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The Happy Prisoner - Philippians 1:12-14

Taught on | Keywords: joy, prison, spiritual maturity, passion, gospel, problems, Great Commission, jail, incarceration

What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.

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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

Outline

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  1. Godly Passion Is Commendable

  2. Great Problems Are Inevitable

  3. Good Perspective Is Essential

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: May 21, 2017
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "The Happy Prisoner"
Text: Philippians 1:12-14

Path

What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about—what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Pastor Skip continued unpacking the book of Philippians, teaching truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome:
  • Godly Passion Is Commendable (v. 12b)
  • Great Problems Are Inevitable (v. 12a)
  • Good Perspective Is Essential (vv. 12-14)

Points

Godly Passion Is Commendable
  • Paul wrote Philippians from a Roman prison cell, but he was determined and had a singular focus: the gospel. In all of his writings, Paul mentioned the gospel seventy-two times.
  • Until you experience the gospel's power, you'll never have a gospel passion.
  • Paul's passion for the gospel is summed up in a pair of verses: "As much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel" (Romans 1:15) and "I have made it my aim to preach the gospel" (Romans 15:20).
  • Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. Paul's passion was his purpose, bringing him a joy unfettered by his imprisonment.
  • Probe: Discuss your master passion in life. Is there a connection between your master passion and the gospel? If not, how can you help bring them together?
Great Problems Are Inevitable
  • A godly passion invites great problems: the great commission will always bring great conflict. Faith can be fatal (but only in this life).
  • Paul returned to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. He was later accused and sent to Caesarea Philippi for a two-year prison sentence. His heart was set on reaching Rome with the gospel but instead he found himself in jail. Through it all, he didn't lose his joy; instead, he set it loose wherever he found himself.
  • Probe: Share about a time in your life when your problems seemed so big that nothing could solve them. How did God show Himself in the midst of the problem? Did He solve the problem, use it to refine you, or both?
Good Perspective Is Essential
  • The words rejoice, joy, and rejoicing are mentioned sixteen times in the four chapters of Philippians.
  • Paul's joy is found in the word furtherance. It means advancement or forward movement in spite of obstacles.
  • Paul's suffering wasn't an obstacle in advancing the gospel; in fact, it made it possible. His suffering furthered the gospel in three specific ways:
    • His suffering furthered God's plan for Roman soldiers (see v. 13). Paul preached to the Praetorian Guard—Caesar's elite soldiers.
    • His suffering furthered God's plan for Roman citizens (see v. 13b): "And to all the rest."
      • The longest period of Paul's incarceration was the greatest period of Paul's impact.
      • Paul's confinement was his assignment; his prison became his pulpit.
      • During his imprisonment, Paul wrote Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Colossians.
    • Paul's suffering furthered God's plan for reluctant saints (see v. 14).
      • If God could use Paul in jail, He can use us out of jail. Paul's example inspired other Christians who were afraid of Roman persecution to share the gospel.
      • Don't be a sappy or scrappy prisoner but a happy prisoner for Christ.
  • Probe: Having the right perspective helps determine our priorities. Discuss the connection between perspective and priorities. How are they connected? What are your priorities in life? How do they relate to the furtherance of the gospel?
Practice

Connect Up: Share with your group the things about Jesus you are passionate about (e.g., His love, compassion, salvation, etc.). How does Christ's character help you draw close to the Father? What does Christ's character reveal about the Father (see John 10:30)?

Connect In: How does your passion for Christ influence the body of Christ? What ministry roles do you perform in your local church? What ministry roles have you wanted to take part in, but time or other priorities took precedence? What difference would it make if you made the gospel your priority? What would the risks and rewards be?

Connect Out: As Bob Dylan said, "You're gonna have to serve somebody." To put it another way, we're all imprisoned to someone or something. How is this analogy helpful in reaching out to nonbelievers? Besides sin itself, what things were you chained to before coming to Christ? It could be a life you didn't anticipate or expect (e.g., a job, an illness, or even an actual prison cell). How can you use your story about how you found purpose in Christ to help others in similar situations?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. You would not expect to find joy in prison
    2. Paul wrote this letter as he was incarcerated for his faith in Christ
      1. He was a prisoner in Rome
      2. He was not in the best of conditions
    3. The theme of this book is joy (see Philippians 1:3-4, 18; 2:17; 3:1; 4:4)
      1. Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy
      2. Paul had no outward reason to be joyful
  2. Godly Passion Is Commendable
    1. Paul had a passion in his life
      1. He was determined and highly motivated
      2. Everyone has a master passion—what you want more than anything else
    2. Paul's passion was the gospel (see Philippians 1:5, 7, 12, 17, 27)
      1. Paul mentioned the gospel seventy-two times in all his writings
      2. Romans 1:15; 15:20
    3. At one time, Paul tried to stop the gospel
      1. The gospel was the only thing that could change him
      2. When he saw Jesus, his life was never the same
    4. Until you have experienced the gospel's power, you'll never have a gospel passion (see Romans 1:16)
  3. Great Problems Are Inevitable
    1. A godly passion always invites great problems
      1. When you are passionate about souls, you enter a battleground on which Satan has been fighting a long time
      2. The Great Commission will always bring great conflict (see Matthew 24:9)
    2. Something happened to this passionate man
      1. He was in jail
      2. This had happened many times before
      3. He was stuck—he did not have the freedom to minister like he wanted
      4. He had always wanted to go to Rome, though not necessarily in this capacity (see Romans 15:30-32)
    3. How did he get there?
      1. Arrested in Jerusalem
      2. Imprisoned two years in Caesarea by the Sea
      3. Appealed his case to Caesar
      4. Sent by ship to Rome
      5. Ship went down and had to swim to shore
      6. Ended up in a Roman prison
    4. Incarceration always challenges your joy
      1. Confinement or restriction
      2. Job, relationship, circumstances
  4. Good Perspective Is Essential
    1. The furtherance of the gospel
      1. Prokopé = progress, advancement
        1. A forward movement in spite of obstacles
        2. Used of pioneers and soldiers advancing in obstacles
      2. Paul wanted them to know that none of what happened to him had stopped the gospel; in fact, it had furthered it
    2. Three ways the gospel was furthered
      1. For Roman soldiers
        1. Praitórion = praetorium
        2. The elite personal soldiers for the emperor
        3. Paul was chained to a praetorium guard
          1. They were chained to him in six-hour shifts
          2. Whether he ate or slept, a guard was always there
        4. Some of those soldiers were reached (see Romans 4:22)
      2. For Roman citizens
        1. Paul was under house arrest (see Acts 28:16)
        2. He had certain freedoms: people could visit him (see Acts 28:30-31)
        3. The longest period of Paul's incarceration was the greatest period of Paul's impact
          1. The prison became his pulpit
          2. He wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon during this time
      3. For reluctant saints
        1. Christians in Rome were afraid to announce they followed Christ
        2. In watching and hearing about Paul, they became more bold
        3. They reached the people Paul could not reach
  5. Closing
    1. Many people feel chained to something
    2. Maybe you could be a happy prisoner
      1. Not a sappy prisoner
      2. Not a scrappy prisoner
      3. 2 Timothy 2:9
Figures referenced: William Booth, John Bunyan, Charlotte Elliott, Martin Luther, F.B. Meyer, J.C. Penney, Charles Wesley, John Wesley, Susanna Wesley

Works referenced: Pilgrim's Progress, Psychology Today, Winnie the Pooh

Greek words: praitórion, prokopé

Cross references: Matthew 24:9; Acts 28:16, 30-31; Romans 1:15-16; 4:22; 15:20, 30-32; Philippians 1:3-5, 7, 17-18, 27; 2:17; 3:1; 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:9

Topic: Joy

Transcript

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Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that God uses this message to reach people around the world with his love. If this message encourages you, we'd love to hear about it email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

What does it take to steal your joy? To answer honestly, you must discover what you're passionate about. As we continue our series, Technicolor Joy, we learn this is important because things won't always go our way. In the message, The Happy Prisoner, Skip teaches that we need the right perspective to deal with unfavorable circumstances. Now, we invite you to open your Bible to Philippians, Chapter 1, as he begins the message, The Happy Prisoner.

Father we do pray, and I do ask, that you will speak to us through your word. These are old and tested principles of truth. But Lord, they are going to be new and revolutionary to some and as up to date as this morning's headlines. I pray, Father, that in hearing them, we would be not only like the prophet who said, speak Lord, your servant hears, but we would have that desire to put into practice those principles that are revealed. Only that can be done by your grace, and we ask for it in Jesus' name, amen.

So a guy went to prison. And on his first day, he heard somebody yell out of one of the cells a number. He said 43. And the whole cell block broke out in laughter. He thought, that's odd. And a few moments later, another prisoner yelled out 75. And everybody broke out in laughter again. And then 56, and everybody broke out in laughter. So he turned to his cellmate, who had been there a long time. He goes, I don't get what's happening. What am I hearing here?

He says, well, we've been here so long. And we've been telling the same jokes to each other over, and over, and over again that we've just numbered them all. [LAUGHTER] So now, all we have to do is yell out a number, we think of that joke, and we laugh. So the prisoner said, wow, can I try that? He said, sure. Give it a shot. So he shouted out 12. Dead silence. Again, 12. Dead silence. He says, what's happening? And the guy said, I guess some guys just can't tell a joke. [LAUGHTER]

In Philippians Chapter 1, Verses 12 through 14, I'm giving this a message title, The Happy Prisoner. Now, that sounds like an oxymoron. Because you don't associate happiness, generally, with being in prison. Prison is a place where usually joy is absent. It's a place where life is unpleasant. It's a place where dreams go to die.

I found a website for the criminal justice system, called corrections.com, in which this statement was on it. "Most prisoners are unhappy. And many of them are unhappy all the time. Many contemplate or attempt suicide or self-mutilation. The suicide rate for American prisoners is between 5 to 15 times greater than it is for the general American population". I'm sharing that with you to begin with, because I just want you to keep in mind that we are reading the letter of a prisoner. Somebody who is incarcerated for his faith in Christ. Let's look at our verses this morning, and we'll see what he has to say. Chapter 1 Verse 12, it's a new paragraph of thought now.

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

So Paul is a prisoner. He's a prisoner in Rome. These are not the best conditions that he has ever been in. This is not the happiest place. Paul is physically bound. And Paul's ministry is severely restricted. And yet, do you remember what the theme of this book is? Tell me what it is. Joy. It's a letter oozing with joy. Four chapters, 104 verses, and one of the major themes is joy.

Let's look at a few things. Look at verse 3 of chapter 1, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always, in every prayer of mine, making requests for you all with joy. Verse 18, what then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is preached. And in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice. Chapter 2, verse 17, yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Chapter 3, Verse 1. Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. Chapter 4, Verse 4, rejoice in the Lord. And I say it again, rejoice.

So he's a prisoner, incarcerated in a jail, saying, rejoice, rejoice, I'm glad, rejoice. Now, either he's a nutcase, he's been beat up one too many times so now his brains are addled, or, number two, he's lying through his teeth. He's putting on a good Christian face. Christians are supposed to act this way, rejoice, smile. Or he's on to something. And we need to find out what it is that makes him so joyful.

And so that leads me to give you a statement that I think encapsilizes the whole book. And that's this, spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. What does it take to end the experience of joy as a believer to the area of anger, bitterness, whatever it would be? Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy.

The other night my grandson spent the night. It's always a joy. And we got up in the morning. I was making breakfast for him, and so he was watching cartoons. And he came and goes, I'm looking for Winnie the Pooh. We love watching that. And we both love Winnie the Pooh. So, well, we didn't find it. But that's what we were looking for. But I've often wondered, if life were a Winnie the Pooh episode, what character would you be? Would you be, perhaps, the timid piglet? Would you be Pooh Bear himself, who likes to eat a lot? Would you be the important but pushy rabbit? Would you be the wise but boring owl?

I'll tell you who Paul the Apostle would be. You know who he'd be? He'd be Tigger. Paul the Apostle would be that exuberant, ebullient, resilient, bouncy tiger character named Tigger. You see, Paul has every reason to be Eeyore. He has no outward reason at all to be joyful. But he is joyful.

I found an article I wanted to put up and have you see it as I read it to you from Psychology Today that said, quote "people are unhappy because they view their lives as prisons. Many people feel trapped by aspects of their life, trapped in an unhappy relationship, or trapped in an unfulfilling job. Or they are generally unhappy with their life despite basic needs being met." end quote.

So don't you find it interesting that this dude is in prison, he is not licking his wounds, he is not sending out invitations to a pity party, but he's saying rejoice, rejoice, rejoice? Now to find out why, we need to follow the progress of his thinking in these three verses. So I'm glad we only have three verses. Because we're going to begin with his passion, move on to his problems, and end with his perspective. You have to understand his passions to really understand his problems. Because one led to the other. But then we'll end with his perspective.

And there's enough information here for me to draw out three principles. Let me share the first with you, godly passion is commendable. Godly passion is commendable. Paul had a passion in life. That seems to be a very popular question, what's your passion in life? Paul had one. He had a master passion. If you know anything at all about Paul the Apostle, you know he was a pretty determined guy. He had what we would call a Type-A personality, highly motivated with a single focus. And generally, people like that are highly successful people. Because they never quit. They never say die. They never give up.

Everyone, including you, has a master passion. What drives you? What does your mind think of when it's in neutral and you've got nothing going on? All the activities are gone. What is the one thing above everything that you want, or seek for, or want to do more than anything else?

For some people it's a career. And for those people who make that their master passion, everything else takes a back seat. Sadly, even relationships will often take a backseat. For other people it's power. For other people it's money. Let me remind you of what Paul's passion was. Paul's passion can be summed up by two words, the gospel. The gospel, the message that changes people's lives was what he lived for. It was his master passion.

How much was this on his mind? Well, look at verse 5, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. Now, look at verse 7, I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are partakers with me of grace. Look at verse 12, I want you to know brethren, the things which have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. Verse 17, but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. Look at verse 27, only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

Now that is only this chapter. If you were to add up all of the times in all of Paul's writings that he mentions the gospel, it's 72 times. The gospel, the gospel-- How are you doing Paul? The gospel. What's up? The gospel. What do you want in life? The gospel. What are you doing? The gospel. That is his master passion.

Now, that can be summed up by two verses, both found in the book of Romans. The first is Romans 1:15, where he says, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. Did you get that language? As much as is in me, to the fullest extent of my being, that's what I want. That's my passion. The second is in Romans 15 verse 20, where he said, for it has always been my ambition-- you could substitute the word passion-- it has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known, lest I build on another man's foundation.

Question, why is that his passion? Why would that thing, that at one time he tried with all of his might to stop, be now his passion? Remember Paul went around putting out the fire of the gospel, keeping it from spreading. He went to Damascus to stop the gospel. Why is this now his passion? Simple to answer that. Because the gospel was the only thing that could change him. Nothing else could, nothing else did. On that Damascus road, when he saw that light, and heard that voice, and he received that Jesus, his life was never the same.

That's important. Because until you've experienced the gospel's power, you will never have a gospel passion. It's only people who have seen, and felt, and experienced the power of the gospel in their own lives that it becomes to them a passion. William Booth, who started the Salvation Army, said, some men's passion is for gold. Some men's passion is for art. Some men's passion is for fame. He said my passion is for souls. If Paul would have stood there when Booth said that, he'd have stuck out his hand and said, put her there. You and I track. Because that was Paul's passion as well.

In fact, Paul said, Romans chapter 1 verse 16, for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. Paul had seen its power. Now Paul has its passion. Let me just say that a godly passion like this is commendable. So much so that I look for it in people. And I've gotten good at noticing it when I find it. And whenever I find it I exploit it. If I find some young person who's got that fire in their eyes, that sparkle, that real deep desire to know God, and serve Christ, and learn the Bible, and preach the gospel. I want to bring that person as close as I can under my wing and train that person, equip that person, to get out and do what is their passion. So godly passion is commendable.

But that brings up a second movement. We go from Paul's passion to Paul's predicament, or his problems. And he mentions them in verse 12. Before we jump into the verse, let me just say that one always brings the other. A godly passion always invites great problems. Did you hear that? A godly passion always involves, or invites, great passion. Why is that? Well, because when you're passionate about souls, you are entering a battleground on which Satan has been fighting a long time. He's got a lot of experience. So when you say, I am passionate about the gospel. I want to save souls. You are painting a bullseye on you. You are a target. Satan will be after you. It's a war he's been engaged in. So the great commission will always bring great conflict.

In fact, Jesus even said faith can sometimes be fatal. He promised his disciples, then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. So here is Paul. He's got this passion, the gospel, the gospel, the gospel, the gospel. But then he says in verse 12, but I want you to know brethren, that the things which happened to me-- stop right there. Something happened to Paul. He's mentioning it.

Something happened to this passionate man. What was it? He's in jail again. That's what happened to him. He's been there many times before. He's been beaten many times before. He's had hardship many times before, all because of his passion for the gospel. That's what happened to him.

So now he has a jail ministry, a prison ministry, but not like he expected. If you have a prison ministry, you go to the prison. You visit the prisoners. You go home and have a nice meal with your family. Not Paul. He lived there. That was his prison ministry. It is not what he expected. Now, sitting in a Roman prison, he does not have the freedom to go out and plant churches, and share the gospel here, and train up leaders there. He's stuck.

You should know that Paul-- he is in Rome. He always wanted to go to Rome. It was part of his passion. He wrote to the Romans and he said, pray for me that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. That's not exactly what happened. Something bad happened to this man.

And here's what happened. After his third missionary journey, he goes back to Jerusalem. He's in the temple area with another fellow going through a ceremonial ritual. Some of the leaders spot Paul there. They start a riot, and they attack him. A Roman soldier arrests Paul-- not to punish him, but to protect him from the mob-- takes Paul, is about to have Paul beaten. Paul pulls his Roman citizenship card out and says, you can't beat me. I'm a Roman citizen.

So he is then taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea by the sea, where he spends two years. And he goes through three trials in two years. He stands before Felix. He stands before Festus. He stands before Herod Agrippa. And after two years, he finally says, I'm done. This judicial process is crazy. I appeal my case to Caesar in Rome. Every Roman citizen had that right.

So they put him on a ship. It is not a cruise ship. It's not a Princess Cruise. It is a prison cruise. And they put them on this boat. And they send him to Rome. He almost doesn't make it to Rome. The ship sinks. He has to swim to shore. But he finally goes to Rome, where he's put in jail again. All of that is under this banner, but the things which happened to me. That's what he is referring to. Now that set of circumstances is enough to change any Tigger into an Eeyore pretty quickly.

You know that incarceration will always challenge your joy. Restriction of any kind is a challenge to your joy. Confinement of any sort will challenge your joy. Some of you feel chained to a job. It's a tyrant to you. Some of you feel chained to a relationship or a set of responsibilities you didn't sign up for. And maybe because of that your passion is gone. It's dried up. This is not what you had in mind. You're thinking back to that moment when you finally said, I surrender my life to you Jesus. And I don't just mean salvation. Maybe you came to the point after salvation where you said, now I'm going to get serious. I'm going to really live for Christ from this day forward.

But here you are today, and you're thinking back to that day. This is not what you had in mind that day. In fact, could it be, is it possible, that when you said, Lord I surrender to your plan, that you said that like the couple who went to the architect and asked the architect to design a house for them. But the architect discovered the couple already designed it for themselves and just wanted the architect to sanction it. Maybe when you said, Lord I surrender my life to you, what you meant is, I surrender my will. I hope it is your will Lord. Here are my plans for my life. I just want your stamp on it. Because you must want what I want. And now you're going this is not what I thought I signed up for.

Well, Paul is about to say something very revolutionary. This is where we really need to listen. So we move from his passion, to his problems, to his perspective. How does he view all that has happened to him? Now, as we dive into this I'm just going to review. What is the theme of this letter? Joy. 16 times, 16 times in this letter the word joy, the word rejoice, or the word rejoicing, are found no less than 16 times. We've already seen the object of Paul's joy, the gospel. We've seen the challenge to Paul's joy, the things that happened, the prison, the beatings, et cetera.

Now, let me show you the reason for his joy. And that can all be summed up by a single word in verse 12. It's the word furtherance. But I want you to know, brethren, in verse 12, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more able to speak the word without fear.

Now, back to that word furtherance. You may have a Bible that doesn't say that. It might say advancement, or advance, or spread, or progress, those are all good translations. Mine says furtherance. The Greek word is [GREEK]. And [GREEK] means to advance or to make progress. But it means something very, very unique. It means a forward movement in spite of obstacles. Obstacles are involved. It makes motion forward. But in the midst of obstacles. So the word [GREEK] was used of pioneers cutting their way through brushwood, cutting the undergrowth away, so you could go on it. It was also used for soldiers advancing through obstacles. It was also sometimes used as a nautical term for ships making headway while there was a headwind.

You get the idea. There's always an obstacle involved. It's going forward, forward, forward but in the midst of obstacle. So what Paul wants them to know, is I want you to know brethren, that all that has happened to me the incarcerations, the beatings, the mistrials, the further incarceration, none of that has stopped the advance of the gospel. In fact, it cleared the way. It actually furthered it. It made progress in it.

I want you to see that. So look at verse 13. He's going to give you three ways the gospel is furthered. Number one, it is furthered for Roman soldiers. God's plan has been furthered for Roman soldiers. Verse 13, so it has become evident-- now watch this-- to the whole palace guard. The word is praetorian. We get the word praetorium from that. And the Praetorian Guard was the elite personal soldiers for the emperor. There was about 10,000 of them in the Roman Empire. They were the bodyguards of the emperor.

Now Paul is incarcerated in Rome. So he is somehow attached to the palace. Now he's not in the palace. He's in a rented home, the Book of Acts tells us. He's chained to a guard 24 hours a day in a rented house. But the people chained to him are the Praetorian Guard. That would be like being chained to the Secret Service or to the CIA, that elite.

Now let me just stop for a second. I believe, and I'm guessing, that somebody in the Church of Rome-- maybe when they got together for a prayer meeting of some kind-- they got together. And one of the prayers was something like this, Lord, you're doing such a great work here in Rome. But, man, if there is any way possible that the praetorian elite guards of the emperor himself in Caesar's household could somehow hear the gospel-- they are unreachable. I don't know how we could ever get the gospel to them. And God said, OK, I'll answer that prayer. How? By Paul's chains.

Now Paul's chained to them. Now think of what it was like to be chained to Paul the Apostle for six hours. That's how it worked. There are 24 hours a day. 4 soldiers chained six hours at a time to Paul. So Paul couldn't eat without being chained. He couldn't sleep without being chained. Everything he did 24 hours was chained to a guard. Now we often think, oh, Paul was in chains. But think of it the other way. So was the soldier.

[LAUGHTER]

Can you imagine what it's like to listen to Paul? What do you think Paul brought up during that six hours? The gospel, the gospel, the gospel, the gospel, the gospel, that's his passion. You couldn't shut him up. Have you ever shared with somebody in a conversation-- you bring up the gospel. They don't like what you have to say. So they walk away. They can't walk away. Talk about a captive audience.

[LAUGHTER]

FB Meyer tries to paint the picture what it would be like. He said, and I quote, "at times the hired room would be thronged with people, to whom the Apostle spoke words of life; and after they withdrew the sentry would sit beside him, filled with many questionings as to the meaning of the words which this strange prisoner spoke. At other times, especially at night, the soldiers and the apostle would be left to talk. And in those dark, lonely hours the Apostle would tell soldier after soldier about his own proud career and early life, of his opposition to Christ, his ultimate conversion, and would make it clear that he was there as a prisoner, not for any crime, not because he raised a rebellion or a revolt, but because he believed that He whom the Roman soldiers had crucified, under Pilate, was the Son of God and the Savior of men."

Now what is the result of all of this chained to a Roman guard mean? It means some of them got saved. I know that to be a fact because when he closes this letter, Philippians, in chapter 4 verse 22, almost tongue-in-cheek he says, all the Saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. Wink wink. Isn't that great? Some of those soldiers who were unreachable got reached. And there's only one way they could by being chained to a Christian. So the incarceration, the suffering that Paul experienced, it furthered God's plan for Roman soldiers.

But there is a second I want you to notice. It furthered God's plan for Roman citizens. Go back to verse 13, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, comma and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ. Paul didn't just write words without meaning. He didn't say, oh, I just need to fill that sentence in, so I'll just put to all the rest. It means something.

He was chained to soldiers. But it's become evident to not only them but to the rest. What does that mean? Here's what it means. Paul was under house arrest, we are told in Acts 28. House arrest meant that there were certain freedoms the prisoner had. He lived in a house but chained to a soldier 24/7. He could not leave the house. But people could come and visit him. So Acts 28 tells us that Jewish leaders came to visit him. Christian leaders came to visit him. Citizens of Rome came to visit him. Acts 28 says, for two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Now listen to these words. Boldly and without hindrance, he preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Amazing.

Here's the principle. Don't miss this principle. The longest period of Paul's incarceration was the greatest period of Paul's impact. Staggering. The longest period of Paul's incarceration was the greatest period of Paul's impact. In other words, Paul's confinement was God's assignment. That prison became his pulpit. Oh, and by the way, just a little FYI, Paul wasn't just being chained to a soldier and giving Bible studies to people. He spent a lot of time writing books. The very book you are reading was written during that time, Ephesians written during that time, Philippians during that time, Colossians during this prison stay, Philemon written. Those four prison epistles all written during this time.

And he's having Bible studies at the expense of the Roman government. How cool is that. There was never an issue back then with the separation of church and state. They paid for it and he preached.

[LAUGHTER]

Now here's what I'm wondering, the next time you are tempted to think, man, I'm stuck with this job. I hate it, but I'm stuck here. Or you think, I am shackled to this desk or I am imprisoned by this person, you could see it as an opportunity. Not an incarceration, an opportunity if, and only if, your passion is the gospel. I'll guarantee you, if your passion is not the gospel, it's just an inconvenience to you. It's just a horrible bitter experience of suffering. Why would God allow it? Unless you see it as an opportunity. If you see it as an opportunity, and it's your passion to preach the gospel, you'll see it as a pulpit. You'll see it as a way to get the gospel out.

So Paul's suffering, his jail sentence, was an opportunity for the furtherance of God's plan for Roman soldiers. It furthered God's plan for Roman citizens. And finally, we'll close with this, it furthered God's plan, listen, for reluctant saints. I find there's a lot of reluctant saints. I find them all over the place, just a little ashamed of the gospel, a little reluctant to say anything that they believe. So verse 14 is about that. And most of the brethren in the Lord, those are fellow believers, having become confident by my chains, my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Now, you know what that tells me? That tells me that people in Rome, Christians in Rome, were scared to say anything. They were timid. They were frightened to announce I'm following Jesus Christ. He's my Lord and Savior. Here's my testimony. They were afraid and understandably. Paul ended up in jail. They could too. But in watching and hearing about Paul being so bold and unhindered to soldiers and to people who visit him, the citizens of Rome. They started thinking differently. They started having thoughts like, if God can use Paul in jail, God can certainly use me out of jail. So they became a little more bold.

And so they're not in prison. Paul is. They're citizens that live out there in Rome. Live in that house, this house, the Roman forum, work in that market. So now these citizens, who can go out, are emboldened by Paul, who is stuck in prison. And now they're reaching the kind of people that Paul couldn't reach. So it furthered God's plan for these reluctant saints.

So think of it. Instead of seeing those prison guards as a nuisance, or those prison chains as a hindrance, Paul saw them all as a furtherance. What a prospective. I'm sure that I'm speaking to people right now who are feeling chained to something. I'm going to give you an example. You may be a mother. You've given up a career. You went to college for that career. You quit your career. Now you are devoted to raising children at home. All of that investment is not being used. And you may feel, like many do, I'm in prison here. Let me encourage you with the example of Susanna Wesley. Susanna Wesley had 19 children. Do you think she ever felt confined? 19 kids. Last week on the platform we had a mom who had 8 children, another one who had 10 children, Susanna Wesley had 19 kids. She was often feeling very constricted. But she had two sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, who shook the British Isles with the gospel. One is a preacher. One is a hymn writer. By her imprisonment she furthered the gospel.

Maybe you feel chained to a job or a career. Now, it could be that you're even successful in your job, successful in your career. In fact, the more successful you get, you're feeling more imprisoned. You're stuck there. You know you have to produce more and more and more. And so you think thoughts like, well, I'd love to do more for Christ. But I'm stuck here and I'm very successful, and I got to keep this going, I have employees, and I have responsibilities.

Let me encourage you with the story of JC Penny, who made an enormous amount of money in his corporation, still does even though he's long gone. JC Penny, a Christian businessman, who felt imprisoned by what he did, but decided well, he could give the money away to gospel work. So get this, 90% of his income he gave away. He kept and lived on 10%. Now, most Christians give away 10%. That's their tithe. They live on 90%. He decided I'll reverse it. I can live happily. I make a lot of money. I can live on 10%. I'll give 90% away to those people preaching the gospel. He used that confinement, so to speak, to get the gospel out.

Maybe you feel chained to a sick bed. You're not here, but you're going to hear this message in a hospital or a convalescent home. You feel chained to a bed, imprisoned within those four walls. Let me encourage you with the story of Charlotte Elliott, who was an invalid. Charlotte Elliot, as an invalid, wrote 150 hymns. Some have become very famous. The most famous one was sung at all the Billy Graham Crusades. Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to Thee, oh Lamb of God, I come, I come. Written while Charlotte Elliott was an invalid and couldn't get out.

And perhaps this message is going to be heard by a prisoner. I mean a real prisoner in a prison cell. We get letters from all over the country, where prisoners will tune into the radio broadcast, and they'll write. Let me encourage you. Maybe you came to faith in Christ. If you're a prisoner and you're hearing this message, you came to faith in Christ while you were in prison, understand this Martin Luther translated the Bible in jail, in the Wartburg prison in Germany.

Then there's the story of John Bunyan. John Bunyan was a preacher in England. And he was fiery, and he saw great results. And so they arrested him and put him in the Bedford jail. He didn't stop preaching there. He shouted so loud that his voice could be heard over the walls. And people would gather outside the walls to listen to him. And so thought I can't have this. And they put him in solitary confinement deep below in the dungeon. And so he decided to write. And he wrote Pilgrim's Progress there. Millions of people, millions of people have been inspired by that book. I like to read it at least once a year.

So let me conclude with this. Maybe, just maybe, you could be a happy prisoner. I can't do anything for your shackles, health. Circumstances may restrict you. They do all of us at some point. But maybe you could become a happy prisoner. Not a sappy prisoner. Not woe is me, life's a bummer. Not a scrappy prisoner, where you're fighting and lashing out at people. But a happy prisoner. It worked for Paul.

And I daresay, this larger than life figure named Paul the Apostle had it far worse than I've ever had it. And I've had loss in my life. You have had loss in your life. I'm feeling restrictions of all kinds as my age increases. And one day, it will increase to the point where I won't be able to do what I did. But like Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, I'm in these chains, but the word of God is not chained. There's always a way if, and only if, that's your passion.

Father we want to end there. We know that your passion is the gospel and was the gospel. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. You were willing to go through the sacrifice of the death of your son. Jesus, you were willing to go to the cross and shed your blood to buy people back to God.

I pray that what my brothers and sisters, may be experiencing in their little prison experiences due to health, or due to employment or unemployment, to relationship or lack of relationship, that the prison they feel would become an opportunity, a fulcrum, if that is their passion. And if not I pray that you would make it so. Because there's nothing quite as thrilling as leading another person to faith in Christ, or telling that story, or giving our testimony. So use us Lord, no matter where we find ourselves. Again, we ask it for your glory and your honor that Jesus' name would be great and more famous than it is, amen.

Though Paul was stuck in a prison cell, he still had the joy of Christ. Does this encourage you to share your joy with others? Let us know. Email mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
Skip Heitzig
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You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
Skip Heitzig
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No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
Skip Heitzig
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If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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7/9/2017
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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
Skip Heitzig
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Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
Skip Heitzig
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The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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There are 8 additional messages in this series.