The year was 63 AD, and sitting in a dark, cold, damp prison cell is the city of Rome was a prisoner by the name of Paul, an apostle in the church of Jesus Christ. He had experienced numerous hardships. But Paul writes to some of his beloved brethren who are in Philippi and encourages them with this message, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:2)
The Greek word, which is here translated “greater progress” is “prokope,” which in the first century had reference to a company of wood cutters which preceded the progress of an army, cutting a road through the forest so that the soldiers might be able to advance. The word appears only three times in the New Testament, and is used exclusively by Paul in his prison letters.
Paul considered himself a soldier in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ; a soldier whose mission was to engage the foe with the Sword of the Spirit. In order to thwart the efforts an the progress of the Lord’s army, Satan had formed and entire forest of obstacles and hindrances. Many people, when they encounter the numerous obstructions of Satan, completely halt their forward progress for the Lord, and throw up their hand in defeat.
Paul, however, wants the Philippian brethren to know that he is not such an individual. In fact, he regards his obstructions as divine wood cutters! The circumstances in which he finds himself have not hindered the progress of the gospel, but have actually cleared a path for the furtherance of it!
After making the statement in verse 12, Paul writes, “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else and most of the brethren trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:13-14). And all of this because one man maintained his faith and a positive attitude in the face of a forest of Satanic obstructions!
Let this be an example to us! If we have chosen to serve in the army of our Lord, then we must forever put out of our minds that this is merely a big social club. We are at war, and the stakes are high! It is a life or death struggle, and the outcome is eternal! Our enemy is vicious and he will attack us and seek to stop us. And if we have a defeatist attitude, we will be defeated!
We, like Paul, must view our obstacles not as insurmountable walls, but rather as opportunities. With the help of our Lord, which He has promised, we can turn any circumstance into a divine wood cutter and utilize it to the greater progress of the gospel! Let us never forget that obstacles are actually blessings in disguise!