Summary: Learn how right focus can turn obstacles and roadblocks into opportunities for courageous service for God.
This morning, we’ll continue with chapter 1, verses 12-18a, and we’ll look at how Paul turns his chains into courage. We will look at two observations from this text and one main principle with two areas of application.
The first observation I like to make is from verse 13: "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." Do you see it, bad things happen to good people, even God’s people. Paul was in chains for Christ, not for crimes against anyone.
There is a false belief that many Christians carry around with them, and that is "bad things don’t happen to good people, especially not to God’s people." And so when bad things happen to a good person or to one of God’s people, then it must be because that person has some unconfessed sin or that person really doesn’t belong to God. That false belief and that false conclusion is not only not found in real life, but it’s not found in the Bible.
Bad things do happen to good people. In the Old Testament, Joseph was sold into slavery. David was hunted down by King Saul. Job lost his family and his health. In the New Testament, Christ was betrayed, beaten and crucified. Paul was imprisoned and later beheaded. All of the original disciples of Christ, not counting Judas, were martyred; only John lived to an old age in exile. Bad things do happen to good people and even to God’s people, and only the wisdom of God can intend it for good and the power of God can bring good out of even the worse situations.
Meanwhile, God, in His Word, the Bible, offers solution to life’s problems, even to the problems of depression and death. What God does not offer is a problem-free life. Anyone who tells you that being a Christian frees you from life’s problems is lying. Being a Christian allows us to tap into the powers of Heaven in order to face the pains of earth. More about this later.
The second observation is that a Christian is a witness to Christ, whether he or she is a good witness or a bad witness: As a follower of Christ, we model Christ to others, and we do that well or we do that poorly, but no Christian can decline this responsibility. Paul writes in verse 14, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, even Marin County." In other words, if you are a follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you, and you are a witness of Jesus Christ, no exception.
It has been said that you may be the only Bible someone else will read. Are you true to the Word of God? Does your co-worker have a better understanding of who Jesus Christ is because of your words and your life lived out at work? Do your classmates or unsaved family members have a correct interpretation of who Jesus is by your words and the life you live out at school or at home?
Paul, chained to different Roman soldiers 24 hours a day, was a witness to each soldier, of his relationship to Christ. Don’t wait for an ideal situation to be a witness for Christ. If Paul can do it in chains, you can do it in your marriage, in your workplace, in your school, even in the shopping mall. Simply be consistent with the Word of God in your words and in your life in whatever situation God places you.
I recently heard that Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade, one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world, prayed, "God, kill me before I do anything to shame the name of Christ." That’s commitment to being a good witness to the person of Jesus Christ.
Your pastor would be willing to pray something like, "God fire me from pastoral ministry before I do anything to shame the name of Christ." I’m growing in my commitment; I’m not there yet.
Okay, let’s look at the main focus of this morning’s passage under the framework of turning chains into courage. We will have two sub-points under this main point.
Paul was able to take his situation and encourage others to be courageous and fearless, because he himself was courageous and fearless. He turned his chains into courage by focusing on the prospect of a joyful outcome and not on the prospect of a dreadful process. He concluded his thoughts on being imprisoned and being the target of troublemakers with "And because of this - this being "Christ is preached" - I rejoice!"