My father and mother-in-law were missionaries in Cameroon during the 1990’s when our children were very young. Communication between families was placed as a high premium. The power was typically out for long periods of time. Telephone service was both sketchy and expensive. And email was relatively new. Living in a foreign country, our grandparents wanted to keep informed on the welfare of their children and grandchildren. Due to the danger and afflictions of living in West Africa, children living in the states welcomed news of their health, welfare and work.
With the same concern of a parent, the Apostle Paul wrote his letters to the church to not only encourage and instruct them in the faith, but also give updates them on his well-being.
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really 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. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil. 1:12-14)
It would be easy for us to grumble and complain in Paul’s circumstances. Many of us can’t imagine being in chains for long periods of time. Yet, we see Paul respond to his difficult circumstances with an attitude of enthusiasm and joy. He does not see his imprisonment as a burden or barrier, but a unique opportunity to be a servant for the Lord. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Paul trusts that his imprisonment was advancing the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even though there may have been days when it certainly didn’t seem that way to him.
We notice that Paul’s attitude was capturing the attention of a most unlikely group — the palace guards and everyone else who is in contact with him. His attitude captured the attention of the palace guard and they became interested in his case and in his message. The guards realized he had not committed any crime, yet Paul did not seem bitter about his circumstances. His response to life was effectively bending the ears of those around him. The palace guards were dropping their own guard and were intently listening to this new message of grace and truth. Paul’s presence and attitude was also affecting the Christian believers in Rome. They were being inspired by Paul to confess their faith and proclaim the gospel more boldly.
When difficult circumstances arrive in our lives, and they will, we have the opportunity to respond like Paul. By trusting God with a confidence that the Lord knows what He is doing, we will be used in ways that we cannot fully comprehend nor fathom. We turn over the responsibility of our future into the Lord’s hands while fully giving ourselves over to the tasks that our presented before us, no matter how humble or small it may be at the time.