by Mike Johnson
Text: Philippians 1:12-14
Paul wrote the book of Philippians while in prison. His trial had probably already taken place, and he seemed to be waiting for the verdict. It appears he expected to be released but was uncertain about it. Paul, no doubt, did not enjoy being imprisoned. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note his attitude in Philippians 1:12. Here he said, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” (NASB)
One would think that Paul’s imprisonment would have hindered the gospel. Instead, it did the opposite; it caused the “furtherance” (NKJV) of the gospel. How did this happen? How did bad turn into good? Paul gives us an answer in the text.
The Gospel Spread
First, in Phillippians 1:13, he said, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest (‘become well known,’ NASB) in all the palace, and in all other places.” Paul’s imprisonment had given him the chance to preach the gospel in Rome. It had given the gospel publicity during his trial that it would not otherwise have gotten.
Paul always seemed to make the best of whatever circumstance he found himself in. (Consider his attitude on another occasion when he was unjustly arrested. Acts 16:23-40). What happened to Paul was very bad. An event like this would cause most people to want to “give up,” especially if, like Paul, their tribulation was for doing right instead of doing wrong. However, Paul made the best of this unfortunate situation. He saw it as a chance to preach the gospel in other places.
Today, we must learn to make the best out of adversity. We must use hardships for whatever good we can. The problem may be sickness, persecution, or loss of loved ones. Whatever difficulty exists, we can always gain from it. Also, like Paul, we should take advantage of all kinds of situations and teach others. Who would have thought Paul could have turned his difficult situation into an opportunity to teach others?
The Influence of Paul
The second reason Paul gave to indicate how his imprisonment had helped further the gospel is in Philippians 1:14. This verse says, “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’s courage inspired others to proclaim God’s Word boldly. You might say Paul’s good traits “rubbed off” on others. Courage is sometimes contagious. Often one person standing up in a complacent world and doing what is right can inspire many others to do right. People often want to do what is right, but they need a leader to get them started. Paul was such a person—we can also be. However, it takes courage to do this, and sometimes a person must stand alone. All of us have more influence on others, for good or bad, than we realize.
Many bad things happen to us. However, the Christian can use tribulation to his advantage. Romans 5:3 tells us tribulation (generally looked upon as bad) produces patience (which we need). Difficulties can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone. It is up to us to turn adversity into an advantage. Paul’s outlook in Rome helps us to see this.