“I want you to know, brothers, 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.” (Phil. 1:12-14)
Let us visualise Paul as he writes to the Philippians. He went through many years of imprisonment, firstly in Caesarea and then in Rome (from where his letter to the church in Philippi was most likely written), and his living conditions must have been abysmal at times. Yet, instead of sending news to his readers of the kind of cell he was in, how painful the constant chains were – or indeed what his food was like – he greets them joyfully and immediately summarises his experience in a positive way. There is no hint of self-pity, just a bubbling desire for his readers to understand that the good news of Jesus Christ has spread further because of what he has been through.
If, like Paul, we treat everything that happens to us – even negative experiences – as an opportunity to witness for the Lord, we will burn brightly and kindle a fire in others
Paul’s life took a turn that must have been discouraging to the disciples around him; his friends might naturally have thought that his work for the Lord was held back, and maybe even over, now that he was in prison. Not so Paul! He took this new opportunity to witness to each guard and every person in the prison. We hear no bad words from Paul about his guards or indeed their probable bad treatment of him. We only hear how his courage and single purpose of heart inspired other fellow believers to speak out and witness. That must have cheered Paul no end!
Let us now ask ourselves: do I see a modern-day ‘Paul’ in the friends I have or am I even a ‘Paul’ myself? I have had friends and family who have suffered illnesses, some even that were beyond healing, and gone through other bad times in their lives. Yet some have stood out as they displayed an inner sense of peace, strength and even joy that could only have come from the Lord helping them through. In turn, their witness has encouraged my own faith. Someone once said to me, “Ruth, revival starts with one person.” If, like Paul, we treat everything that happens to us – even negative experiences – as an opportunity to witness for the Lord, we will burn brightly and kindle a fire in others; our testimony will be so much more effective than if we only share our faith when things are going well.
Ruth Seddon, The Church of God in Liverpool