Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. (Philipians 1:12-15 NIV)
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Phil 1:12) Paul is in jail in Rome, writing to his friends far across the sea in Philippi. He displays a reaction that inevitably makes the world sit up and take notice. He understood that adversity means advance. The outgrowth of this kind of attitude is a test of Christian maturity. The Christian who has become well enough acquainted with the God of the impossible whom he serves, knows that even through apparent defeat, God still can work. Such a Christian has begun to grow up in the Lord. He recognizes that in God obstacles are really opportunities, and nothing can really imperil the gospel. That is an amazing declaration when you think about it. Nothing that is intended to defeat ever brings defeat, that God works His way despite the obstacles, and all obstacles only serve ultimately to spread Christian faith.
Ray Stedman relates the story of a Swiss French pastor who was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II. He said this: I was not able to stand firm except by remembering every day that the Gestapo was the hand of God — the left hand. The worst of tyrants will only end by accomplishing Christ's will. That is the glorious mark of Christianity that has made it an invincible force through all the centuries. Here is Paul, under arrest, chained day and night to a Roman soldier, unable to leave the house or the city of Rome. Imagine what this must have meant to the restless, surging spirit of this man. God had sent him out under His commission that was to take him to the very ends of the earth.
It must have been easy for Paul to be discouraged. There is no doubt he was tempted many times to feel sorry for himself and to wonder why God would ever let this kind of thing happen to him when all he was trying to do was fulfill God's will. Do you ever feel that way? It must have been easy for him to chafe under these circumstances as month by month goes grinding on and there seems to be no change. But as we read the letters that come from him out of those days there is not one word of complaint. Instead there is a marvelously triumphant spirit, and an expression of confidence. Why? When he was tempted he undoubtedly fell back on what he knew about his God. In other words, in the face of temptation to fret and worry, he believed God.
Earlier he had written to these very Roman Christians with whom he was now meeting. All things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose. He believed that! Even though the immediate hour did not bring relief, he believed Him, and out of that confidence he could see that even those things that seem to be against him are working out the purposes of God.
We should pray that we can recognize that confidence does not come by some effort to convince ourselves, some struggle to think positively, but from a quiet resting upon an unchangeable fact — that Jesus Christ lives His life within us, and that He is quite competent to meet every situation. May we look to Him, and learn to rejoice in His victory. Paul's friends anxiously awaited news of him, but the focus of the Apostle's letter was not on his imprisonment but on the undefeated purpose of God who works to accomplish His will in every circumstance. Are we learning to trust God's ways and means so that others are encouraged by our confidence in Him?
Printed with permission of David Setzer