I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
(Philippians 1:12-14 ESV)
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was a prisoner in Rome to thank them for a monetary gift they had sent him. The gift was apparently accompanied by a letter in which they expressed their concern for him and his situation.
One would think that someone who was in prison facing possible execution, not for breaking any law – but for simply teaching others about Christ, would need some consolation and encouragement. But rather, it was Paul who was consoling the Philippians!
Paul realized that God was using his situation to spread the gospel message. Paul is not bitter about what has happened to him. Not many of us could say that. We’d be pretty angry about having our freedom taken away for no reason (not to mention facing the death penalty). But Paul saw it for what is really was. It was all good because people who otherwise would not have heard about Jesus now had a chance to hear.
The Roman guards were changed every four hours. That is six Roman guards a day that Paul could talk to about Jesus. Paul was in prison for 2 years. So Paul could have told thousands how they can be saved and have eternal life. Certainly some of them would have believed and would have told their families and friends, some of whom would have believed too. Paul did not see his earthly situation as tragic. He saw it as a chance to serve God and bring Him glory, which is the purpose of our lives.
Another by-product of all this is that other Christians who heard about and saw how Paul handled his situation became more encouraged to speak up about Christ. We can encourage each other by handling everything that happens to us in light of God’s love. Someone is always watching our behavior. Our actions speak volumes.
When believers find themselves in situations we don’t want to be (e.g. a job we don’t like) we need to remember that God has placed us there for a reason. There is someone there who needs to hear about Jesus. Our goal in this life is not to collect the most toys, break records, or achieve fame. Our goal is to serve God and tell others about Him. We should allow God to place us anywhere He wants in order to achieve that – even prison.
Our earthly comfort is not important. It is the eternal comfort of others (i.e. heaven) that is important.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.
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