Monday, January 5, 2009

Chains for Christ

"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." Philippians 1:12-14

Apparently, Paul was in prison when he wrote this. It appears that Paul thought that his audience knew he was in chains, and that may have been a source of discouragement or despair for this church. But Paul, seeing the good that God was working through this seemingly massive blow to the ministry that God was working through Paul, goes on to note that the gospel is still being forwarded on, even though Paul was in prison.

What wonderful perspective that Jesus gave Paul in his poor circumstance. What man intended for evil, God intended for good. Faith and hope are mere lip service if they are not tested. You can almost picture the ear to ear grin that must have been on God's face when he saw Paul respond the way he did. He must have thought something like, "that's my boy", or "Paul, you freakin stud! You get it, man!"

And to spur on Paul's hope, God let's Paul see the affect of his attitude and perseverance: the whole palace guard knew that a mere man that was imprisoned for sharing his faith, was filled with even more hope and drive to continue sharing the life giving, life changing, life saving message of Jesus Christ. It must have been something to see the look on the guards' faces, saying "what the heck is wrong with that guy? We just chained him up, and he is all the more driven and filled with unwavering hope for the cause that imprisoned him." It is likely that the guards beat him and spat upon him regularly, mocking him and the message he proclaimed. And Paul could have burned with hate, wanting God to strike them all dead or infect them with some forsaken disease or illness. But Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit, most probably had great compassion for them, often praying something similar to what Jesus prayed on the cross: "father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And because of Paul's attitude and kindness towards those that mocked him and abused him, the whole palace guard knew that the faith that this man was imprisoned for was the real deal.

When you are faced with adversity, in chains, does the world look on and say, "Wow. Something is definitely different about this guy. His faith; His Jesus is the real deal. How can someone forgive and love like that? Who can possess such love, joy, peace, and hope when something like this happens? I wonder if the Jesus that this guy believes in can change me too."

Too often, my life answers that question with the same pathetic answer: " just another guy; flips out like everyone else when something bad happens. Just tune me out when I start asking you to come to church with me; You can be just as good as me by staying home and watching the Cowboys play on Sundays. See? If Christians can cuss and talk bad about others and complain about every bad thing that happens to them, then what makes them so different from everyone else? You don't need to get right with God… You are just as good as this guy; you are good enough, surely God will let you in to Heaven, won't He?"

Because of Paul simply living out the faith he professed and persevering with the hope of Jesus Christ, others took note. His fellow brothers, who were probably greatly troubled by Paul's imprisonment, now were galvanized to carrying out the gospel with immense passion and conviction. They were no longer imprisoned with the fear of prison or chains or even death. They were empowered with a Spirit-filled boldness and courage that stems from knowing the One that saves, and knowing that Jesus, the Christos, came and died for all, so that if anyone would believe in him, he would not perish, but have life everlasting.

Are you in chains for Christ? Is the whole palace guard taking note?

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