The Advancement of the Gospel
In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul wrote, "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ."
Paul's imprisonment may have seemed like a major setback for his ministry. But God was simply using Paul to preach the gospel in a new place: the imperial guard and the household of Caesar (Phil 4:22). What seemed like a setback for Paul actually progressed the gospel.
In the last two weeks, I felt overwhelmed with sadness for my daughter Aela as she stayed in the hospital for a week with a severe illness. This article doesn't cover all of God's wise planning for that difficult time. But I want to share one moment where I saw the progress of the gospel.
For months, our church has been praying for a young man, Skylar, and his father, Mike. Skylar is a teenager who is unable to live a normal life because he is bedridden and fighting cancer. Mike has struggled for years to understand God's role in his son's affliction. I met Mike once in passing, but I had never seen Skylar before last week. Since 2020, hospital visitation has become so strict that pastors haven't been able to make normal visits to patients in the hospital. But God found a way in this case.
When I visited Aela at Seattle Children's, she had been placed in the ICU of the "Forest" section of their building, floor 5. As I texted our mutual friend Jeremy about Aela's sickness, he mentioned that Skylar had been admitted to Seattle Children's, on the eighth floor of the "Forest" section. I had no idea that Mike and Skylar were just three floors above me.
After making contact with Mike, all I had to do was go up the elevator and meet him in the lobby. Within minutes, Mike met me and walked with me back to Skylar's hospital room. I wouldn't have been able to go there as a pastor, but as a father, I had been given special access through a "Caretaker" badge that enabled me to do this.
Within about 10 minutes of small talk, Mike immediately began peppering me with spiritual questions. My favorite time came when he asked me, "For a while, another church was praying for us. Every time they heard about Skylar getting better, they would say, 'Praise God! He's healing him.' But then he'd get worse. Why would God do that?"
I told Mike that in the Old Testament, Job was a man who had similar questions about his own tragedy. When God replied, He said, "And I will ask you, and you will make Me know! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you know understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:3b-7)
I explained to Mike that God never told Job why He let him suffer. Instead, He showed Job that everything He does goes beyond our knowledge. God's work is always so much more vast than our understanding. It's not that there isn't a good answer; it's that we need to be reminded of our place before God and trust Him in faith to do the right thing. Although this may seem like a hard message, Mike was immediately receptive and told me this made sense.
As we talked, I could see that Mike was listening with an open mind. I encouraged him to continue to pray and read Scripture with his questions, and to seek God out as he struggles through this season. Skylar was there too, but he was more interested in listening than joining in. When I walked out of their room, I was grateful to God for orchestrating something that could only happen in His timing. And I was amazed that He had given me such a blessed time talking about God in such devastating circumstances.
There are many ways God has worked in and through my personal family and our church family in the past two weeks. We are so grateful for God surrounding us with His love and compassion through His people. Through that love, He used a terrible time to testify of His greatness to those who needed to know Him.