Posts Tagged Prison

Even in Shackles

Imagine yourself in a house; not just any house, but a very small, one, maybe two, room house. Your accommodations are minimal: a bed, a table, and a couple chairs at most. You can’t leave this house, except to go to court and be tried before a judge. To ensure that you don’t attempt to escape, a police officer is bound to you with chains. Visitors come to you, but aside from that it’s just you and the officer in the house until the day of your trial. Think about it:

How would you feel? What would you be thinking? What would be the first thing you want to do?

I’ll assume, because I know my own nature, that the first thing that pops into your head wouldn’t be “preach the gospel”.

I imagine that the scene I just described is what it was like for Paul when he was under house arrest in Rome. Yet here we find a man who, though he is beaten and in shackles, his sole desire is to glorify God. In his letter to the Ephesians, we see a glimpse of that passion:

“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (3:13-21, emphasis added)

When he asks for prayers from the Ephesians, he asks not for comfort, freedom, or aid; he says, “And [pray] for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (6:19-20, emphasis added.

Paul called himself an ambassador in bonds; he saw that, even in shackles, even in painful situations, God could be glorified, and the gospel of Christ spread. He didn’t see the Roman soldier bound to him as a burden; he saw it as an opportunity to see a lost soul saved. He didn’t waste time moping about his house; he prayed, sought the Lord, and wrote some of his greatest epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Paul saw every situation, good or evil, as a way to glorify God.

At first, he probably saw little fruit; but as he continued, faithful to the Lord, he saw God working in his midst. He tells the Philippians, “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:12-13, emphasis added). In a sense, the Apostle is saying that he’s glad he went to prison, because it has been used to greatly glorify God. He knew that, though he was bound, “the word of God is not bound” (2 Tim. 2:9).

Often in our lives we face situations that come to us out of the blue. It’s natural to life, that arbitrary element that we cannot control. Though we think this or that will happen, we never truly know what lies ahead. You could be travelling down the road one day, when everything is going well, and you’re rear-ended by the driver behind you. Or you might find out that you have that shift with that co-worker who isn’t a Christian and is very worldly. Or your neighbor may come over in tears, explaining how they have just run over your dog. The question is, what will you do?

Every situation, no matter how evil or silly or pointless it seems on the outside, has the ability to be used to the glory of God. I’m not saying you need to preach to the lady who rear-ended you; but the way you react to that lady can either lead her towards Christ or away from Him. C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. […] There are no normal people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. […] it is immortals with whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or

 

everlasting splendors.”

Paul said he was given grace to do this work; it was not on his own willpower or strength that he relied, but God’s. In the same way, we have grace for every situation that comes our way. Know this grace, and know that God can be glorified in every moment of every day, no matter where you are right now.

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