Only Pain will Tell

In my pursuit of joy during 2013, I have been spending the better part of January in the book of ImagePhilippians.  Ironically, though Paul is writing from within Roman imprisonment, this letter is full of expressions of joy.  It is a convicting read.

This morning I am reading Philippians 1.12-18.  Throughout these verses, Paul expresses his joy over the fact that Christ is proclaimed.  This is his greatest motivation for his own life and greatest hope for the lives of others. As I sit here, I am forced to consider whether this is truly my greatest motivation. If Paul is any example, it seems as if PAIN, not time, will tell.

Paul is imprisoned, Paul is suffering, and even it is not “hard”, it is probably not what anyone would envision as the path to gospel advancement.  But, surprisingly, Paul tells his recipients that his imprisonment has resulted in just that–it has advanced of the gospel.  Does that mean everyone has become a Christian and he is free now?  No. Does that mean that he is treated well in prison and gets to do a jailhouse bible study?  No.  Does that mean that his situation has gotten better in anyway?  No.  What he does say has happened is that the reason for his imprisonment has not only come to be a subject of conversation among the guard, but the brothers (fellow gospel-workers) have been encouraged and now preach with more confidence and without fear.

So, let me put all of the positive, fruit-filled, glorious visions I have for my life effecting gospel-advancement on the shelf.  And let me ask some hard questions.  Am I prepared for my suffering, failure, or loss to do the same?  What if “fruitfulness” for the LORD means my failure for me?  There have been two responses to Paul’s apparent “failure”.  One is that his allys have become bold, but so have his “rivals”.  In other words, some are beginning to preach Christ more perhaps using Paul’s imprisonment, Paul’s suffering, Paul’s failure as the springboard for their preaching.  Even in that, Paul rejoices.  Am I that committed to the proclamation of Jesus?  I hope so…only pain will tell.

Oh, to be that self-forgetful and unconcerned.


Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.