It is so easy, when we fall on hardships in our lives, to get down, and not see past the negative. In my own life, I have gone through some times in my life that seemed bleak, and it really took some doing in the worst of times to see the ladder to climb back out of the hole I was in. In our recent history, we have read so many news stories of people who have sunken into such great, deep, depression that they take their own lives. It may seem unfathomable to many to reach this point, but for too many, it is a reality they cannot escape.
So, here, in this passage, we have Paul, stuck in prison. Why is he stuck in prison? He was preaching the Gospel, which was frowned upon in Rome. In the Roman Empire, Caesar was looked upon as not only the top dog in the empire, but he was also seen as a God. This idea of the leader of civilizations being seen as a god was not uncommon in ancient times. In Egypt, the pharaoh was seen as a descendant of the god of the sun, Ra. The Mesopotamians and Chinese also claimed god status for their rulers. So when Paul went around proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, that didn’t sit well with the Romans.
So, for what we would consider to be for no real good reason, Paul spends time in prison. From what I have read, Paul spent about TWO YEARS in prison for his “offense.” I would say that he had just about every right to feel frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Distraught. Thankful?
In this short passage, Paul exclaims how excited he is that his imprisonment has actually done the opposite of what the Romans probably intended. Rather than extinguishing the flame of the Gospel, it fanned the flames. The Gospel continued to spread. In his unfair imprisonment, Paul found the silver lining.
So here we are now, in 2017, with what seems like a world that is going out of control a bit. Threat of nuclear war. Continued racial discrimination. Poverty. Gang warfare. Addiction. We have a lot to be stressed about. Worried about. Afraid of. But through it all, we have the Gospel. The world might try to knock us down time and time again. But we must rise. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is with us. We are not alone.