Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"The Furtherance Of the Gospel"

"I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

The Apostle Paul's challenges provide opportunity for that which most mattered in his life. "The furtherance of the gospel" revealed in Paul and by Paul constituted the reason God did not immediately translate him to Heaven from the Damascus road experience and his subsequent salvation.

The same is true of us. Our calling may be different from the Apostle's commission to travel far and wide, preaching to unbelievers and strengthening the churches of his day. Our Lord nevertheless charges us with the privilege and responsibility to "shine as lights in the world" along the particular pathways of our place in life. Such ministry requires the same dynamic working of the Holy Spirit as in Paul. Things must happen, difficult things, that fall out to the furtherance of the gospel. Indeed, merely memorizing Scriptures and making ourselves available to God for ministry does not fully equip us to actually reveal the Lord Jesus Christ to people. We must know Him as He is revealed in both blessing and difficulty. The latter experience is that which most enables us to present the Savior in such a manner that we are revealing both His person and His truth to our world.

If the particular challenges we presently face, in whatever form, are realized as the means by which the gospel is furthered, our perspective immediately changes. Bonds liberate our hearts to tell of liberty in Christ. Pain provides opportunity to bear witness of God's comfort. Losses lead to testimony of that which cannot be lost, namely, "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Weakness becomes the vessel of our Lord's strength displayed by us to our world, and difficulties of every variety give us a voice of clarity that can be heard by perplexed and hurting people. If we will open our eyes to this truth often declared in the New Testament, our own hearts will be encouraged and strengthened. Far more importantly, however, the Lord Jesus will be revealed by us to others, and the gospel of His salvation will be furthered.

As with Paul, our Heavenly Father could have immediately transported us to our heavenly home when we believed. Instead, He left us here to bless us with the opportunity to be the vessels of His love manifested to the world. Such ministry always involves sacrifice, and God orchestrates and allows much to come our way that is uncomfortable to us as a means of preparing us to provide the balm of Christ to our world. As we have frequently referenced over the years, the great question of the believer concerning difficulty is not "Why is this happening to me?," but rather, "Who is this for?" Our very faith began with the Lord Jesus walking this path of devotion to God and others. It continues in us as God privileges us with the high calling declared by Paul to the Corinthians...

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you."
(II Corinthians 4:8-12)

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