You Have Influence

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

As we looked at verses 12 and 13 a couple weeks or so ago, we read of and talked about Paul’s interesting circumstances as he wrote this letter. We know now that Paul was a prisoner. We have talked about that a lot already. He was a prisoner, as he describes it, “for Christ.” If he had never known Christ he would not be in that Roman prison. His circumstances of imprisonment are directly tied to him, Paul, being “in Christ.” If he were not in Christ, he would not be in prison. This is where Paul must have had to step back and say, “Okay, I am here because of Christ, my relationship with Him; is it worth it?” We may ask that at times, “Is what I am dealing with, as a Christian, in Christ, is it worth it?”

For Paul the answer is a resounding “Yes! Serving Christ, being in Christ, suffering for Christ, being an ambassador for Christ, giving all for Christ, yes, it is worth it.” He says that his boast is in Christ, and that he counts all other things as rubbish, next to Christ. This is how he conveys these thoughts to us:

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Can we say this? Okay, you are the only one in the room. It’s just you with no distractions, put everything out of your mind and listen now, don’t take notes on this, just focus in with me for a moment, hear these words, put yourself in the text, listen to me read this again. Is this descriptive of you? No one else, just listen for you. Ready?

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Is that you? If not, why not? What is holding you back? What stands in the way of this passage being a reality in your life? What is it that keeps you from penning these words from your heart? What do we hold in higher esteem than Christ? You may say, “I’m just not there yet.” Well, why not? And what is your plan to get there?

Every event in life, every event in your life, in my life, presents to us a fork in our road, forces us to choose a path, a way to respond, and that way to respond will either be all about us – self-preservation, fulfilling our own lusts, gaining more for self, groaning and complaining, rejecting people – or we can respond, in Christ, in ways that glorify Him, and that convey to our own souls and anyone else around that my God is great, in control, worth everything, even in this crook in the road that I may be experiencing. In the high points in the road, in the dips, in the canyons even, in the straight-aways, in all of my path, my God is great and Christ is worth everything, so much that all else is as nothing. Paul calls this the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” Oh, we could just stay right here! The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. It is when we refuse to live in that truth that we can become susceptible to anything sinful or selfish, all the rubbish that Paul speaks of, we can fall into all kinds of sin and selfishness. Right?

And so we talked three weeks ago about verses 12 and 13, and discovered that Paul, rather than detail his hardships, he recognized that all events, including his current ones, could be redeemed for the Lord’s sake, and he took what advantage he could to continue his mission. The primary concern that he carried with him, wherever he went, was that the gospel message of salvation in Christ, and in Christ alone, that it go forward. This happened through adverse circumstances, but as long as it happened, Paul could be joyful!

14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:14)

In verse 14 we see something really interesting and I think we see a really fascinating result of one man’s faithfulness to Christ, and to the mission that Christ has given him. I believe we are all influential people. Moms, you are influential, dads, children, single adults, grandparents, husbands, wives, we are all influential. Bosses, business owners, teachers, employees of all types, college students, it doesn’t matter your place in life, you have influence on someone, we all do. Some of you may have influence over hundreds, some over one primary person, I don’t know, but that is irrelevant. We all have influence, right?

Have you ever experienced this? Someone comes up to you that maybe you don’t even know, or don’t know well, and they say something like, “I remember when you once said ______, and I’ll never forget that!” And you are thinking, “Okay, I sure don’t remember that!” We have influence when we don’t even know we have influence. Knowing this, we don’t have to get paranoid, we don’t have to be paralyzed thinking everyone is watching us or anything like that. No, we just faithfully live the Christian life! Wherever we are, in the home, or like Paul, in prison.

What did Paul do? He continued faithful ministry in jail, like he was doing when free, and he did it because he loved Christ. And continuing faithfulness in hard times has huge impact. And I think this is what we see beginning in verse 14 and in the few verses following: “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Something was happening as a result of Paul’s faithfulness in his life. God was showing Himself strong in Paul’s life and the result of God’s power, and Paul’s delight in ministry was that a confidence was beginning to spread well beyond Paul, to the other brothers, to others in the faith. In other words, Paul’s faithful perseverance was strengthening believers in the church. Not that some were encouraged, but most were encouraged!

Looking back at some of the history of this city of Philippi, we learn that it was an interesting city, an ungodly city, and one that had a large population of retired military men. Many Roman soldiers were living in Philippi. It was not a place that was friendly to the gospel. So the Christians in Philippi might have been somewhat guarded in their Christian walk, may have been fearful of being too outspoken. There were of course Christians in Rome too. Both groups were aware of Paul’s imprisonment and were certainly watching and waiting to see what would happen to him. These Christians in both places were living in difficult situations. Most of these people, the Christians in Rome and the Christians in Philippi, for sure could not talk with Paul. They could not hear his teaching or listen to encouraging words from him. They only had what they heard about him. Sort of what they could observe in him from a distance, that is all really what they could do for the most part, and they had some letters like this one we are studying from. So from these letters, from observation by some, and stories relayed about him, they were able to piece together what was going on, to learn how Paul was doing. 

Now, we have not experienced this, but you can imagine that one of the questions of the day for first century Christians may have been, “How public do I go with my profession of faith?” There was risk involved. “I mean, do I keep my faith private? Do I just share my faith with my family?” And for those who spoke openly, even for some of them they may have been just watching and waiting for what could be their most fearful imagined thing: being taken away, publicly persecuted, and removed from their families. You would have to think about that, weigh the cost. Is Christ worth it, will God carry me through, should I really be about carrying out the great commission?

And so with all of that swirling through many people’s minds, here is this guy Paul, who was right in the middle of what may be their greatest fear. Here is Paul living out what many might be dreading. Here is Paul in prison where no one wants to go, right? And from prison it is like Paul is saying, “Hey, I am okay, I am good. God is with me! I am here experiencing what you may be fearfully dreading, and I have found there is nothing to fear!”

Can you see how if that were your biggest fear, and now your friend is facing that and giving testimony of God’s faithfulness in his life during that prison stay, that others will look on and be emboldened? That is what was happening! There was a confidence that was spreading among the churches. Why? Because God was showing Himself mighty in one believer’s life. The church was looking on and saying, “Yes! God is great! If He can carry Paul through this, He can carry me too!” How about that!

I love this – confidence in God spreading, spanning the church because of this one man’s faithfulness. Paul says, “There is nothing to fear.”

Jesus had much to say about a lack of confidence in God, or we could say fear. In fact he was constantly reminding His followers that they had no reason to fear circumstances or other people.

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:26-33)

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

Jesus taught on fear, He explained the futility of fear. Paul taught about fear as well, and now we see an example of a man, Paul, living faithfully with courage, being an example for others in the hands of God. Paul had influence. We all have influence. Paul’s influence affected other believers in a positive way. How are we doing?

What if things had been a little different? What if Paul had had his Damascus road experience with Jesus, if he had become this great preacher, if he had done some miracles and publicly proclaimed his allegiance to Christ, and had proclaimed that Christ was everything to him, and that to him to die would be gain, what if all that had happened, then he had been arrested, put in a Roman prison, and at that point started to whine and complain against God? What if he began showing some major discontentment with where God had him, what if he began to lash out at God through anger and fear? We would be left with what? Words versus a portrait of his life. Which would we believe? Which would be most powerful? “He said God would be faithful, but it doesn’t look like God He is. He said God would carry us through trials, but wow, look what’s going on here.”

I’m simply pointing out the power of godly living. How God uses us by His power in varying circumstances to put on display His power, His might, to build faith in other Christians. That is what happened with Paul and the church in Philip.

Now, what about us? “Okay,” you may say, “I’ve pretty much blown it here!” Well, me too! But here is the thing: no matter what our past is, good or bad, no matter what happened yesterday or even earlier this morning, we are not beyond redeeming today and tomorrow for God’s glory as a testimony of His enduring faithfulness.

It is not, “Well I’ve blown it here with this message because I have not been on the side of good influence lately, I’m finding myself more on the other side.” Well what about now? What do you do with it now? Deal with it biblically: confess, repent, seek forgiveness where necessary, be reconciled, and in those things, God is glorified. Turn that around now for God’s glory, let others know that God does that too, that He is faithful.

Paul is amazed by God. He is so dazzled by God. He is so focused on God, and I hope that is contagious with all of us. He is excited about what should be devastating. He is joyful over really hard things. He shares news, events about himself, that should be crushing, and does it with rejoicing. He lifts up Christ and the gospel when he himself is circumstantially suffering. He is just not normal! This is not normal. He is not normal, he is filled with Christ.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Will our lives this week reflect the faithfulness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

Do our lives help others to live confidently in God without fear?