By James Metsger
Yes, and I will rejoice, for 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. (Philippians 1:18b-20)
Have I mentioned that the Apostle Paul wrote Philippians in prison? It wasn’t a white-collar crime he committed. He didn’t get mixed up with the wrong crowd. He didn’t have what was coming to him. He didn’t stumble into a science project in his basement and realize there was money to be made. His only crime was that he met Jesus, and his life was changed. Apparently, he couldn’t get over telling the story.
When Paul was in Philippi, during his second missionary journey, Paul cast out a demonic spirit from a slave girl. What seemed like an act of mercy was met with fierce anger when her shady owners, who were making a profit off this girl’s demonic fortune-telling abilities, realized “their hope of gain was gone” (Acts 16:19). They stirred up the entire city against Paul and his friend Silas who were then arrested, beaten, and put in prison (Acts 16:16 -24). What did Paul pen in the penitentiary?
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…
“Yes, and I will rejoice…” Ok, can I be honest? That’s weird! Paul is in prison and he is essentially saying, “Praise the LORD!” How can he say that? I’m not positive I’d be able to say the same thing with sincerity. Paul praised the Lord because he was convinced he’d be delivered. He believed that the means by which he’d be delivered was the prayers of the church and the help (or supply) of the Spirit.
Paul was hopeful that he would be delivered through the prayers of the church. Apparently, our prayers matter to God, and he can use them to change our circumstances. Paul was confident the Lord would answer the people’s prayers for his deliverance; yet, he also understood the need for help from the Spirit. It is the Spirit dwelling within us who helps us in our weaknesses, guides us into truth and comforts us in our suffering. Paul needed the Spirit for his deliverance just as we need the Spirit to walk in faith. Note then the two means God uses: God’s people and God the Spirit.
The million-dollar question is what was Paul referring to when he spoke of his deliverance? It’s a question I asked because Paul seems a little ambiguous here. More often than not when we hear “deliverance,” we think it means being plucked out of our problems. Bad is replaced by good. Hardship is sent packing, and we are #blessed.
We might think in terms of being delivered from a bad relationship, a bad job or financial hardship. Maybe we long for freedom from an addiction or sickness. Sometimes deliverance works that way.
That would be my first thought as I read this. Paul was convinced that he would be delivered from prison. The wrong would be made right, and he would be set free from the literal chains that imprisoned him
But note what Paul says a few verses later:
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. (Philippians 1:20)
Paul’s response to suffering was not confidence that he would be delivered from immediate suffering. In fact, Paul was not referring to physical deliverance at all. The word he used here for “deliverance” typically refers to the final deliverance of believers at the last judgment. Paul was confident of this ultimate deliverance, regardless of what happened to him in his present circumstance.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18)
Paul’s hope, and our hope, is that one day our promise- keeping God will take us out of this turbulent world and deliver us safely home. Fear not! You will be delivered…one day.
In what area of your life are you praying for deliverance?
What would it look like for you to experience immediate deliverance in this area?
What would it look like for you to experience ultimate deliverance?