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.
- Philippians 1:12-13
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“Paul is in prison. Again. Each time, he is not sure if he will be released or executed. And even when he is free from prison, he is not free from threats to his life. But notice his perspective on the entire situation. He can see his troubles and imprisonment only through the lens of grace-fueled optimism. The gospel has become known throughout the imperial guard! Wouldn’t it make sense that seeing conversions among his current captors would make Paul remember the conversion of the Philippian jailer? Wouldn’t these unlikely responses to Jesus Christ remind him of the way Lydia and the slave girl had come to Christ?
“The gospel not only begins to spread throughout the imperial guard, but others are encouraged to boldly proclaim the gospel all the more: ‘And most of the brothers, having become conﬁdent in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear’ (Phil. 1:14). It is astounding to consider the level at which Paul regards his life as a sacriﬁce. He sees his imprisonment as the sacriﬁce necessary to make the rest of the brothers bold, fearless sharers of the gospel. He sees his trials as the sacriﬁces necessary to win the lost to Christ. If it means death, he will be willing to go there to bring others home.”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
Roman chains could not stop the gospel of Jesus Christ from spreading across the Roman Empire. Rev. Chandler mentions three people from Paul’s time in Philippi here: the jailor, Lydia, and the slave girl. It is not documented that the slave girl accepted Jesus Christ, only that the demon was removed by the power of Christ. Rev. Chandler inferred that she became a follower, and in many cases as Jesus travelled, someone was healed and the healed person followed Jesus. It might easily be a safe assumption. But the other two are well documented as being believers. And both were unlikely followers. The jailor worked for the Romans, possibly a Roman himself. He and his entire family were saved.
Lydia was a seller of purple. These garments came at a high price. No wonder that it was the color for royalty. They were among the few that could afford to buy it. Lydia was probably extremely rich. I have heard rich atheists claim that God only exists for the poor, as a crutch, an excuse for being poor, etc. Yet, Lydia was moved by Paul’s sermons, and she realized that Paul had something that she could not buy with ten times the wealth that she had.
I read something from Billy Graham where he was invited to a private island in the Caribbean. The owner wanted a private discussion with the evangelist. He told Rev. Graham how he owned the island, how he had more money than he knew what to do with, but he was empty inside. He was searching for true meaning in life. Money was not the answer.
Yes, in spite of Rome’s suppression and persecution of the early Christians, the church grew, until Constantine became a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The Apostle Paul was a church planter, Philippi being only one of the many churches.
But Paul’s lasting work was in his letters to those churches which then became encouragement to all believers as the canon of Scriptures was put together.
We may not have the chains that Paul speaks of here. We may not have the threat of execution. But we have other chains. We may not have the financial strength of a Lydia. We may not rule a nation like Constantine. But God can lead us to where our voice can be heard. We can help at the soup kitchen or the food bank.
We may have physical health issues. My wife keeps asking why she has not been taken to be with the Lord. Twelve hours each week, she has kidney dialysis. Add three more hours in driving to and from. The dialysis “drains” her. Yes, there is a literal element of that phrase, but it drains her of her energy for the rest of the three days that she has that done. Often, there is a low energy level the next day also. But every day as she leaves the clinic, the nurse has a smile on her/his face as they pass my wife’s survival kit to me to carry to the car. My wife spreads Joy by just sitting in a chair for four hours three times each week. Note: A dialysis survival kit contains a blanket, ear buds to listen to the television, a book if she can’t find anything to watch, a bunch of facial tissues, a face mask to cover the eyes for a nap, and her inhaler if her breathing gets bad.
As for me, I write a post on this blogsite. I teach Sunday school. I talk to folks. I encourage other bloggers and other folks that I meet.
In spreading God’s love and giving God the glory, we can spread God’s kingdom on this earth – regardless of the type of chains we might have.
Lord, guide me. Help me to be bold in spreading the Good News. Make me an instrument of love as I go through life. And may Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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Yes, from prison. My daughter asks the same question. Her prison (and thus ours as 24/7 caregiver tag team) is a small bed and comfortable chair for her nonworkable body. I will admit that the concept of “pain giving one depth and still experiencing a deeper joy” irks me, yet it’s true. So much of God’s kingdom concepts are the opposite of the worlds thinking.
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I had an old mentor who says that he lost his faith when his daughter was very young and developed a disease that made her bedridden. She was only supposed to live a few years, but she lived to be 22 years old. She and her mother were very devout believers. but my friend could not reconcile the illness with a loving God, seeing the pain instead of seeing the 15+ years that he had with her as a blessing. A lot of what we go through is beyond head scratching. I wonder. Will God answer our questions, or will we be in such awe of being in his presence that our questions fade away. We’ll be praying for you and your family.
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Thanks Mark. I’ve had my tensions with God and I knew he is God and I would have unanswered questions. It is a choice to think high enough of ones self to justify being mad at him, disappointed with him or in some sense trust him blindly as there are no other reasonable options when in Peters words “where else would we go” you have the words of eternal life”. It’s just messed up here in so many ways, and none of it is God’s doing.
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