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Philippians 1:1-18a, Partnership in the Gospel

Sunday, May 6

Using Gifts

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

imprisoned but not useless

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul indicated that he was imprisoned. Not only did he continue to reach out to the Christian communities he had started, but he also found himself useful as a servant of God in the prison itself. The entire imperial guard learned of Paul’s mission to spread the news of Christ, and his imprisonment and ongoing evangelism gave courage and strength to other Christians to speak their truth boldly.

One of the most stubborn obstacles we might face is our own voice that tells us, “When…” or “If…” God calls at the most inopportune moments sometimes, and we might find ourselves faced with the question of acting upon God’s call or not. Many times, I have found myself saying I’ll follow God’s call when…I have enough money…I have more experience…I have more support. I’ll follow God’s call if…God gives me a sign…other people think it’s a good idea…I am likely to succeed.

But God doesn’t need those whens or ifs to call us. We can serve where we are. We can serve with the gifts we have. We can serve even if we don’t know whether we will succeed or fail.

Paul knew his mission, and imprisonment didn’t stop him from following God’s call. Some of us don’t know our mission yet, and we can serve in many ways until we discover just how God intends to use our unique set of gifts for God’s glory. Others of us may know our mission but are reluctant to move forward because of perceived (or real) obstacles. Still others know our mission and we move forward boldly, whether we are likely to succeed or there’s a possibility to fail. No one else can tell us what God’s call is for us. We must figure that out for ourselves, and then determine just how we are going to use our gifts to serve.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Philippians 1:1-18a

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

I want you to know, beloved that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.