Seeing and Spreading It
Boldness. Courage. Fearlessness. These are the watchwords in Philippians 1.
I want us to see a crucial element about courage in Philippians 1. It has to do with the connection between the growing boldness of Paul’s friends, his own courage in the face of death, and his exhortation to fearlessness for the Philippians.
The gospel surprisingly advances through Paul’s imprisonment because his brethren are emboldened to speak the word without fear. And they are emboldened because Paul’s imprisonment has surprisingly increased their confidence in the Lord. How does this work?
Here’s the principle. Seeing courage spreads courage. Seeing boldness awakens boldness. Seeing fearlessness overcomes fear.
Paul is in prison, facing the possibility of his own execution. But he is not despairing or depressed. He is happy and hopeful. He does not view his imprisonment as a setback. Instead he views it as an opportunity for gospel advance. He preaches to his jailers and proclaims the good news about Jesus to the whole palace guard. He seeks to make Jesus impossible to ignore among his captors. He wields the word without fear.
What’s more, he expects to be delivered—meaning, he expects that God’s Spirit will empower him to magnify Jesus, no matter what comes. Paul has a desire-driven, Christ-treasuring courage in the face of looming loss and death. For him, to live is Christ and to die is gain, and this reality works in him indomitable courage in the face of opposition, imprisonment, and death.
Courage is contagious. Boldness spreads. Fearlessness is infectious.
When Paul’s brothers and fellow workers see his courage, their confidence in the Lord grows. Paul’s courage is contagious. They catch it, and their courage grows. They are literally encouraged by Paul’s courage. And because Paul’s courage is rooted in seeing Christ as his greatest treasure, his brethren’s confidence is not in Paul but in Christ. They are confident in the Lord. And their confidence in the Lord produces boldness in the face of opposition. They are emboldened by Paul’s boldness and speak the word without fear in the face of opposition.
And the boldness of the brethren rebounds back to Paul and strengthens his own faith. He hears that they, inspired by his example, preach Christ sincerely, from love and good will, and he rejoices in the proclamation of Christ. His joy is so full that he even rejoices when he hears that his opponents are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry. Paul’s joy abounds because Christ is proclaimed. And then Paul tells the Philippians about it. He reframes his own imprisonment as an opportunity for gospel advance.
And he reminds them that they are “engaged in the same conflict” he is. They have opponents. Paul has opponents. They have enemies and threats before them. Paul has enemies and threats before him. And just as Paul’s courage encourages his brothers, so also Paul intends his courage and the courage of his brothers to foster fearlessness in the Philippians. Paul invites them to join him in his joy-driven courage. They must pray for him, as he prays for them. They too must walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. They too must stand firm together, strive for the faith of the gospel together, and fearlessly preach the good news together.
The lesson of Philippians 1 is clear. Courage is contagious. Boldness spreads. Fearlessness is infectious. And when these virtues are caught, Christ is magnified.
This article is adapted from Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude by Joe Rigney.
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