February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”—Philippians 1:12–14 (NIV)
“Where is God in my trouble? Why isn’t He taking me out of this? After all, I’m only here because I boldly shared the gospel.”
It would be reasonable for Paul to ask these kinds of questions, right? Remember where he is (in jail) and why (for preaching the gospel). Many of us ask similar questions when faced with difficult situations and suffering.
But Paul shows us a better way. In the midst of his hardest season, he never lost sight that God was with him. Paul never retreated from God, but pressed into Him. This allowed him to see that every trial has a testimony, every grief has a God story, and every pain has a purpose.
So, what was the purpose for what was happening to Paul? Today’s passage clearly shows us that God was using Paul’s chains to advance the gospel!
In all things, even bad things, “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). Those things intended for evil, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20 NIV). So, you see, God accomplishes His purposes and brings about our good in all things!
When we understand that God loves us, that He’s sovereign over all, that He’s our good shepherd, that in Him we are whole and experience fullness of joy, peace, and power, that “[we] can do all this through him who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV), that He redeems all things and works His good purposes in all things, then we can see our trials for what they are and recognize His good work in our lives. And not only that, but we also learn how our trials and the way we go through them can impact the lives of the people around us.
The manner in which Paul endured his chains allowed those around him to see Jesus and also emboldened other believers. His influence on them caused them to become bolder to share their faith. And the same can be true for you!
I don’t know what you’re going through right now, and I don’t want to minimize anyone’s suffering or struggles. But in this world, we’ll all experience unspeakable pain and hardships. But we can take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). And we can also “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5 NIV). And as we press into Him and experience His love being poured into our hearts, He can redeem our suffering and use it to transform the lives of the people around us and serve to minister to other believers who are also suffering.
Pause: How have your present and past circumstances opened doors for you to share the good news of the gospel?
Practice: Has the testimony of another believer in a trial ever ministered to you? Have you been blessed by the example of others? Tell them this week! Let me them know how God used their example to draw you to Himself and impact your faith.
Pray: Father, I pray in whatever trial I find myself in—today, tomorrow, and all the days of my life—that I would not lose sight of who You are. I pray I would remember Your faithfulness, goodness, and love. I pray that, like Paul, I may see every trial as an opportunity to advance the gospel. And I pray You would use me, in trial and triumph, to reach people with the gospel and serve as a testimony to other believers. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.