My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.
How did Paul’s imprisonment clear the way for the gospel to advance? He tells us two ways. First of all, Paul’s imprisonment gave him contact with unbelievers. Now, if your life purpose is to make Christ known to others, you want to be in contact with unbelievers, don’t you? Paul’s imprisonment allowed him to do that. Look at Philippians 1:13: “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.”
The praetorian guard was a group of 9,000 Roman soldiers who worked directly under the emperor. Their job was not only to protect Caesar and his family but also to guard prisoners, like Paul, who made it to Rome to make their case before Caesar. Now, in those days, a prisoner would be chained to a new praetorian guard every six hours. So let’s do the math here. How many different guards would Paul have in a day? Four guards per day. So for 365 days, times 4 guards a day, times 2 years—that’s how many Roman guards with whom Paul came into contact during his two-year imprisonment.
What do you think Paul talked about with those Roman guards? You think he talked about the the weather or the latest chariot races? I don’t think so. He had a captive audience, so to speak. He was chained to those Roman guards. It was a great opportunity for him to share the gospel, and many of them were won to Christ.
Not only did Paul’s imprisonment give him contact with unbelievers, but it also provided courage for believers. “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (v. 14). When Christians in Rome saw how Paul was responding to his circumstances, it gave them courage to spread the gospel.
Back in Paul’s day, everybody in Rome was talking about the case of the apostle Paul. And pagans would stop these Christians on the street and ask, “What do you think about Paul?” It gave them courage to speak the gospel. Paul was aware of this, so he said, “You know what? If my imprisonment can give courage to other believers to share the gospel, it’s worth the trouble.”
You see, your purpose is the lens through which you will view adversity. For example, if your purpose in life is to accumulate money, then a financial setback is a tragedy. If your purpose in life is to achieve a certain job, then a failure to get a promotion is a tremendous tragedy. If your purpose in life is centered on a relationship, then to lose that relationship is a tragedy. However, when you have a positive purpose in life that is bigger than yourself, when your purpose in life is to glorify God, then even tragedies have a way of becoming triumphs.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power of a Positive Purpose” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.