When “Bad Things” Happen — Philippians 1:12 & 19

In studying Philippians 1, notice that Paul does not directly call his arrest and imprisonment a “bad thing.” He first calls it a "what has happened." He knew his fellow Christians might consider what had happened to him a “bad thing;” therefore, he wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).

Following Paul’s example, when what we or others consider a “bad thing” happens to us (and “bad things” do happen to Christians), we might consider asking ourselves these three questions (among others). These three questions come together in a way for you to think about and expand on how to live by faith in Jesus Christ at all times and in all situations.

1. Ask yourself, :"How might God use this "bad or difficult" experience to advance the gospel (the good news about Jesus Christ)?" Then pray for God to use the experience and you to advance the gospel. Ask God what you can do to advance the gospel in the situation.

2. Ask yourself, "How can I encourage others to pray for God to use this experience and me to advance the gospel?" The Holy Spirit being your guide, look for opportunities for you and others to advance the gospel in and through the experience. For example, when Paul thought about being chained to a guard with other prisoners around him, he encouraged his fellow Christians to not consider it a “bad thing:” rather, he wanted them to look at it as a God-given opportunity for him to sing praises to God and preach the gospel to a captive audience.

3. Ask yourself, "What are some of the other things I should ask God about in this situation?" Pray for God to give you and others the courage and wisdom to say and do what would advance the gospel. Pray for the Spirit of Jesus Christ to deliver you and any others from the “bad thing.” Though Paul was able to proclaim Christ in prison and advance the gospel there, Paul also knew that after he had preached the gospel in prison that he needed to be released from prison so he could preach to others in other places. In Philippians 1:19, Paul wrote, "for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance." We can look ahead and think about our future service in the cause of Christ, and we can pray for God to deliver us and show us what He wants us to do next after He delivers us. Because we love God in Christ supremely, our primary goal is promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ and glorifying God as we do so wherever we find ourselves in every situation.

Finally, to encourage yourself as a Christian in difficult times, remember some of the times God has brought good out of some of the memorable "bad things" that have happened to you; then, praise and thank God for His faithfulness to you. Remember what Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome. In Romans 8:28, 29, we read: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." As Christians, God will work in us and with us so all of the "bad things" that happen to us will further conform us to the image of His Son.

What are some things you do and say or have learned from others that they do and say when “bad things” happen? Surely among all of us on the Forum there are other Bible teachings and ideas that can help all of us that can be shared here. And please pray with me that the International Bible Lesson Commentary and Forum will further advance the gospel.

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May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

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Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,


  • This Sunday's lesson is going to be very encouraging, and thanks for your insights, Mr. L.G.; particularly, how that God will cause our "bad" circumstances to work out for our good, and that thru these distasteful circumstances, it's an opportunity for God to conform our character to that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hey, He endured suffering, His apostles endured suffering, so I do believe that God has enabled us, thru His Holy Spirit, to endure suffering as well. God bless you, sir. I'm enjoying the material.
  • Thank you for your very kind comments! The Bible is so full of truthful encouraging words about the love of God for us and the future for all who trust in Jesus Christ that it is amazing when anyone rejects the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless your study of the Bible!
  • Good morning, all. As I continue to study this lesson, Joseph comes to mind and all the "bad things" that God permitted to happen to him (Gen. 37-40). In spite of his sometimes painful, disappointing, and uncomfortable circumstances, Joseph continued to trust God. I believe Joseph saw God behind the scenes of every challenging event that unfolded in his young adult life, and that that's how he was able to say to his brother, "It was not you who sent me here, but God" (Gen. 45:8). Awesome! Oh, how I fall short in glorifying Him, especially when bad things happen. God bless you all, and please pray for me. Thank you.
  • Pastor Parkhurst, question: I believe that Paul had the boldness to spread the gospel (in spite of all the persecution he endured) because of his experience on the Damascus Road. And so, I said to myself, "Who wouldn't boldly share the gospel after having an experience like that?" Do you believe that we'll have to have some kind of spiritual encounter with God in order to boldly proclaim the gospel, even in the face of persecution? Thank you for taking the time to reply.
  • No, but many have been inspired by such encounters, though all seem to be different. God is not mechanical, but personal with each believer. In my opinion, when we come to believe that Christianity is true and the Bible is true, that is all we need with the help of the Holy Spirit to boldly proclaim the gospel.
  • My Bible study group will love this. We talked just a few weeks ago about bad things happening to good people. This has answeres for that.
  • I am thankful. This question seems to be one of the most often asked and one of the most difficult to answer. I am thankful we have the Bible to give us the truth when so many live with only sad speculations--another good reason for us to keep sharing the good news of Jesus! May God continue to bless your Bible teaching!
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