Bible Topics
in the Christian Library

Philippians 1:12-26

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. Our lesson text speaks to the greatest enemy of joy -- dire circumstances!

1. Who is there that has not sacrificed joy, contentment, and happiness because he/she allowed circumstances to control them instead of them controlling circumstances.

2. Who is there that fails to find joy because:

a. Friends have turned on them with bitter and hurting actions or words.

b. One's family may have acted in a way to bring shame and reproach.

c. One's husband or wife seems to love and care less than before.

d. The boss or fellow-workers make the daily job almost unbearable.

3. Our text speaks clearly to all and encourages us not to succumb to the ever present threat posed by bad circumstances.

II. In our present text Paul shows us that whatever our circumstances in life may be, we can overcome them.

1. Paul was in a terrible situation.

a. He was in prison, guarded 24 hours a day by a soldier who was constantly chained to him.

b. Nero reigned as Emperor and would soon pronounce a verdict upon Paul's life.

c. He was in Rome because of bitter hatred and had already spent two years in prison at Caesarea.

d. Yet Paul did not allow circumstances to him or weaken his faith!

2. Should one face financial catastrophe and all material goods perish; should one's health suddenly turn bad; should one's employment be quickly eliminated -- that one will need the counsel found in the lesson text today!

3. We need this lesson to show us how we can accept and face dire circumstances as Paul. IF we apply the points in this lesson, then we will not lose joy when difficult situations arise.


I. As we read these verses we note Inspiration's advice on how we can be joyful even in the face of bad circumstances.

A. By trusting in the knowledge that God's Will can never hindered (v. 12-13, 19).

1. Paul could confidently look at life because of he trusted God. Thus there is never a hint of anger, criticism, or impatience with his lot in life -- he knew that God was in control (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

"Through all this, Paul had never once been forsaken by the Lord. God's strength and power had accompanied Paul to endure and to be delivered. And now in a Roman prison, he was convinced that God would not forsake him"(Gene Getz, commenting on 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, A Profile of Christian Maturity, page 64).

2. Note v. 16 -- "set" -- "appointed," "put here." He stood there not from miscalculation, or chance, but by God's deliberate design!

3. Whenever one develops this steadfast trust and faith in God's control, he will be able to accept life's ills much better!

B. By realizing that good will eventually result (v. 14).

1. Note Hebrews 12:11 -- "afterward" -- There is always an afterward and this must be remembered.

2. In our context the good which resulted was seen in the brethren's willingness to boldly preach and teach Christ!

3. No matter how great the problem appeared, Paul was able to see some good which resulted.

4. Those who are caught up in circumstances often fail to see any good because they are not looking for it -- they limit their vision! 


A man once visited one of the great museums desiring to see a tapestry that was well known. As the man stood before the hanging he could not make sense of the scene. He knew it was to depict a town scene with men, horses, and roads, but to him it seemed a continuous nonsense. There was neither head or foot and it seemed a total confusion of threads and colors. But then it occurred to him that he was looking at it from the wrong side. As he stepped around to look at the tapestry from the proper perspective, what formerly was confused and meaningless became exact proportions. Such is often true with the providential workings of God. If we look without faith we see nothing but nonsense and disorder. But if we look from heaven's perspective we will find that all events fit in exact proportion and a beautiful history will unfold clearly depicting the great care and consideration of the Almighty One above!

C. By resolving that we will not allow the petty actions of others blind us to true joy (v. 15-18).

1. Paul had to deal with some pretty discouraging people.

a. They were mean and selfish, using Paul's problems to promote themselves.

b. They were envious of Paul and insincere.

c. "They were self-seeking opportunists, promoting themselves at Paul's expense. Perhaps they had enjoyed some prominence in the church before he arrived, but had been eclipsed since he came to the city. By taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment, they may have hoped to recover their former popularity. They may have supposed that he would bitterly resent their success (just as they did his) and his imprisonment would become all the more galling to him. If so, they failed to reckon with the greatness of the man" (Kent).

2. But Paul refused to let such petty people rob him of his joy -- He even still found good resulting from such actions (v.18).

3. How often have we lost hours of joy because we sat and bemoaned what someone unjustly said about us! Let us look at Paul and respond as he did!

D. By a stubborn refusal to allow circumstances to control your life and thinking (v. 20).

1. Paul was confident that whatever happened, he would make sure Christ was exalted!

2. Should we make this same resolve we will find joy and happiness which has eluded us!

3. Whatever happens, let us use that to God's glory! Will you accept this great challenge?

E. By developing the proper philosophy of life (v. 21-23).

1. Unhappiness often results when we forget our purpose in living -- to serve and glorify God, not self!

2. Paul found life joyous because he focused everything on Christ -- For him life held joy and death held joy (cf. Ro 14:8).

3. One's philosophy and goals of life determine how happy he is. For instance note v. 21 -- For many it is impossible to read it as Paul wrote it. They have to change it. . . 

a. "For me to live is money and to die is dread."

b. "For me to live is fame and to die is to lose all."

c. "For me to live is entertainment and to die is great fear."

4. The Christian has the philosophy of life which gives the best now and the best in the future. And this cannot be taken away no matter how bad things get for us! 

F. By acknowledging your own personal worth and achievement (v. 24-26).

1. This is not pride or arrogance but a mature understanding of one's worth and good.

2. It is a source of joy for each to know that he/she is a factor of good for another.

II. Briefly note some practical lessons which arise from these points.

A. One's attitude demonstrated in trials and troubles will affect everyone around him (v. 14).

1. Had Paul become depressed by circumstances the brethren would not have been so bold.

2. 1 Sa 14:6-23 -- Through Jonathan and his armor-bearer Israel was encouraged to fight.

3. Remember that others are watching you and will take courage in your actions to overcome trials of their own.

B. We note that one may react two ways to circumstances in life: (1) Sit in self-pity; (2)Take advantage of every circumstance (v. 12).

1. Paul viewed his chains not as a curse but as an opportunity!

2. Sometimes God places "chains" on His people to get them to do a particular chore.

a. An illness may be a chain to help one develop and mature patience, trust, and confidence in God.

b. Young mothers may feel chained to the home, but the care and love shown there will be used by God.

c. Circumstances can help us grow by humility, soul searching, and making decisions.

d. Note: Whatever "chains" God places upon us we can use them to His glory if we will search for the proper way!

3. "The secret is this: you look upon your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do" (Wiersbe).

C. We note the way to react to criticism.

1. Not with equal amounts of criticism and rebuttal.

2. There must be love, joy, and thanksgiving for any good which is accomplished!

3. There must be willingness to put aside ourself and stress only Christ Jesus!


I. We have only touched the depth of this passage which tells us how we can be happy even in the face of dire ills.

1. I encourage you to review the lesson text and study the points suggested.

2. God's message--We do not have to be controlled by circumstances, we can be their masters and control how we act with them!

II. Perhaps the key factor which undergirds this entire section is faith in God's Providence!

1. "All through the history of the world God has taken what seemed to be a hindrance and obstacle, and, if only His servants were patient and true to Him, has converted it into a pulpit from which they can better preach the truth. Remember how Nebuchadnezzar harried the Jews. It seemed as if the holy city was never again to wield an influence for good over the world; but the chosen people were scattered with their Scriptures throughout the world, and the word of God was magnified much more than it could have been by their concentration in their own city. [The devil stirred up the Jews to murder Christ, but the grain of wheat which fell into the ground to die, no more abode alone, but has covered the world with the harvests of rich grain. The Emperors persecuted the early Church, but only drove the disciples everywhere preaching the Word"] (Meyer).

2. "So it will be in our life. Let us begin to rejoice at difficulties, to rejoice when Satan rages. The power which is used against us, God will convert for our good; only let us always cherish the eager expectation and hope that Christ may be magnified in our body, whether by life or by death, whether by joy or by shame, whether by good fortune or by misfortune, whether by success or by failure" (Meyer).

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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