12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he did so from a prison cell. The apostle was suffering, being directly persecuted for his faith. Yet, when we look at his words, we see no self-pity. What we see from Paul is a believer who wants to see his circumstances, even the difficult ones, used to demonstrate the glory of God.
Paul knew that his prison term was serving to advance the cause of the gospel. Paul was himself witnessing to his jailers. This gave Paul an opportunity to regularly preach Jesus to men who would never have listened to Paul on the street.
Paul’s suffering also encouraged others to boldly evangelize. When Paul’s friends saw him in chains, they knew that they had not suffered like Paul. That knowledge led the believers to step up and do what God had already called them to do.
Just this last week, a pastor friend of mine told me that his son asked about my blindness. What the young man asked was, “Should we be praying that God heal Travis.” My friend did not know exactly how to answer that question. I think that this passage in Philippians is not a bad place to give an answer to that question.
Of course, if healing my eyesight would be the most glorious thing for God, then I would be glad of it. I am confident that God possesses the power to heal me at any time he so chooses. Correcting a few cells in my retinas would not be a stretch for the God who called the universe into existence by a word.
However, it might be that my walk through life without physical sight serves to advance the gospel just as Paul’s imprisonment did. Perhaps, because of my vision, I have the ability to speak to others in a way that a sighted person may not. Perhaps Christians are challenged to follow God more faithfully because they do not have the challenges that I must overcome. If so, if God is gaining more glory and doing more good for his kingdom through me as I am, let’s pray that God will use my hardships to bring himself glory.
What about you? What are you suffering? What frustrates you about your life? What are you wishing were changed? Are you allowing your circumstances to help you to share the gospel? Are you using your hardships to challenge other Christians to be more bold? Sometimes our hardships are gifts from God that will aid us in displaying his glory. If that is what God does through our pains, let him be glorified and may we experience the joy of being used by him for the magnification of his holiness.