The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
Such is a quite interesting story which really speaks volumes about how we tend to become disheartened when everything is not going the way we would like it to and even to the point our proverbial hut is burning down.
One that I automatically think about when there was so much going on and yea, the proverbial hut seemingly burning to the ground, Paul remained optimistic and could see God working through the distressing external circumstances he would find himself in. Paul tells the Philippian brethren in Philippians 1:12-14: “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul is focusing his attention on what the Lord is doing. Paul recognizes as we should that it’s NOT about us. It’s about what the Lord can accomplish through us even in the midst of difficult external circumstances.
Paul wanted the Philippian brethren to understand that the things which happened to him have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul’s attention is NOT on his suffering, but what the effect of his suffering is producing, the furtherance, the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul explains that such furtherance of the Gospel is being accomplished by the guards who are well-aware of him being imprisoned for the sake and cause of Christ. The Gospel is advancing among unbelievers and all who would hear about Paul being imprisoned would know throughout Rome. Notice that Paul makes it clear that it wasn’t about him, it was about Jesus and the message of Christ, the Gospel.
Paul even further says in verse 14 that due to his imprisonment that believers are becoming BOLDER to proclaim the gospel. Paul is saying that all that has happened is GOOD! This is NOT just a fluke for Paul, this is the way he lived his life (cf. 2 Timothy 2:8-10). He saw the good and focused on the good rather than the bad. Paul was not living a life of delusion. He was well-aware that although there would be a fair share of sunshine, there would be storms as well. It was up to him to decide how to respond and what to focus on when the storms came. Joseph of the Old Testament is such a great example of one who recognized that good can result from bad circumstances (cf. Genesis 50:20).
When we consider our lives today, with all that has happened, what are we choosing to focus on, how are we responding? I say that, because what good do you think Paul would have been able to do as those unbelievers who guarded him if he sat and gave the “woe is me” routine day in and day out. What about the believers? Paul is always noted to be taking each moment, giving God the glory, honor and praise so Paul will be a living testimony of what a true disciple of Christ is. Paul was going to show those unbelievers, those persecutors what a difference the gospel of Jesus Christ made in his life.
Paul had a choice just like we do today. We can either curse the darkness or we can light a candle. Paul chose to light a candle, to let his light shine for all the world to see, to be that city that’s set on a hill which cannot be hid, glorifying the Lord, even through his pain and suffering (cf. Matthew 5:14-16).
We may not be imprisoned as Paul was, but we are surrounded by a dark and dreary world. We face hard and difficult times. Think about this: Paul was simply teaching and preaching the truth of Christ and was beaten for it. I’m thankful we don’t have that problem in our society yet. But if and when it comes, will we still live out our faith every day? Will we use those bad circumstances to further the gospel of Jesus Christ with an optimistic, upbeat outlook to show the world that the Lord’s cause is being advanced?
Like the man in the story at the beginning of this article, we find ourselves much like him, only getting disheartened as one thing after another doesn’t go so well, at least the way we thought it should. Let’s be reminded to do as Paul even told the disciples in Galatia: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Our proverbial hut may be on fire as we deal with issues of suffering that this life brings. Don’t lose heart, for the Lord is at work to refine us (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-8) and even through what people find/see us where we are, may bring God glory, praise and honor to the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Something to think about. Have a great week! – DJ 😊