For Jesus and For Others

This post could also be titled: How God has used one of our PreSchool directors to grow my faith.

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  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)

These are remarkable words.  Paul, imprisoned in Rome, writes to his friends at the church in Philippi to relieve their anxiety over his circumstances.  He assures them that what has happened to him is a good thing.  His trials, beatings, suffering and unjust imprisonment have served the Gospel and Jesus well.  Furthermore, God has used his circumstances to embolden the faith of others to fearlessly proclaim the good news of Jesus in the face of intense opposition.

Then, as if to assure us that he is serious about the goodness of these trials, he says twice that he is rejoicing in the midst of all of this because Christ is being proclaimed. (vs. 18)

Paul was so satisfied in Jesus that he was willing to live his life for Jesus and others.  If his suffering created a pathway for the Gospel to be proclaimed and other believers to be strengthened in Jesus – it would be worthy suffering.

dandlAs I spent time thinking on these verses I was overwhelmed with emotion because they described my dear friend Leslie Vogel.  For 3 years Leslie has been battling cancer. She and her husband David have been ferocious warriors against a viscous disease.  It’s been a hard journey.  It’s been a long season of suffering.  Leslie’s family and friends have been fighting for her in prayer.  There have been victories along the way which we have celebrated. Yet, the battle rages on today for her and us.

This suffering and hardship has not been meaningless.  God has used it to proclaim the good news that Jesus, and Jesus alone satisfies.  God has used it to grow this pastor more than any other event in the past 3 years.

In the heat of this battle, Leslie – a beloved daughter of God – has been faithful to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness all along the way.  She has sought Him with her whole heart.  Not in any false bravado, but in genuine brokenness.  Like Jesus she has cried, ‘Let this cup pass from me’.  She wants a long future with her husband.  She wants to experience the joy of children and future dreams.  But more than those things in faith she has cried, ‘Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done’.

Thousands including myself have watched her, read her honest words, and seen her continue to serve when no one would blame her for taking a break.  Her quiet boldness has strengthened our faith in Jesus.  We have grown more confident in God’s ability to sustain.  We have become more convinced that only Jesus can satisfy.  People all over the world have heard, read and seen Jesus proclaimed.  This is not meaningless.  This is monumentally meaningful.

Today my prayer is the same that Paul had in the conclusion of Philippians chapter 1.

I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:19-26)

Our prayer is that God would see fit to use Leslie to continue to reflect Jesus to us in the flesh.  That even though to be with Jesus would be better and more satisfying – we benefit the more by her continuing with us.  We will glory in Jesus no matter what, but we want to glory in Jesus because of her healing!  I have more to learn from her.  I believe she has more fruitful labor left.

Let us pray.  Let us fight in prayer for our sister and friend.  AND, let us fulfill Paul’s desire:

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”  (Philippians 1:27)

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