Philippians 1:12-30; Ezekiel 19; Isaiah 48
There were severe complications in his birth. Obstetricians used two pairs of forceps during the birth and one of those pairs ended up severing a nerve and causing partial paralysis of his face. The lower left side of his face, including parts of his chin, tongue, and lips are the affected areas and that has caused his speech to be slurred as well as a snarling look. Others have dealt with similar circumstances, I’m sure, but Sylvester Stallone has used his to catapult himself into super stardom and two movie franchise characters: Rocky and John Rambo. He didn’t let his circumstances keep him down.
It’s a truth of life that we all have circumstances to overcome. Even people born with “a silver spoon” in their mouth have circumstances to overcome. OK, we may think we’d prefer to overcome those circumstances more than the ones we’ve had to face, but, if the lesson learned from those who have won the lottery has any validity, wealth can be a problem if not handled in God’s ways. Paul didn’t have one of those wealth problems. He had one of those, “I’m stuck in prison problems.” “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.” (Philippians 1:12-13 NIV)
Paul had been obedient to his call in Jesus Christ. He was preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He was doing what God had asked him to do. Then, because he was preaching the gospel, he was arrested on false charges. Knowing that the Jews wanted to kill him, he invoked a right available to Roman citizens: he appealed his case to Caesar. The result was that he was now sitting under house arrest in the custody of two Roman guards who were chained to him. He didn’t consider himself to be a captive, though, he considered himself to have a captive audience. Instead of complaining about his circumstances, he shared the gospel with his captors. I imagine after a while, when Paul started proclaiming Jesus to the new ones who rotated in, they said something like, “Oh, you’re the one they were talking about. That crazy old guy who’s in chains because of his faith and wants to share that with us, too.” Paul, in the midst of circumstances that would put most of us into a state of depression, shared the joy of Christ. He rejoiced in his imprisonment because it gave him the opportunity to share the gospel and it emboldened others to share their faith as well.
I must confess that I let circumstances bother me too much. When it’s too hot, I complain, longing for the cold. When it’s too cold, I complain, longing for the heat of summer. I don’t have enough money to do all the things I want to. I have too much to do and I’m worn out. I don’t have anything to do, so I’m bored. Anyone else have any of these problems? Would I seem insensitive if I said that these problems were unimportant in life when compared to the joy of sharing the gospel? You might say, “Oh, I know those problems aren’t bad, let me tell you my circumstances. Your circumstances might be terrible. I’ve heard from and seen people who were in dire situations. And yet, they first survived and then overcame those circumstances they were in. We may not have control of our circumstances, but we always have control of our reactions to them. We can choose to complain about our lot and stay mired in those terrible situations, or we can face them with faith, turn them around, and use them to share the greatness of God. Choose to live above your circumstances.
Lord, it’s so easy to look at what I’m going through and blaming You and other people for my circumstances. Give me the grace and wisdom to look at my circumstances as a way to share Your love.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.