PAUL WAS under house arrest in Rome. He faced possible death for his faith. He was writing a letter of love and encouragement to his favorite church, the believers in Philippi. In speaking of his difficult circumstances, the apostle wrote: "But I would ye should under stand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Phil. 1:12). One scholar translates the word for "furtherance" as "advancement." In the original Greek it is a forceful word prokope—used when referring to the advance of an army or an expedition undertaking some hazardous mission.
The verb to which the noun is related means literally "to cut down in advance." The Greeks used it when they spoke of felling trees, clearing away underbrush, boulders, or anything that might hinder advance. Today we might compare it to the work of a giant bull dozer that yields to nothing in its path. There must be advance under any and all circumstances.
Paul wished to assure his beloved converts that nothing should and nothing would stand in the way of the advancement of the gospel not even prisons, chains, confinement, opposition, or obstacles.
So it must be today. Nothing must be permitted to thwart the early finishing of God's work. When there are tensions around us and we dwell in an atmosphere of frustration, Satan may tempt us to rest a while, or worse yet, to pro claim a moratorium on active soul-winning projects. Never!
We must be courageous, dedicated leaders, worthy of the times, the challenge, and of the people we lead. Our hearts and our lips must be filled with faith and fortitude so that those who follow may draw strength and courage from our brave example.
Like Israel of old, we may face Red Sea experiences. There may be times when we can see no way through, and only frustration or defeat confronting us. We must trust our God; we must talk courage, even though our hearts may be faint. If the leader despairs, the cause is lost.
At times we must plan when there appears to be no possibility of carrying out our plans. We are commanded by One who is our Leader: "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13).
As one door closes let us be prepared to move into another field. If we are unable to reach one field, let us concentrate on those still open. If there is a temporary retreat on one front, let us advance on another. Let us never permit things that can't be done to blind our vision to the things that still can be done.
We dare not maintain the status quo in troublous times. There is no status quo with God and His last-day movement. Let us not only shore up our defenses, let us make bold plans to finish the work. At times and in places it may be a slow, frustrating advance, but advance it must.
I have served in difficult fields where response to the gospel was very meager, and where there was war and political upheaval. I know the frustrations and discouragement that confront the leader. It is not always easy to be strong.
For years I have kept some challenging words in the front of my Bible. "Man can shape circumstances, but circumstances should not be allowed to shape the man. We should seize upon circumstances as instruments by which to work. We are to master them, but should not permit them to master us." —The Ministry of Healing, p. 500.
You and I lead God's church during the most crucial, challenging hour in the history of planet Earth. What a staggering responsibility! How much we need Heaven's help and the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us never forget the words of God's servant: "Our watchword is to be, On ward, ever onward! Angels of heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be laid down till the whole earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord." —Evangelism, p. 707.
This is the measure of our challenge of leadership in 1976!