Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďUNINTENDED CONSEQUENCESĒ

Philippians 1.12-14

Unintended consequences. Unintended consequences are matters that we have to face and deal with throughout our entire lives. For example: Monrovia passed a city ordinance some years ago for the purpose of curbing truancy and making the streets safer by giving police an enforcement tool that would enable them to deal with gang bangers coming to Monrovia from Pasadena during public school hours. However, consider the unintended consequence. Not having read the state education code that already empowered the authorities to deal with such issues, the Monrovia city council, at the urging of the Monrovia police chief, enacted a law that resulted in students who are not attending public schools being stopped by police for walking down the street. One home school mom had two of her kids stopped 11 times while walking back and forth from errands she sent them on. Two of our Christian school students were stopped five times within fifteen minutes while walking two blocks, all of this occurring when our school was not even in session. Thus, an unintended consequence of that much publicized city ordinance not only violated parentís and studentís constitutional rights, but also resulted in police actually harassing the very kids in the city whose parents and teachers were most concerned about training young people to be law abiding. Of course, when the Krikorian Theater was built, the daytime curfew law was no longer enforced because the city now wants truants to come to Monrovia to watch movies. Unintended consequences.

When the Apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem after delivering the special offering, he had gathered from Gentile congregations, he was imprisoned in Caesaria for two to three years, and then transported to Rome to appeal to Caesar. Of course, opponents of the gospel gleefully giggled, while many believers were discouraged. Little did they know what would be the unintended consequence of Paulís imprisonment. Turn to Philippians 1.12-14. When you find the passage, stand for the reading of Godís Word:

12     But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

13     So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

14     And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Neither Paulís allies nor his adversaries could have anticipated how his imprisonment would serve, not to restrict the advance of the gospel, but to accelerate the advance of the gospel in the city of Rome. Notice the two things we see to be the direct outcome of the proper response by a Christian to adversity:

First, TAKE NOTE OF THE APOSTLE PAULíS CONCLUSION

It is reasonable to assume that Paulís long incarceration, two to three years in Caesaria, and now a difficult journey to a cell in Rome, had discouraged a number of the dear folks in Philippi. Therefore, Paul wrote to them to make sure they understood not only what was happening to him, but also what was happening to the cause of Christ in his area of influence and ministry. There are three comments Paul makes in verse 12: ďBut I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.Ē

First, he comments about his experiences. It is not interesting to you that Paul makes only passing mention of ďthe things which happened to meĒ? After all, he easily could have gone on and on in describing his many hardships, his heartbreaking disappointments, and reviewing all his personal anguish and sufferings. However, he does not host such a pity party. Why not? Because although the Philippians were probably concentrating their attention on the things that had and were happening to the Apostle Paul, Paul was not. His focus was actually elsewhere, not on past experience but future expectations.

What about those expectations? Whether folks will admit it or not, we all tend to think that only pleasant things do happen or ought to happen to people who do right. Never mind that Godís Word says otherwise. We tend to think that a believerís rewards will be handed out in the here and now and that Godís favor is always exhibited by good times and smooth sailing. Therefore, you can understand why folks would be worried about Paul, perhaps thinking to themselves, ďIf he is Godís man, what is he doing in jail?Ē However, remember what happened to Godís Son? What wrong had the Savior done to deserve arrest, unjust trials, and crucifixion? Beloved, it is important to realize that there is very little justice in this wicked world we live in. Related to that was the thought that by arresting, imprisoning, and accusing the Apostle Paul of wrongdoing, the advance of the gospel would be stopped, or at least slowed. However, notice that Paul writes, ďthat the things which happened to me have fallen out rather . . . .Ē The word ďrather,Ē mallon, is a word of contrast.[1] It shows that things, in fact, did not turn out the way folks predicted, but much better. In other words, what we have here is an unintended consequence of Paulís imprisonment as a result of his proper response to adversity.

The verse concludes with Paulís declaration of the gospelís expansion: ďthe things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.Ē Instead of the spread of the gospel being stifled, what happened? The opposite. Why did the opposite happen? Why did Paulís imprisonment not curtail the spread of the gospel? Two reasons, one human and one divine: First, Paul was a Christian man who always saw obstacles as something to overcome, not barriers to restrict him or to stop him. He had no doubt about Godís goodness and Godís desire to see the gospel message spread, so instead of doubting Godís motives and Godís wisdom for ordering his life in such a fashion, Paul simply rolled with the waves of adversity and continued on. Added to that, of course, was Paulís conviction that God was master of all, and in complete control of every circumstance of his life. That is the human side of things. On the divine side, Paulís imprisonment was Godís providential way of getting His man to where He wanted him to be to do the most effective job of ministering the gospel. The result was, despite the inconvenience and personal sacrifice that Paul was only too happy to make, the mission was being accomplished. And it was being accomplished in, of all places, Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire. Is it not interesting to reflect on the means by which God gets His man to the city He wants him to serve in? With Joseph it was betrayal by his brothers, slavery and imprisonment, that led to him second only to Pharaoh. Jonahís route to Nineveh was through the belly of a great fish. Danielís path to Babylon and both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires was as an exile after the fall of Jerusalem. Paulís path was arrest, incarceration in Caesaria, and transportation to Rome as a prisoner. Perhaps Paul reflected on and took comfort from those menís lives while he was in prison.

Next, TAKE NOTE OF PAULíS OBSERVATIONS

There are two sets of observations from which Paul drew the conclusion found in verse 12.

In verse 13, we see what Paul says about his observations related to the inside of his prison, having to do with the ears of the unbelievers: ďSo that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.Ē Here is the situation. Paul was a Roman citizen. For that reason, there would be a degree of freedom he enjoyed in prison that non-citizens would not have been allowed. However, Paul was still in chains. He did have a Roman Praetorian guard chained to him at all times, probably in four or six hour shifts. However, to Paul that was no inconvenience, rather it was a captive audience. He could witness and preach and praise God and pray, and because he was a Roman citizen the guard could not make him shut up, could not smack him around, could not in any way mistreat him. Life was hard for Paul; do not think it was not. However, it was not unbearable. At the same time, what a tremendous opportunity to reach hardened soldiers was afforded the Christian man who was not absorbed in self-pity. The result of Paulís situation was that throughout the Praetorian Guard, which were the elite troops of the Roman Empire, the men who guarded the palace, and whose lowest ranking soldiers had rank that equaled a centurion in every other Roman legion, the man who was waiting to see Caesar on charges was the hot topic of the day. Though Paul makes no claim here that these soldiers are being saved, he does indicate that his message is reaching them, and reaching beyond them. They are hearing the gospel, and they know Paul is no criminal. He is in jail for his faith in Christ. What happens after that is Godís business to take care of. One other thing to notice in verse 13 before we move on. Paul mentions ďmy bonds in Christ.Ē Why didnít he write ďmy bonds for ChristĒ? It would seem more natural, unless Paul was stressing to the Philippians that he was not in chains for being a servant of Christ, but as a servant of Christ. Paul wanted the Philippians, and you and me, to know that what he went through, and what you go through in your service to Christ, is part of the program. It is not what happens to those who serve Christ, it is an integral part of service to Christ. In other words, nothing bad is happening to Paul. It was all a part of Godís plan for his life.

In verse 14, we see what Paul says about his observations related to the outside of the prison, having to do with the mouths of the believers in and around the city of Rome: ďAnd many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.Ē It was only natural that the believers in Rome would initially pause a bit when they heard that Paul had arrived to Rome in chains for preaching the gospel. Was persecution about to fall? Was the infamous man they had never met going to make everything worse for them because of his notoriety? Would they be thrown in jail like Paul? True, he had sent them a wonderful letter. However, they had also received bad reports about him from Jewish travelers returning from Jerusalem. Was this guy going to ruin it for them in their home town? Legitimate questions. Paul was happy to report that the believers in Rome had their questions answered and their fears allayed. Regardless of mounting opposition, Paul had shown them by his example that opposition need not hinder the spread of the gospel. The result was they were confident in the Lord, and they were for the most part more bold to speak the word without fear. How wonderful it is to be emboldened by one courageous example, who can spur you on to bigger and better and more daring things done for the Savior. On the other hand, how encouraging your example can be to others, who see you serve God through difficulties and hardship, showing the saved and the lost what happens when a Christian is faithful and useful to God to bring about what some think are unintended consequences.

APPLICATION:

This man Paul, who was a prisoner, not in crime but in Christ, was used of God to advance the gospel, despite all predictions and expectations to the contrary. His confinement produced, by Godís power and wisdom, what was to his opponents an unintended consequence. His right response to adversity brought on by his enemies worked to spread the gospel. How that must have buoyed up the spirits of those in Philippi who were despairing, who might have been questioning how can this be of God if their most prominent spiritual leader is in jail. Donít you see? The worst thing the Roman Empire could have done was to bring Paul to Rome in chains. That adversity gave him access to the inner workings of the empire and made an audience for him of the most loyal and influential of Roman subjects. He would never have had access to them apart from his adversity. Paulís imprisonment in Rome was really the beginning of the end of the empire. What a glorious unintended consequence was produced by a man who cared nothing for circumstances, but was concerned only about witnessing to the soldier whose turn it was to guard him. As well, imagine those soldiers looking on while seated at Paulís side, while he wrote Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and so many other letters, and while he prayed.

Does this speak to you, my friend? Though you may never know the end result of that seemingly bad thing that has happened to you, if you will just do what God wants you always to do, what God wants you ever to do, which is witness to the guy next to you, then unintended consequences will result. Do not look for opportunities to speak of Christ and invite people to church. Recognize that God brings those opportunities to you by the hour throughout the course of your daily life. Recognize it and respond to it. Respond even to adversity the way Paul did. Souls will be saved and the gospel will advance as a result. Unintended consequences. Perhaps you could say unanticipated consequences. One man put it this way: ďThe best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.Ē A friend of my dadís was backing out of his garage one day, with the car door open so he could make sure he was clear. He crumpled his door. Stupid? No. John Diehl was not a stupid man. Unintended consequence of being conscientiously cautious.

When Chuck Yeager was testing the six-barreled Gatling gun (the forerunner of the mini gun) in an F104 Starfighter for the first time, a high performance jet fighter, the whole nose of the aircraft blew up in his face during a test flight. What happened? Firing at 6,000 rounds a minute for the first time in a fighter plane, the engineers (who were very smart men) had not anticipated the huge amount of exhaust gas from the machine gun as it fired that had nowhere to go inside the nose of the aircraft. The result was an explosion that almost killed the most famous test pilot who ever lived. Unintended consequence. Things always happen in life that you do not expect. Most of the time when such unanticipated events occur there is no major catastrophe, only inconvenience. Sometimes, such as when an impurity in a semiconductor accidentally resulted in what is now called a transistor, the unintended consequence is immediately seen as beneficial and the world is forever changed. However, in the spiritual realm the implications and the consequences are infinitely more serious, because eternal destinies are forever changed.

Consider the lives of two different kinds of people, the believer and the unbeliever, the man who trusts the Savior and the man who, though he may think he does, does not trust the Savior. Both men will deal with unintended consequences in their respective lives. Let us consider them in turn.

First, CONSIDER UNEXPECTED THINGS IN THE COURSE OF A BELIEVERíS LIFE

Oftentimes someone comes to Jesus Christ thinking that life will be a bowl of cherries after his sins are forgiven and he is given a new life in Christ. If you think that, I suggest you listen up:

First, consider some scriptural exhortations I would like to read to you:

Hebrews 12.4:    ďYe have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.Ē

James 1.2-5:    2      My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3      Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4      But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

5      If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

First Peter 4.12-13, 16, 19:  12     Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13     But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

16     Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

19     Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Revelation 2.10:    ďFear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.Ē

These passages clearly show to us that Godís plan for the lives of His children in no way resembles an easy and carefree existence. There are rough spots laid out for us to travel over. Godís plan for each believer includes certain degrees of pain and suffering.

However, we are not left with only scriptural exhortations to be faithful, but also spiritual examples for our comfort and encouragement: The Apostle Paul endured beatings, stonings, and betrayal in his service to Christ, without regret.[2] John Mark displayed tragic unfaithfulness early on in his Christian life that took several decades for him to overcome, but overcome he did.[3] William Tyndale was hounded out of England for translating Godís Word into English for the common man, and was caught and strangled to death in the Netherlands after having fled England.[4] Jonathan Edwards was used of God to spark the first great revival on this continent, after which he was dismissed from his pastorate by the congregation.[5] I think the vote was 225 against and 25 for retaining him. This was after God used him to usher in the First Great Awakening. Terrible, you say. I agree. However, most of Jonathan Edwardsí writings were completed following his dismissal, when he served in a much smaller and quieter church that afforded him time to write. David Brainerd gave his life to reach the American Indians of New England, succumbing to tuberculosis around the age of 30.[6] Asahel Nettleton was used of God to spark the Second Great Awakening, but his health broke and he died rather young, a man who is remembered almost not at all. Adoniram Judson buried two wives and a number of children in Burma. William Careyís wife lost her mind in India and turned against him and attempted to kill him before she died. Charles Spurgeon was afflicted with many physical symptoms that resulted in constant pain and suffering throughout his ministry. Bob Hughes, missionary to the Philippines who built the great Bible Baptist Church in Cebu, died of stomach cancer just as his decades of toil began to flourish. Our own missionary to Africa, Pat Coleman, lost his first wife in a freak automobile accident in Zambia in 1994. These are the unanticipated consequences of serving God, the unanticipated experiences of the Christian life. This is the refinerís fire, the things that, though we are told of such things in Godís Word, we think or we hope will not happen to us, because we oftentimes do not understand the love and the wisdom of our heavenly Father.

Such things as these are part of the process that leads to a sanctified end for the heaven-bound believer. Let me read just a few passages to show you what God is about in these experiences of life He brings upon us:

Second Corinthians 1.3-5:   3      Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4      Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

5      For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

Second Corinthians 12.8-10:  8      For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9      And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10     Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christís sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Philippians 1.6: ďBeing confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.Ē

First Peter 4.12-16:  12     Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13     But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14     If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

15     But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other menís matters.

16     Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Second Peter 1.5-11:   5      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6      And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7      And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8      For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9      But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10     Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

11     For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Not only do the experiences of life that give rise to unintended consequences prove useful to God to build character and deepen the believerís appreciation of God and His love and provision for us, but these adversities are used by God to actually prepare us for heaven. Therefore, what might be best described as an unanticipated consequence of living for God and serving Christ, and even being persecuted for it, is that using these things you are being prepared by God for heaven. What an unappreciated blessing the pains and discomforts of life are going to be discovered to be when you pass through the gates of splendor and set foot in glory. Amen?

THERE ARE ALSO UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AT THE CONCLUSION OF AN UNBELIEVERíS LIFE

A foolish observer might think to himself, ďThereís no way I would ever want to be a Christian. What a lousy life they live. They never have any fun, and they are guaranteed to suffer as God works in their lives to conform them to the image of Christ.Ē However, notice that I have not mentioned the love, the joy, the peace of mind and heart, the thrill of sins forgiven, the recognition of purpose and meaning in life, and the awesome privilege of knowing and serving God. Such matters are topics for another time and place. This evening I deal only with unintended consequences, or unanticipated consequences depending on your point of view.

You know what some of the unintended consequences of the believerís life are, that person who trusted the Savior, but may not have really expected the things he was warned about would ever really happen to him. That is quite all right, since all those experiences and difficulties really are beneficial in the long run. However, what about the unintended consequences of the unbeliever? They are just as clearly warned about in scripture, are they not? However, when the unintended consequences of the unsaved personís life are ignored, such consequences are infinitely more horrifying than the unintended consequences that a believer deals with. You see, nothing good comes of the unintended consequences that are experienced by an unbeliever, by an unsaved person, by a Christ rejecter. There are four to briefly mention, in the order they will come upon you:

First, my unsaved friend, you will die a physical death. It is amazing how studiously most unsaved people avoid facing up to their impending demise. I do not mind talking about my impending physical death, because my Savior has conquered my last foe, death. But what about you? What will you do when you face death, my unsaved friend? Will you know the death angel is coming ahead of time? Many people die suddenly and without warning. Will you go slowly, painfully, agonizingly? Will you delay coming to Christ so that you can live a life full of sin and then turn to Christ in the end? Dream on, sinner. It will never happen.

After death, of course, comes Hell. Besides saying that Hell is the temporary abode of the unsaved dead, let me read a passage that will describe for you Hell in all its horrors. Luke 16.22-23: ďthe rich man also died and was buried; And in Hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.Ē You, without Christ. Even if you have a great deal of money when you die, for this was a rich man. You will die in your sins someday. When you die in your sins, you will go to Hell. In Hell, you will suffer unimaginable pain.

After at least a thousand years in Hell, you will be raised up to the Great White Throne for judgment, Revelation 20.11-13:

11     And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12     And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13     And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Imagine. After suffering the torment of Hell for more than one thousand years you will then be judged according to your evil works. The good things you have done will be ignored because in Godís eyes no sinner can do good. Every sin you have committed, planned to do, or just mulled over in your mind, will be rehearsed to you in accusation before the thrice-holy God. What will you then do? The Lord Jesus Christ has told us, in Matthew 7.22: ďMany will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?Ē Whereupon, the glorified Lord will then respond, ďAnd then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.Ē You will then bow your head, you will bend your knee, and you will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father, but it will do you no good because you will have died and it will be too late.[7]

Finally, and eternally forever, you will be cast into the lake of fire. As if a thousand years of suffering the torments of Hell are not enough, listen to what Godís Word says about the lake of fire:

Revelation 20.14-15:   14     And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15     And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21.8:    ďBut the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.Ē

What will the last words be you will hear before you begin your eternal punishment? The Lord Jesus Christ, who you have scorned and rejected, saying ďDepart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,Ē Matthew 25.41. The Savior, Who had said to you, ďCome unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,Ē will then cast you out.

Unintended consequences. From another perspective, unanticipated consequences. Most Christians do not think they will ever suffer persecution or intense spiritual opposition. However, we do. The Bible says we will and the Bible is shown to once again to be true. However, it is okay, because anyone who has trusted the Savior, and those trials and tribulations that come into ours, are used by God to conform us to the image of Christ and to prepare those of us who are heaven-bound for our grand entrance into glory.

For the unsaved, on the other hand, the unintended consequence will be unalterably different. Not having come to the Savior during the course of your physical span of life, not responding to the gospel command to be saved from your sins through faith in Christ, you who live your lives as enemies of God will die and pass into eternity as enemies of God. Dying Godís enemy, you will go to Hell as Godís enemy, you will someday be judged at the Great White Throne judgment as Godís enemy, and you will be sentenced to eternal punishment as Godís enemy. That is the unintended consequence of every sinnerís life. However, it need not be so with you. Come to Jesus, the Savior. Oh, there will always be unintended consequences in your life, unanticipated outcomes of one kind or another. Life is simply too complicated for it to be otherwise.

However, if you come to Jesus, the Savior, Who is the creator and the sustainer of the universe, He will save you and will work in your life to assure, to guarantee, that every unintended consequence of your life will be beneficial, will be wonderful, and will not be damning or punishing. Of course, that is only if you come to Jesus Christ by faith.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 613-614.

[2] 2 Corinthians 11.25; 2 Timothy 4.10

[3] Acts 13.13; 15.36-40; 2 Timothy 4.11

[4] Diarmad MacCulloch, The Reformation, (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), pages 203 and 663.

[5] Iain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Trust, 1987), page 326.

[6] Jonathan Edwards, The Life And Diary Of David Brainerd, (Chicago: Moody Press) page 256.

[7] Isaiah 45.23; Romans 14.11; Philippians 2.10-11



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