certainty that Christ would complete what he had begun – in chains or out. His vantage point was that of a pulpit – his present circumstance had given him opportunities he would not have experienced otherwise. He had a pulpit – a position from which he’d preach the message of Christ.
Alive – we are Christ’s messengers; dead – we are his bounty. Messengers are those who bear a message – Paul’s message was one of trust, faithfulness in times of adversity, contentment in times of lack, peace in times of turmoil. His life spoke more in his attitude toward his circumstances more than any message he could have spoken. The same is true of each of us – our lives speak much louder than our words. Our response to trial - good or bad, yielded or resistive, God-focused or self-directed – speaks volumes to a watching world.
A bounty is that which is given generously. Paul knew that even in death, his life would be given generously as a “first-fruit” of the New Testament church. It would serve to honor Christ, even in death.
We are challenged to look at our perspective toward our present circumstances – some of us face trials beyond our imagined capability to endure. In these times, the challenge to us comes in the form of remaining steadfast, trusting completely, and not losing heart, even in the midst of what seems impossible. It is in those times that we learn the lesson of God’s possibility in the midst of our impossibility – his creative power, his gracious outpouring of mercy and love. In these times, we have the opportunity to embrace God’s grace to endure, as Paul did. Learning to see the present trial as an opportunity to use our lives as a “pulpit” from which the gospel message can be preached – through our responses, by our attitudes, in our trust – is the greatest reward of a believer. Let us learn to be “pulpits” of God’s message – in or out of trial.