I’ve been reflecting of late upon Philippians 1:12: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
For several days the Lord has hit my “pause” button over the phrase “to advance the gospel.”
I’m beginning to realize that, while I am called to “the ministry,” so little of my life “in the ministry” makes any direct contribution “to advance the gospel.” I do all kinds of things that qualify as “doing the ministry,” but which contribute little “to advance the gospel.”
Tangentially perhaps. Maybe, via a series of logical connections, an individual might reasonably build a case that most of the things that occupy my time in one way or another “advance the gospel.” But did the Apostle intend for us to expend so much mental effort to justify our labors? Is that what Jesus wants?
The power of what Paul was saying—both for himself and for the Philippians believers to whom he wrote—was that there was a direct connection between his difficult circumstances and the “advance [of] the gospel.” That relationship is, then, the conductor that carries the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) not just forward to the unbelieving, but backward to Paul and the Philippian believers, giving them hope, strength, patience and joy to live through the circumstances and embrace them as a meaningful part of their calling.
So from that I have had this thought (and I think it is forming into a conviction) …
For one called as a disciple of Jesus and into His service, the further away from the “advance [of] the Gospel” our activities are, the less satisfying they are, the more draining they become and the more discouraged we become.
So, I review the things that “the ministry” has required of me this week (and its only Tuesday!). I realize I’ve spent most of my time dealing with things that I can make a case for as a necessary part of being “in the ministry.” But it takes some doing to make any valid connection to what they have to do with the “advance [of] the gospel.”
As a sustained experience this produces exhaustion, discouragement and a host of other negative emotions and thoughts.
Lord Jesus, help me to “do the ministry” in a faithful and responsible way before you as the Chief Shepherd and before the flock which you have called me to tend. Please also enable me to ever increasingly give myself to those things which enable the advance of the Gospel. In this way give me energy, strength, faith and joy. I ask this for your glory, amen.