“I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
“And I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me… I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:12-22,25-26a
Paul had spiritual eyes, and eagerly made the most of his situation. If prison was where his Sovereign planted him, there he would proclaim the gospel where it might not otherwise go, to the imperial guard, those tending to his care, and fellow prisoners. God’s chosen were everywhere, and he wanted to participate in their salvation. (Acts 16:25-34)
Paul’s example was an encouragement to watching believers. His spoken reason for his hope, even in untoward circumstances, emboldened their faith and advanced the good news. They progressed in joy as they observed his contentment, and persevered in prayer as they learned how it encouraged his faith and sharpened his vision. (Philippians 4:11; 1 Peter 3:15)
From a human perspective, imprisonment would never be the state of choice. And unjust confinement for righteous obedience would make the situation even more difficult to accept. But in God’s perspective, where He sees all things on an eternal continuum and working together for eternal good, such suffering may be simply a tool in the shadows for heavenly blessing. Through temporary unease and discomfort, He’s arranging many things more glorious and significant than are seen. (Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 8:28)
In unjust accusation or painful condition, what practical and spiritual opportunities has the Lord presented? In the grief of natural disaster or unexpected loss, how has He revealed himself and increased confidence in His larger purpose? In each confinement of hard relationship, uncertainty, or forced-upon-me out-of-my-control circumstance, how will I use it to grow in faith, exemplify Christ, advance the gospel?
Lord, please use every experiential jail to strengthen my faith and boldness. Help me make the most of laboring side by side with others, without fear and with joy, to spread Your gospel and exalt Your fame. (Philippians 1:27-28)