I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. – Philippians 1:12-14
So much of the Christian life is a paradox. As awful as it seems, did you know it is good when fellow disciple-makers are imprisoned and persecuted for their disciple-making activities? Do I want to be imprisoned or beaten or stoned for daring to work to make disciples of Christ? Absolutely not. I am not interested in having my freedom abridged by imprisonment or my body afflicted with pain from stonings or beatings. I don’t believe that Paul wanted it either. But he got it.
Paul was able to look beyond his own suffering and see the big picture and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. His values went beyond his personal peace and comfort.
Paul observed that what had happened to him (being imprisoned in Rome) had served to advance the gospel. It turned out to be a good thing, one that actually advanced Paul’s life mission. Can you imagine that? Put me in jail so I can accomplish my life’s mission. Crazy, huh? Well, he didn’t ask for jail time, but he got it and saw what Jesus was doing through it to advance the gospel.
most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear
This paradigm doesn’t fit our typical pattern of trying to encourage brothers. We would be telling the stories of Paul’s experience of receiving the vision that called him to Philippi, or the story of the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household, or how Paul demonstrated the resurrection authority of Jesus in casting out the spirit of divination from the fortune teller that landed him in jail.
But what did Paul write? That his imprisonment had resulted in the advancement of the gospel and that his circumstances had produced confidence in most of the church and encouraged them to proclaim the gospel without fear. Most of them were becoming fearless disciple-makers at least partially due to his imprisonment.
When we hear stories of brothers and sisters in the Lord being beheaded for Christ in the Middle-East, or imprisoned in China, or beaten in Indonesia or jailed in Iran, or any number of much milder forms of persecution in the United States, let us take heart. Let us gain confidence in the Lord and become bolder to speak the gospel and become fearless unwavering intentional disciple-makers.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20