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 bolder to speak the word without fear.
Ancient Rome was a brutal military society. The Romans were known for their brutality on the battlefield and the treatment of the prisoners. Jails and prisons are often hellish places. Conditions were often viciously barbaric. They often lead to deliberately agonizing executions for those judged and found guilty and condemned. Containment facilities were often dark caves, tiny cells, and subterranean pits, often nearly completely dark.
Prisoners were often chained to walls, posts, and their guards. Chains were used to confine and control prisoners. For many Christian prisoners, their chains were actually a source of great freedom and opportunity. Chains breached barriers of class and societal rank. So it was with Paul. His imprisonment and chains were used by the Father to advance the gospel. The truth of the Lord Jesus Christ went places it had never been 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 about his chains, Paul prayed and consecrated them to the Father. And the rest was history.
Every child of the King can repurpose their personal prison and the things in their life that bind them. They are often used by the Father in remarkable and unbelievable ways to advance the message of the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.
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 Paul was their prisoner, each soldier was actually Paul’s prisoner. There was no way for them to escape the Truth. Paul shared the Truth about the Lord Jesus Christ daily with four soldiers.
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 never made sense 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, harsh, brutal Roman soldiers who were sheep that belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ answered His call and came to Him.
Soon many of them believed and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The message even spread to the elite Praetorian Guard. And beyond that, Paul’s chains allowed him to contact officials in the court of Caesar and even Caesar’s household, which included the royal family and anyone who was a part of the emperor’s service, including soldiers, slaves, or freedmen (Philippians 4:22).
Philippians 4:22 All the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.
Sometimes the challenging experiences we face and our reactions to them are the very things the Father uses to advance His kingdom. They provide access that we could never have 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 to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12). The Greek word that Paul uses, translated as advance, is prokope. Prokope means to go forward and make progress. It comes from the Greek verb prokopto from pro – before or forward, and kopto – to cut, strike, and impel. “It is the verb 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, allow me to see them as opportunities to advance Your kingdom.
Paul wanted all children of the King to know a fundamental truth. There are no coincidences or 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 that 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 lawbreaker. He was there for the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, he was in chains because that was precisely where the Lord Jesus Christ wanted him to be (Philippians 1:13). All in Rome who came in contact with Paul heard I a love letter from the Father addressed and fashioned just for them.
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. Given lemons, rather than complain, Paul made lemonade that quenched the thirst of needy souls.
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 most significant 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 the art and science of maintaining a divine perspective for each child of the King. It is a matter of attitude and focusing on what is most important to the Father, not our personal priorities or selfish ambitions.
When the Father’s purposes become our purposes, we find contentment and can rejoice in all situations. Our certain hope of eternal life with the Father truly becomes our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
© Dr. H 2022