Written by Quantrilla Ard (First 5 Ministries)
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.
I often wonder how the changes I’ve experienced in life come together. Like, what good can come from uprooting our entire family to move to another state in the middle of a pandemic?
Maybe you have questions also. You’ve searched for the silver lining in the clouds of health challenges, changing relationships, shifts in your community both locally and nationally, and somehow it just doesn’t all feel worth it. The cost isn’t outweighing the benefit, and you want answers. While I can’t offer answers to the difficult “whys” of this season, Paul offers one perspective: Maybe our pain is purposed by the Lord.
Paul is writing to the Philippian church not from his home, or another place of hospitality, but from Rome as a prisoner. He had been obedient to his calling since that eventful day on the road to Damascus, so why was he in prison? What did he really do to deserve such an outcome? To add insult to injury, what good would his imprisonment be to the advancement of the gospel?
The consummate encourager, Paul probably imagined the panic that set into the hearts and minds of the Philippians because he knew all too well the dangers of allowing what we see around us to dictate our feelings and our focus. (2 Corinthians 4:18) He specifically called the things we can see transient or temporary, and this letter was to be the spiritual and emotional boost they needed to continue on in the faith despite his situation. In fact, he assured them that not only had this hiccup not stopped the spreading of the gospel, but it had served to advance it. (Philippians 1:12)
Can you look around and say that the struggles you’ve gone through have made the gospel more real and relevant in your life? What about those with whom you have influence? While Paul was imprisoned, the very guards who were there to ensure his sentence was carried out were persuaded of his innocence and realized that his time there was because of him preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:13)
Let’s take it a step further. Paul was so confident in the godly purpose of his situation that it gave the other Christians in the area a holy boldness to preach the gospel even if they too would meet the same fate as he. They were no longer afraid, as they had Paul’s life as an example of what could be accomplished through the power of God, regardless of their location.
This is where I want to be. How about you? As we think about how our lives have changed, can we say that others have found courage to speak the gospel or have been drawn to Christ because of what they’ve witnessed us walk through? I sure hope so. That is the hope and worth in our trials. I’ve heard it said many times that the test makes the testimony. So let’s allow even the hard parts of our lives to be an encouragement to others.