This is post #4 of a 26-sesion blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about Him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah. It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! Philippians 1: 12-18a (MsgB)
Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people?
I mean…just think about this predicament for a minute.
Paul, a man who ended up writing a good portion of what we now call the New Testament, was called by God and the early church to be an apostle (which simply means “sent-out one”), a missionary to much of the known world outside Jerusalem for the cause of Christ. Yet, in fact, he spent a good amount of that same missionary time sitting in a jail, waiting for his freedom, so he could get back on the road again for the Master.
I’m sure you remember the amazing story…
In Acts 9, Paul (then going by his original moniker, Saul) was on a rampage, keeping (in his mind) the Jewish faith pure by exposing Jesus-followers, bringing them to justice. One day, as he and his traveling companions were on a road leading to Damascus, Saul was violently shoved to the ground, blinded by an explosion of light. Jesus spoke to him there, telling him in no uncertain terms, that he was actually working against the plans of God, and that he was cease and desist, go into town, and await further instructions there. In verses 10-17, we read that Jesus had already hand-picked a very hesitant man named Ananias, to whom the Master had said, “Ananias, go to this man! He (Saul) is My chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Over in Acts 13, we find Paul (now a very repentant follower of Jesus) and other church leaders in Antioch, worshipping and fasting, when the Holy Spirit clearly says, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” After these leaders fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on these two men and sent them off on a life of mission for the greater glory of God. In truth, the remainder of the New Testament bears testimony to the rightness of Jesus’ words to Ananias and to the actions of those early church leaders in Antioch.
Yet, isn’t it fascinating that while Paul and his traveling companions were called to be on the road for the cause of Christ, so much of their time, energy and resources were wasted while Paul sat in jail, twiddling his thumbs? Just think of how much more productive work could have been accomplished if Paul and his friends hadn’t had to spend so much time hanging out in prison?
What a great predicament. Don’t you think?
Maybe, just maybe, there might be a higher plan going on here?
You can read it here in Paul’s words to the Philippian church…
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered.
Paul goes on to say that the Gospel message, to which he is fully committed, is still advancing despite the predicament he and his friends found themselves in.
Now, ponder on this…
While Paul didn’t realize this at the time, who’s to say if Paul hadn’t been confined to prison, he’d ever taken the time to write to his friends across the Roman world? I mean, think on this! If Paul had remained free from jail time, he’d most likely be spending his time visiting all the churches he’d planted, telling them, in person, all the things he needed and wanted to say!
And guess what, friends?
Without Paul’s pastoral letters to his friends, we, the church that came after the first century, wouldn’t have much of a New Testament to work with, would we?
Could it be, my friends, that some of the greatest predicaments we find ourselves in, could actually be, like they were for Paul and his friends, God-sent road-blocks so that we’ll do something we’d normally wouldn’t do, so that God’s will be accomplished, even if we don’t always comprehend what that will is?
I’m guessing that Paul, Timothy, and the others, as they look down upon their earthly jail time from their present perspective in God’s Kingdom, can now say with certainty, “While we didn’t understand it at the time, now we see that God did know what He was doing after all.”
Oh wait. Paul did say that back then. In Romans 8: 28 (NIV) we find these words…
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.
Today’s Prayer: Father God, in truth, it’s possible, like it was for Paul and his friends, that those great predicaments I find myself in, just might be golden opportunities for You to advance your cause in and through me. In other words, my roadblocks just might be your opportunities. Holy Spirit, give me the eyes to see good, even in the midst of bad. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: So, what great predicament is looking me square in the face today? Am I willing to step back from it for a moment, and like Paul and his friends, first remember the call You have on my life, and secondly, choose that, indeed, in all things God can work good for me, who loves Him and has been called according to His Purpose?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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