Difficult Seasons and Gospel Opportunities

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. ~Philippians 1:12-14 (ESV)

How do you view the difficult times in your life?

When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he was in prison, likely in Rome. This wouldn’t have been the first time that Paul was jailed because of his faith. In Philippi itself he spent time in jail, and even after being miraculously freed from his chains, he didn’t immediately run out the door. The life of the jailer was too important to him, and he led the man and his family to Christ.

This was Paul’s attitude. Hard times were not causes of stress and emotional toil, but of gospel opportunity. Paul had the attitude that if he was free, he would share the gospel as much as he could, and if he was jailed, he would still share the gospel as much as he could.

The faith that Paul had to face difficult situations like this was a deep faith in God. He had come to the conclusion along the way, “To live is Christ; to die is gain” (1:21). He was going to do everything he could to the glory to Jesus, and it didn’t matter what circumstances or other people brought to him, even death would not stop him, because death meant being with Jesus.

Keep in mind, though, that Paul did not come by this faith naturally or easily. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote of some “thorn” that he suffered. We don’t know exactly what this was, but it was a clear test of his faith. It made him uncomfortable, and he wished it gone. So he pleaded with God to remove it, until God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Paul needed that reminder of God’s sufficient grace to help him through. And so do we, if we will develop faith like Paul’s. So, we keep looking to Jesus. We keep finding comfort in scripture. And we keep turning to God in prayer. So that we might see our difficult times as gospel opportunities.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Saint Paul in a Roman prison cell with Onesimus.

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