Summary: Courage is simetimes a choice...Faceing ptoblems is not reason to hold on to fear.
Last week as a sort of a set up for the Book of Philippians as a letter that we can learn how the apostle Paul reacted to his personal situation. We found a thread of Joy, and encouragement in the book. The underlying point of looking at the scripture is that we live in and are affected by the culture and what is happening, we have an example of how we should respond in our times.
But it seemed to me that Paul’s response to imprisonment was not natural. He did not fuss about his situation in the opening of the letter. He offers thanks to God for the help that the church in Philippi has been and speaks of the feeling of Joy he has when he remembers them and prays for them.
All this while chained to a Guard 24X7. It just did not seem right… the situation … or his response…
I know several a people that remind me a lot about Paul’s life situation and response.
One of them is named Margret; I guess that she is at least 85 years old now. She has a heart condition, arthritis and is a fragile diabetic. Her biggest battle is with infections in her hands and feet. 11 years ago she was already home bound although she did come to church about 3 times in the 8 years I was her pastor. She took care of her husband He was already 90 however he died in my first year. They had married in the depression, Homer worked in the CCC camps (Civilian Conservation Corps) and later Celanese mill in Riverside. Margret raised a family in the mill village back in what she called to good old days. And now is in an assisted living facility.
From time to time Margret spends a lot of time alone with the TV and she also spends a fair amount of time waiting in Doctors offices.
Margret still sends me birthday and Christmas cards with personal notes and blessings. She is an encourager. She is a survivor.
- Picking up from where we stopped last week, Paul starts talking of his situation and what has happened as a result.
“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.”
Paul has noticed that the hardships he is facing, under house arrest, with all kinds of limitations has had a surprising result. The Praetorian Guard – Cesar’s personal guard, the guys on the other end of the chain. Are talking about this strange little man - Paul; and how he is imprisoned …in chains for his Lord – Jesus Christ.
That was a strange thought – the pagans – believe that bad things happened when you angered one of the Gods. This guy claims that his Lord wants him imprisoned as an act of service.
Can you imagine what it would have been like being chained to Paul?
A man that had this amazing passion for the Gospel.
A man that would love to preach to a stadium fill of pagans, a man that took beatings because he preached.
A man that did not consider any person or situation a threat because as a slave his life belonged to his master, Jesus Christ.
These guards are exposed to Paul for 4. 6, 8. maybe 12 hours a day.
If they won’t talk Paul talks any way. Paul has guest that come by a few at a time to bring him meals and keep him company and they talk about Jesus and the good news. So there is a constant exposure to the Story of Jesus Christ for a string of guards.
Simply stated, the guards are trapped with an evangelist. They can’t hit or abuse him – he is a Roman citizen. Some of them are probably paying other people to take their shift.
They start talking about this nutty little old man. They have to think that this attitude and response to house arrest and to the constant presence of a guard is unnatural…
His point of view….That he is in chains for Jesus is a strange concept.
Wither they are slowly become believers themselves…and it is very likely that many of them did or they just complained about their prisoner the whole Palace guard knew a lot about this man Paul
But, what seems even more interesting is what happens to the believers in Rome. They look at Paul’s situation and become empowered to speak in public …fearlessly.