Have you ever been placed in a position or a job situation where you felt trapped and thought that this will not serve any purpose at all? The apostle Paul knew what that felt like. In the latter chapters of the book of Acts, we read that Paul desired to go to Rome to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Paul eventually did get to Rome, but we know it was not in the same way he intended. He was taken to Rome as a prisoner, chained to guards twenty-four hours a day.
The church in Philippi was obviously concerned for him, but Paul has a completely different perspective. He saw things from an eternal perspective. Paul writes in verse 12, “…what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel”.
Paul’s imprisonment was well known throughout Rome and the region. The imperial guard was tasked with his imprisonment and they were exposed to the Gospel message as he daily spoke to visitors and the guards themselves. Possibly five thousand guards heard the message that they would never have had the opportunity to hear.
Paul continues in verse 13 to say that his imprisonment was really the talk of the town, from the imperial guard to all the people of Rome and the surrounding regions, people knew about Paul and that his preaching caused him to be put in chains. The enemy used them to imprison God’s mouthpiece, but God had a special plan for their lives and used their role as prison guard to set them free. Paul was convinced that his imprisonment was the sovereign plan of God (see 2 Timothy 2:8-9).
Not once do we see Paul complaining about his chains, because he saw his chains as being supernaturally connected to the plan of God to advance the Gospel. How quickly we complain about the “chains” of our life; our job, family situation, debt, poor health and loneliness all these and other problems, all these are chains that can confine us if we do not see them as part of God’s sovereign plan. Our chains can be used by God, if we would turn our chains over to God and see what He can do with them. The Word of God is never bound.
In verse 15, we read that some people who knew Paul were preaching with envy and rivalry. Evidently there were people who saw what Paul was doing and they saw an opportunity to gain notoriety and fame, possibly they saw a way to make money from preaching the same message that Paul was preaching. It is evident that Paul did not have any problem with their message, it was the motives that he did not agree with.
What they didn’t see, was the suffering that Paul had gone through. Paul had the right to be on stage, because Paul had the right perspective to be used by God. (see Galatians 2:20). It is all about motivation, the moment our motivation to proclaim Christ turns away from the glory of God and turns to our own desire to be known, we are missing out on the eternal reward for serving Christ.
Paul says in verse 16, that he was actually put in chains for the defense of the gospel, he was appointed by God to be imprisoned for the Gospel. The word that he uses is actually the same as the word that would describe a soldier being placed at his post on guard duty. Paul knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was appointed to be chained to these guards at this particular time in his life, and he didn’t want to be anywhere else.
What is the appointment that God has for you in your life at this very moment? What situation are you in right now that you are struggling with? God has a purpose for you being where you are. If that is where you are today, do not leave your post, do not try to find a way to get out of the situation that God has called you to be in. God has placed you strategically where you are in order for you to proclaim the Gospel message to those around you.
Then jumping down to verse 18, we see Paul’s conviction. Paul was not going to let his emotions be swayed by his critics. This is such a difficult lesson for us to learn in life. If we are doing what God has called us to do, why do we get so disturbed when people criticize us? Are we living to please the people around us or are we living to please the king of kings? Paul was rejoicing that his critics were preaching the Gospel. He kept his eyes on the mission, the proclamation of the gospel.
We need to know what God has called us to. We need to have such a clear and unflinching knowledge of our calling that we are never tempted to leave our post. You may think that this only applies to pastors and missionaries, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, someone who has given his or her life over to the lordship of Jesus, then you have a post, you have a role to play in the kingdom of God and you must never be tempted to leave that post.
Paul closes verse 18 with five simple words, “and in that I rejoice”, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed, he rejoiced that the true Gospel was being preached. Paul had made the decision that he was not going to be put down by his circumstances, rather he chose to rejoice despite his circumstances, and that as long as Christ was being preached, he was going to keep on rejoicing (see James 1:2-4).
From time to time, we all experience the pain of chains of some sort. It may be physical pain, emotional pain, loss of a job, loss of a loved one. These are chains that can rob us of our joy, but if we see the painful things in our life as God developing faith and maturity in us, we can make the choice to live in Joy.
However, when the storm clouds are on the horizon, and it seems that there is no end to the pain, simply deciding to be happy won’t cut it. What you need is a supernatural touch from the Lord. You need a miracle in order to see your chains in light of the glory and majesty of God. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time in chains and in suffering, but he could write Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
We all have some type of chain that causes us to be less than what God intends us to be. Turn your chains over to God so that you will know and experience true freedom.