When one of my friends was being arrested for the last time, he said to the officer, “You didn’t arrest me. You are rescuing me.”
He wanted his life of addiction and crime to end but didn’t know how to surrender. God used the judicial system to accomplish what seemed impossible to my friend.
My friend, who is now a Sunday School teacher and great husband and father, had a role to play in turning the situation into something good.
He cooperated with what God was doing in his life.
Paul’s Jailhouse Experience.
Paul was quite familiar with the inside of a jail cell. Even in jail, he could say “all things work together for good.”
Philippians 1.12-14 – I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the progress of the gospel,
So that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ,
And most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
What can be good about being locked up in a Roman jail? How can this experience be beneficial?
Paul derived no personal benefit from his jailhouse experience, but he knew his guards would be exposed to the good news of God’s love.
The guards would be exposed to the greatest New Testament preacher since the Day of Pentecost. His words and actions were certain to have a profound impact on their lives.
Besides Paul’s influence, they witnessed loving Christians like the Philippians who demonstrated God’s love and care for the apostle.
I attended seminary with a dynamic young pastor, who developed cancer at an early age. He was hospitalized for quite a length of time and ultimately died.
What good can come from the death of a young pastor, husband, and father? In the bed beside the pastor was the fire chief of their town. The chief was so impressed by the pastor, his wife, and his church members that he gave his life to Christ.
Paul’s willingness to suffer for the sake of the good news of God’s love emboldened other followers of Jesus.
In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross and I talk about two female missionaries. They both were courageous and innovative as they served people distant from Christ.
Rudy and I agree that these two ladies inspire us. Their example in very difficult situations challenges us to share God’s love in a far less confrontational situation.
An Added Burden
Besides being locked in a Roman jail, Paul faced so-called believers who preached with the wrong motives.
Philippians 1.15-18 – Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry but others from goodwill.
These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel;
The others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.
What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true, and in that I rejoice.
We don’t know any details about how or why some people believed that talking about Jesus would harm Paul, but that was the situation.
It is worthwhile to note Paul’s reaction. His focus was on the gospel, the good news of God’s love.
Paul said to the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9.22).
In that spirit, Paul was willing for the gospel to be extended by any means, even if it came from wrong motives.
How to Live Like This
Even in a Roman jail, Paul knew “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28).
Paul was able to be this confident in God for a few reasons that are instructive for us.
(1) Jesus was the focus of his life.
F.B. Meyer notes that the name of Christ is mentioned in Philippians so many times that it appears in every two verses.
When Jesus is front-and-center in our hearts, minds, and actions we will believe that even the most difficult circumstances will work together for the good.
Jesus tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33).
(2) Paul was supported by loving and supportive Christians.
Paul was not isolated in his imprisonment. The fact that a delegation from Philippi traveled 335 miles to care for his needs must have buoyed his spirits to a great degree.
One fact of life is that everyone will go through hard times. We are best able to go through tough times in the company of people who love and care for us.
(3) Paul was aligned with God and his love.
Paul knew that the crucified Jesus was raised to life by the Father. He knew that as long as he was aligned with God’s purposes, he could trust his life to the Father.
When we say, “all things work together for good,” we recognize it applies to people who love God and are following his purposes for their lives.
As we apply these three principles to our lives, we will be better prepared to respond to the difficulties that come our way.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. I am happy to be over COVID and able to produce the videos with Rudy. They can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.
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