If the Apostle Paul Had a Band - Part 3
I recently watched a documentary about the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine. The boldness and determination of the Ukrainian people fighting for their freedom was shocking. Many lost their lives defying the authorities and going against armed police battalions with sticks and stones. They fought for a political change and a temporal freedom.
We know the Truth that can set all nations free and bring eternal hope for all humanity. For this, we should be prepared to lay everything down with even greater boldness than those people at Maidan! We must be willing to surrender our comfort, our reputation and our lives in order to share Jesus, and the message of his death and resurrection, for the salvation of all who believe.
This was Paul’s message. And if he’d had a band, his purpose would have been to share it at any cost…
In this series, we’ve been looking at Philippians, a letter Paul wrote while under house arrest in Rome. He and his team had been through a very intense tour. They had started out with a gig in Jerusalem, even though they’d been warned it would be dangerous. Paul was arrested there, and the tour took an unexpected turn, in the form of a long journey to Rome, during which he suffered assassination attempts, a shipwreck, and starvation. Through all of this, he never deviated from his purpose, but passionately continued to preach Jesus. In chapter 1, verse 14, Paul declares that he is in chains, not as a result of a crime he’s committed, but because of the Gospel of Jesus.
In this dire situation, rather than complaining about hard times, Paul speaks excitedly about how they have made space for him to witness to the Roman guards, those running the palace, and even to Caesar’s own household. It seems getting arrested can give a band huge opportunities! Paul didn’t need a big label or a manager; God secured him gigs in front of the most powerful and influential people of his time. It cost him dearly, but Paul didn’t care. He seized every occasion to preach this precious truth.
Paul was so passionate about his purpose and message, that it was all he thought of, even when in chains.
In verses 15 to 18, we see that his suffering led to unexpected fame. Fans do pay more attention to the lyrics when a band is willing to suffer for what they believe in. But as always in the music scene, fame also stirs up jealousy. Strangely enough, in Paul’s case, other bands wanting the same recognition as he was getting, began preaching his same message! And their motive wasn’t a desire for people to know Jesus, but rather to gain greater popularity.
Experiencing jealousy and criticism from others sometimes feels even harder than being in chains. When our reputation is on the line, we can often give way and lose sight of our purpose. Yet, Paul didn’t fall prey to that. Rather than getting bitter, he rejoiced that the whole situation had brought more focus on the message of Jesus.
Preaching the Cross will always mean stepping out and risking offence, or even seeing listeners turn away. We need to be willing to walk through this so the Truth can be heard. Most of the time, when people see you are genuine and real about what you are communicating, they are open to hearing it.
Paul was so passionate about his purpose and his message, that he considered it more important than his own reputation.
In the next section, verses 19 to 26, Paul not only faces chains and criticism, but also the very real possibility of death. And isn’t it precisely in life and death situations, that we reflect most deeply about our own lives and purpose? Paul, facing the threat of execution, does not waver in his objective and message; he speaks of it even more strongly, in one of the most radical and beautiful verses of his letter, declaring, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Paul finds joy in life because his purpose is THE purpose - to glorify his Creator, to spread the message of the love of God, to care for his brothers and sisters, and to change the world. And he finds joy even in the prospect of death, because what he’s willing to sacrifice for is not temporal; it is eternal. His deepest intent is to know Jesus, and he realizes that this will be complete when he dies and goes to be with Him.
Paul is so passionate about his purpose and message, that he is willing to die for it.
He ends this section challenging the Philippians to have the same purpose and message, and to fight for them with the same passion. In verse 27, he affirms, “Let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” as if to say, “You know the Truth and your lives have the greatest purpose of all - to share that Truth - so live in such a way as to demonstrate it!”
I think if Paul were on the Provoke & Inspire podcast, and we asked him to give a final message to the bands and artists out there, he would sum it all up with words similar to those in the final verses (27-30) of chapter 1: “If you know the Truth that can set all people free, then be united in one spirit, one mind, fighting together for the Gospel! Don’t be afraid of opposition, but be willing to suffer and to fight for this purpose and message!”
And that’s my prayer. That we would use all of our gifts and creativity, being willing to do the most unconventional things, and even risk our own lives, to reach our generation. That we would stand together with boldness to make the message of Jesus known today.