Summary: Paul was in prison, had enemies attacking, and saw death coming, but remained upbeat. How did he do it?
Philippians 1:12 –26 April 6, 2008
What to do when troubles come…
In this passage, Paul has 3 problems
Problem 1: Paul is in Prison – Turkish prison – possibly Ephesus
This is a good thing, right?
I can’t help but think of the Canadian woman who has been in jail without trial for two years down in Mexico – you hear tales of a vibrant woman with a now broken spirit because of the conditions that she is held in. Paul Condition in a 1st century Turkish jail was likely much worse.
There is this amazing story in the Old Testament about Joseph who had his own time in prison. Joseph the second youngest son of the patriarch Jacob. His father spoiled him rotten, and his older brothers were jealous. They wanted to kill him, then they decided to sell him into slavery. Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he became a trusted servant of his new master, until his master’s wife falsely accused him of trying to molest her, and he was thrown into prison. After a long while, he was suddenly brought out to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, king of Egypt — with success that Pharaoh put him in charge of his major project to alleviate the coming famine. In that capacity he found himself selling corn to his own brothers without their knowledge Eventually, having tricked them to test their state of heart, he told them who he was. The story ends happily~ with the whole family surviving the famine and settled in Egypt.
After their father Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers worry that he will now take revenge on them for what they’d done to him many years earlier. So they come and tell him that Jacob had told them to seek his forgiveness. Joseph’s reply is one of the most memorable statements of faith anywhere in the Bible. ‘Don’t be afraid: he says. ‘Don’t suppose that I am in God’s place. After all, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50.20). And he forgives them and continues to look after them.
I find it amazing that Joseph is able to set aside the bitterness of half a lifetime spent in slavery and prison because “God had a larger plan.” It is even more amazing that Paul is able to have such an attitude since he does not have the benefit of Joseph’s hindsight to understand his troubles. He is sitting in prison, and he can see how his suffering is a good thing.
The Imperial Guard is aware of Jesus because of Paul’s chains – Paul was the prisoner, but he had a captive audience –
In Acts 12, Peter is in jail and the have him chained to two roman soldiers so there was no chance of escape. There may have been times in Paul’s life where he had the same experience: literally chained to his guard.
Paul was never shy over talking about what was on his heart, so I imagine every guard who guarded him got to hear the story of the Gospel! You can imagine that as the shift changed, the guy coming off would say, “okay your turn with the preacher.” Some of his jailers would have become Christians, and all the rest would at least have an understanding of Christian teaching! Paul was using his bad situation to evangelize Caesar’s army!
He says that the Christians in the region had actually become more bold because he was in prison! This is rather counter-intuitive – persecution bringing more boldness – you would think that the rest of the believers would have went into hiding.
It could be that the Christians figured that if Paul was “Out of commission,” they had to pick up the slack, so instead of one evangelist, you had many, knowing that the work had to be done.
It could that out of their fear, they prayed for more boldness, and God answered. Acts 4:23-31 Peter and John have been thrown into prison for preaching Jesus’ resurrection, and this is what happens:
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
" ’Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one. ’
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."