A divine perspective
I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. – Philippians 1:12
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,
13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Chains which are meant to confine and control us can actually be the source of great freedom. So it was with Paul. Where barriers previously existed, his chains actually broke through them. It was his imprisonment and the chains themselves that served to advance the gospel. The truth of the Lord Jesus Christ went places that it had never gone before.
“Paul was a prisoner – but, far from his imprisonment ending his missionary activity, it actually expanded it for himself and for others. In fact, the chains of his imprisonment destroyed the barriers” (Barclay).
Rather than despairing his chains, he prayed and consecrated them to the Father. And the rest was history.
By custom and law, Paul was chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. The shifts changed every six hours. While it appeared on the surface that for all practical purposes, Paul was their prisoner, in fact each soldier was actually Paul’s prisoner. There was no way for them to escape the truth. Paul got to share the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with four soldiers a day.
I can only imagine what they felt like. Another day having to listen to the words of that learned old Jewish rabbi who exuded a strange peace, confidence, and light. Words and ideas that which never made sense before, that sounded like fairytales and myths, were suddenly more true than anything they had ever known.
In the dark, they saw the light. All those hardened, tough, rough Roman soldiers who were sheep that belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ answered His call and came to Him.
Soon many of them put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The message even spread to the elite Praetorian Guard. And beyond that, Paul’s chains allowed him to have contact with officials in the court of Caesar, and even Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22).
Sometimes the challenging experiences we face and our reactions to them are the very things that the Father uses to advance His kingdom. They provide access that we could never have it any other way. And so it was with Paul. “Paul’s imprisonment, far from shutting the door, opened the door to new spheres of work and activity into which he would never otherwise have penetrated” (Barclay).
His chains served advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12). The Greek word that Paul uses for advance is prokope. Prokope means to go forward, make progress. It comes from the Greek verb prokopto from pro – before or forward, and kopto – to cut, strike, impel. “It is the verb which is used for cutting away the trees and the undergrowth, and removing the barriers which would hinder the progress of an army” (Barclay).
REFLECT & PRAY
We often find ourselves in “messes.” The Father is at work in the mess. That is the message of the Bible (Matt Chandler).
Father help me to have your perspective on the experiences You bring into my life. Rather than obstacles, help me to see them as opportunities to advance Your kingdom.
Paul wanted all children of the King to know a very important truth. There are no accidents in the Father’s Kingdom. Paul desired and prayed to go to Rome for many years and now he was there. Considering what he had been through before, I imagine that for Paul, his imprisonment was an all-expenses-paid vacation which included room and board. He was a prisoner under house arrest. But he was also safe and not likely to be stoned, shipwrecked, or lashed anytime soon. There were no more angry confrontations with rebellious and defiant political and religious leaders. Everyone in Rome, who came in contact with the apostle Paul, heard the truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was not there because he was a criminal or a law breaker. He was there for the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead he was in chains because that was exactly where the Lord Jesus Christ wanted him to be (Philippians 1:13). All in Rome who came in contact with Paul heard about Christ.
How did Paul occupy his time? Paul was doing the very things he loved to do most: pray, evangelize, and write. All that he needed; he was provided. He was having the time of his life. Provided with lemons, he made lemonade.
No doubt he recalled over and over again the words of Joseph.
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
Paul had a divine perspective. His greatest concern was that the Father’s kingdom and the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would advance. He was now front and center on the world’s biggest stage, in the capital city of the Empire of Rome. This was an opportunity for him to fulfill his calling as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the apex of a life well-lived in service to the Father.
Paul was thankful and content. He rejoiced continually. Philippians was perhaps his most joy-filled letter.
Philippians 4:11 I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Paul modeled for each of the Father’s children the art and science of maintaining a divine perspective. It is all a matter of attitude and focusing on what is most important to the Father and not our personal priorities or selfish ambitions.
When the Father’s purposes become our purposes, we find contentment and are able to rejoice in all situations. Our certain hope of eternal life with the Father truly becomes a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).