The Good in the Bad

Bible Reading: Philippians 1:12-18

Philippians 1:12-18, “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.  Yes, and I will rejoice.”

I came across this helpful quote from Chuck Swindoll years ago: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

We have little or no control over our circumstances or of what others say or do, but we can control our attitude.  And a healthy attitude can radically affect our spiritual and emotional well-being and dictate, to some extent, our usefulness to God.  An attitude is a way of thinking, a good attitude is one that is well-founded on the God of hope, borne in us by the Spirit, and instructed and encouraged to us by the Word of God. 

Paul was a man full of faith and hope in Jesus, writing to the Philippians from jail.  His positive attitude was essential to his positive response.  This was not the first imprisonment of the Apostle Paul.  In fact, back when Paul first brought the gospel to Philippi, a riot ensued, and he and Silas were locked up in a prison.  Remember that?  And what happened on that occasion?  Paul and Silas were “praying and singing praise to God” (Acts 16:25).  And the prisoners were listening to them.  Then God caused a great earthquake.  And the jailer, terrified because he himself would be executed if he were to lose his prisoners—was ready to take his own life.  But Paul shared the gospel with him, and he and his whole family were saved!  Now our text says that Paul’s later imprisonment worked out for the “greater progress of the gospel,” but what was true in this later case was also true in the first.

So, Paul was locked up in jail again.  The man who had thrice journeyed afar, bearing the gospel message, was imprisoned.  But hope, well-founded on the God of Hope, the God with whom nothing is impossible, is not constrained or deterred by challenging circumstances. How did Paul’s circumstances work for the “greater progress of the gospel?”  Because of his imprisonment, Paul was able to reach people with the gospel who would have been otherwise beyond reach (Philippians 1:13; 4:22).  Because of his imprisonment, and specifically because of his godly and courageous response to it, others had “far more courage to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14).  Though some were taking advantage of his situation, envious of Paul as they were, Paul nonetheless rejoiced in that the gospel was being preached through them, despite their suspect motivations (Philippians 1:18).  In addition, Paul’s imprisonment provided an opportunity for the Philippian believers to express their loving concern for Paul (Philippians 4:18).  Much of these positives would have been impossible if Paul would have spent his time bemoaning his circumstances, or if he had allowed his troubles to dictate his attitude.  Hope made the difference!

Optimism is defined as an “inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.”  According to this definition, Paul was an optimist, and for good reason.  It was his walk with Jesus that made him so.  It was because his hope was set on God, and he well knew what God could do.  What about you?  How’s your attitude?  As Thomas Brooks once said, “A man full of hope will be full of action.”  And he will not be deterred!


When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies
But His smile quickly drives it away

Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear
Can abide while we trust and obey
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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