My friend, Michael Mastropoll, told a story this past week. He took his son (age 3) to go swimming at the public pool. While he was having a good time hanging out with his son and swimming, another dad came frantically running up and pulled his kid out of the water–all while glaring at Michael. Apparently his child was treading water and about to drown right next to himd. Obviously Michael didn’t see the kid about to drown or he would have helped him. Though, it raises a question: are there people drowning around us that we don’t even notice?
“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
Paul was quite possibly the most intense missionary that has ever lived. At the time of writing this letter, Paul had found himself imprisoned for sharing the Gospel too much. Not only that, but after being imprisoned, Paul finds ways to have the Gospel advanced by it (v. 12). What?? If I had been put in prison for sharing the Gospel, I would be calling my lawyer and fighting for my rights! Paul doesn’t take that approach.
Paul had an amazing sense of seeing the people “drowning” around him. Because of this, when Paul was arrested and had to spend every moment of his life strapped next to a guard. Though, he didn’t complain, but rather shared the Gospel–implicitly and explicitly (v. 13). For Paul, his goal was to reach people for Christ. It turns out that the imperial guard needed Christ just as much as the other people. So he turns to Bob (a named I made up for an imperial guard) and says, “Have you heard of the resurrected Messiah, Jesus?”
Though, Paul was not only concerned with the “drowning” people around him, but also the other people who can help save “drowning” people too. He uses this opportunity to demonstrate to the other Christians that they have nothing to fear (v. 14). Imprisonment and death was probably the worst outcome for Christians of the day and, naturally so, it scared them. Paul wanted to communicate that imprisonment was nothing to fear. For him, to live is Christ, and to die is gain! (Phil. 1:21; covered in the next article) This means that whether in prison or out of prison, his goal is to share the Gospel with everyone he can. Being in prison does not hinder this; it just slightly changes his audience.
Get in the Pool
So what’s holding you back from reaching out to “drowning” people? Is it fear of rejection? Awkwardness? Not knowing what to say? A voice inside of our head likes to tell us that we need to become more “spiritually mature” to share the Gospel, but that is not true! A sign of spiritual maturity is sharing the Gospel. You share the Gospel to become spiritually mature, not become spiritually mature to share the Gospel.
Whatever fears that are holding you back should be gone after a conversation with Paul. Paul was imprisoned multiple times, beaten, shipwrecked, and eventually killed for his faith. Yet, he was probably the happiest guy that everyone knew! He said things like rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4) and this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17).
For some of us, we may have a bigger problem on our hands than fear. Some of us may not care about the “drowning” people around and are too carried away in our own lives. We tend to separate our “Christian” lives and our “real” lives and in the Bible there is no distinction. Our fundamental purpose is to live for God in all that we do. Meaning that whether at work, church, school, home, grocery store, etc., you thoughts should be, “How can I serve God and expand His Kingdom?”
So put on your floaties and get in the water! There are people drowning all around us.