“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
As Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi, he is chained to a soldier and sitting in a Roman prison. He was incarcerated, not for making foolish decisions, choosing the wrong path, or getting in with the wrong crowd. His imprisonment was due to a rising hostility in the Roman world towards the message of the cross. We might say, Paul was facing difficulties outside of his control. Life is like that. Even when we decide to live pleasing to the Lord, we still face hardship, difficulty and opposition. It interests me what Paul has to say about the results of his hardship.
“The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, . . . ”
In the midst of the storm he was facing, Paul realized that while it was creating hardship for him, it was also creating opportunity for others to come to Christ, or grow in Christ. He wrote of how the palace guard had come to know that his chains were in Christ. Rather than whining in prison about how unfair life was, Paul used his circumstances as a chance to tell others about the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus. While it is always easier to speak of Jesus when we are experiencing the blessings of life, the message has an added impact when it is shared through the backdrop of suffering. What a thrilling experience it must have been for those guards, to meet a man who was in prison and was actually innocent. Instead of hearing him complain, and play the blame game, they listened intently as he shared about the love of Christ, and the way of salvation. In Chapter 4, he mentions that the gospel message even reached into Caesar’s household, and many were won to Christ.
“. . .most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
In addition to the spreading of the Gospel, Paul’s attitude during difficulty, also had a great affect on believers. Those who were once timid and reserved, regarding their faith, found a new sense of boldness to share. A revival broke out in Philippi as one man mustered the courage to share with another about the unsearchable riches of Christ. The most effective evangelism is not through giant rallies, but through one person sharing the love of Christ with another. Evangelism has its greatest rewards when you and I will speak the Word, without fear, to our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. As we muster the courage to invite them to church, or strike up a conversation with them about the Cross, we demonstrate our genuine interest in them.
Paul saw his circumstances as a backdrop, in which the message of the Cross would have an even greater impact upon those around him. How about you? What is your attitude in the midst of the things you are currently facing? Do you see them as the chains of Christ and use them as an opportunity to share the Gospel with others? There is a world in need of hearing the message of Christ, and we are His mouthpiece. Pray that Jesus would open new doors for you to share His love with others. Who knows what kind of revival might break out, as other believers are stirred to boldness, as a result of your step of faith.