“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)
What had happened to Paul?
- He was falsely accused
- He was slandered
- He lost his reputation
- He was beaten
- He was mocked
- He was arrested
- He was put into prison
- He was not sure if he would ever get out of prison
- He was not sure if he would be executed
None of that was good. It would have left most people in despair. Yet, Paul is oddly joyful. There are two possible explanations. He has either lost touch with reality or he is connected with a higher reality. The answer is that he has a connection with a higher reality.
Keep in mind that Paul is not living in denial. He would have loved to have been somewhere else other than an ancient prison. But Paul is not blinded by despair. He has the eyes of faith to see what God is doing.
Advancing the Gospel
First, he points out that what happened to him has served to advance the gospel. He has come into the prison that puts him in daily contact with the prison guards. It would have been typical for Paul to have been chained to one of the guards during the day. So even though Paul could not escape the prison, the guard could not escape Paul. And I am sure Paul would have spent the day talking about Jesus with that guard.
The guards are people that Paul would not have otherwise met, had he not been imprisoned. His imprisonment allowed him to reach a group of people with the gospel that would have otherwise gone unreached.
Maybe you have difficult people in your life. You loathe the thought of being around them. They make your blood pressure rise as they are unpleasant to interact with. But consider that God put them in your life so that you could be a godly influence in their life. There is a good chance that they are the way they are is because they do not have an abiding relationship with God. And you may be the one person in their life to show and tell them about the love of God. Maybe it is not a bad thing that they are in your life. Consider it a good thing that God has put them in your life for you to advance the gospel.
The second thing that Paul mentions that others had been encouraged and inspired to be bolder in living out their faith. Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. If you are living a life of significance there will be obstacles along the way. Living the full and abundant life that Jesus’ invites us to will mean:
- Stepping out of our comfort zones
- Confronting doubts
- Being inconvenienced
- Being criticized
- Facing opposition
- Sacrificing time and resources
Most people fail to live out their full calling because of the resistance that is met. They would rather live a comfortable life than a meaningful life.
But Paul says that when others saw what he was going through and how God was using him, they were willing to make significant sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom. He praised God that others would live lives that were more selfless and more full.
You may find yourself in a difficult situation, but know that whatever has happened to you that God can bring good from it. Consider the blessings and the opportunities that have been made possible through your suffering. Despair can cloud your vision, so pray that God would give you the eyes of faith to see as Paul saw.