Sunday, January 25, 2015

just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1, NKJV)

I think sometimes the words of Scripture just slide over our minds without absorption or comprehension, especially if we were raised in church or been a believer for many years. This is one of those passages for me, or used to be ... now, I hear the deep, rich voice of an aged apostle, his inner fire burning down to a bed of embers by years of service to the Lord—and suffering in the course of that.

Maybe it’s having a fair bit of suffering under my belt as well, some of it rather fresh.

Why does this stuff happen to us, anyway?

12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1, NKJV)

Beyond the sometimes nebulous “all things work together for good to those who love God” ... sometimes the Lord gives us a glimpse of the solid and immediate. “For the furtherance of the gospel” is just another way of saying, “so that the reality of redemption of grace will become apparent to more people who need it.” Paul at this point in his life was imprisoned in Rome for his faith. It’s easy for us, on this end of the Church Age, to be a little apathetic about the reality of that. But it’s the next part that gives me pause: Paul’s imprisonment effectively put him and his faith on display for the whole palace guard—and other believers became more vocal about their own faith.

I can see that, in the case of believers in our time, speaking out about various world events while safe in our own homes on this side of the ocean, but ... how can that be, right there in the same city?

Maybe it was that in seeing Paul’s confidence as he endured various sufferings, they realized even if they too were imprisoned for their faith—or worse—God was still very much in control. That they’d be given the grace, and the words, in every situation.

And maybe that’s what it’s about, that continuing, daily grace.

We each have our own little prisons, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. I think we all question why, at some point or another, but do we really believe that God can use those prisons not only for our good, but for the furtherance of His grace and mercy?

Walking in love, in grace, doesn’t mean we aren’t struggling with the situation—even Paul struggled mightily at times, and speaks in other places of being discouraged almost to the point of death. It simply means daring to continue to live out our faith despite the chains, and trust that until He frees us, God not only can but will use the situation “for the furtherance of the gospel.”

Can we do that? Can we dare to trust Him in everything?


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