ADVANCING THE GOSPEL
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 1, specifically, Philippians 1:12-14.
Reflection | Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul always had desired to go to Rome to share the Gospel. To reach the heart of the Roman Empire for Christ, a city with a population of over one million people in Paul’s day; would create a ripple effect that would sweep across “the ends of the earth” or the known world at that time. Paul, however, did not end up in Rome the way he likely imagined he would get there. Paul’s plans for his arrival were radically turned upside down when he was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Rome in order to stand trial before Caesar. After suffering a shipwreck along the way, Paul came to Rome not as a missionary in residence but as a prisoner in chains.
At this point in the letter, Paul moves from the prayer that he has offered for the Philippians to assessing his own situation. What has been translated into English as three verses (12 – 14) are, in fact, one single sentence in which Paul offers a shockingly glowing report. Surprisingly, Paul views his less than desirable circumstances as already having been redeemed by God. As he puts it, his forced confinement has “actually served to advance the Gospel.” Paul then goes on in verse 13 to declare, not only does he perceive his situation in this way, but “it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else” that Paul is not a prisoner of Rome, but “a prisoner for Christ.”
In other words, the Holy Spirit literally has turned the tables on the situation in Rome. For it is no longer Paul who is being held captive as much as it is his guards who have become a captive audience to the living truth about Jesus. Despite not having access to the crowd he envisioned, Paul is sharing Jesus with those who are with him – those who are guarding him, the very Roman soldiers attached to him by an 18-inch chain. Over the course of his two-year incarceration, several dozens of these soldiers would have both heard and experienced the power of the Gospel as they were rotated through being attached to Paul’s chains! In fact, as Paul shares, the unexpected fruitfulness of this seemingly fruitless period of time for him, has emboldened others in openly sharing their faith in Christ with others.
Facing circumstances akin to Paul’s – not where we expected to find ourselves and confined to our quarters – what is our assessment of our situation? Have we resigned ourselves to see nothing more than our doom and gloom? Or can we catch Paul’s vision of the God who has already transformed our perceived limitations and obstacles into opportunities for the Gospel to be shared? Will we let the Holy Spirit turn the tables and expand the possibilities of our little quarter of confinement? Are you tied to a desk? A computer? A phone? A virtual classroom? A virtual business meeting? An essential job on the frontlines? Are you chained to a spouse, your children, another family member or a roommate? Reimagine your circumstances and recognize the potential you have right in front of you to share in both word and deed the presence of the risen Christ with others.
Consider and Discuss | How could your specific, present circumstances become an opportunity for you to visibly & tangibly witness to the love & truth of Jesus? Be creative!
Prayer Focus | Lord, open up our vision beyond the limits of what we can see in front of us. Spur us on to move forward within our confined spaces with confidence, knowing that the reach of Your Gospel has no borders or boundaries. Amen.