But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12, NKJV).
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched (forcibly silenced or suppressed), the Message has actually prospered (MSG).
Now I want you to know, believers, that what has happened to me [this imprisonment that was meant to stop me] has actually served to advance [the spread of] the good news [regarding salvation] (AMP).
When Apostle Paul was sent to prison (sometimes without a fair trial), he was beaten also. The jailers even fastened his feet one time in the stocks so that he wouldn’t escape (which by the way were supposed to be used on animals, not humans). I’m not saying he was never in despair. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). I’m not even saying that he was always content. He had to learn how to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11). I know how to get along and live humbly in difficult times, and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing life, whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need (Philippians 4:12, AMP).
Paul was in prison a lot. On five different occasions, he received thirty nine stripes. He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times. Once he was in the sea all night and the following day. Sometimes his journeys were long and hard. Danger was all around him – in the waters, in the sea, in the country, in the wilderness. He had to fend off robbers. He was betrayed by his own people (the Jews) and by those who claimed to be believers, but were not. Sometimes he was unable to sleep. Sometimes he was hungry and thirsty. Sometimes he was cold because he didn’t have enough clothes to keep him warm (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). And even though he went through all of these things, he still told us that our affliction was light and only temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Everyone who started in faith didn’t finish in faith. Demas left him. Everyone in Asia deserted him, but he didn’t mention everybody’s name. He only mentioned Phygellus and Hermogenes. The first time Paul was put on trial, no one stood with him. He stood alone, but he wished them no harm. He prayed that God would forgive them (2 Timothy 4:16). Some people deserted him because they were afraid, some left because of ‘trying times’ while others left because they grew weary in doing well.
While others left, Paul stayed with God. He believed the word that was preached to him. He was willing to go through what others walked away from. He endured because of what was at the end. He was as faithful to God in prison as he was out of prison. He was still praying, teaching, preaching, rebuking, encouraging others and thanking God. He urged the churches to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). He told them not to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). He told them what things to think on (Philippians 4:8). He admonished them to continue in the faith and to not be moved away from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23) – and he wrote all of this while in prison.
Some of the things that have happened to us were ‘small’ things. Someone talked about you. Someone hurt you. Someone disappointed you. So one day you stopped. God didn’t hurt you or disappoint you, but you stopped going to church, stopped being faithful and stopped believing, but not Paul. All the things that happened to Paul didn’t stop him or the gospel from being preached. Instead, it helped to further spread the gospel in prison and to other places (Philippians 1:12-13). The things that happened to him should have scared him, silenced him or killed him, but it didn’t. He was jailed for preaching the gospel, but he used that opportunity to write the gospel. Because of his faithfulness, his brothers in the Lord started boldly preaching the word of God. There was even a prison keeper who once asked Paul and Silas, What must I do to be saved?
The apostle’s prison letters didn’t sound like they were written by a man in bonds, but by a man who was free indeed. This is because he just didn’t write letters, but he became the letter known and read of all men. Paul was a prisoner for Christ. He was in chains for doing right and at one time we were in chains for doing wrong, but God can use those circumstances, too. Look at your opportunities. There is someone out there who wants to be saved. There is someone out there that doesn’t want to do the things they do or be the person that they have become. There is someone out there who needs to know that God loves them and that He cares for them.
I know some of us would rather just go to church, but this world needs us to become the church.
Paul wasn’t sitting in prison feeling sorry for himself or talking about giving up and neither should we. In the midst of all the troubles he and his brothers faced, Paul was still able to say, We trust that He will yet deliver us (1 Corinthians 1:10). If the things that happened to you were bad, trust that God will turn that situation around because He is the only One who can make it good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to HIS purpose (Romans 8:28).