Philippians 1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
What happened to Paul was this: He was arrested for inciting a riot in Jerusalem that was started by others. Because of false charges and a corrupt justice system he waited for two years in prison for the opportunity to clear his name before the emperor. Now he was sitting under house arrest in Rome, 1400 miles away, and it appears that he had testified in at least one hearing.
This was not a situation Paul had sought. He didn’t go looking for trouble. But he did accept that, for two years, this was his life. Later he writes to these same Christians in Philippi that he had learned to be content in any and every situation. The Lord had even sent a prophet to inform Paul ahead of time that he would end up in chains if he visited Jerusalem. But Paul was convinced that God had called him to make this trip to Jerusalem. If that meant arrest and prison, Paul was willing to accept it. It wouldn’t be the first time that preaching the gospel got him into trouble with the law.
What can you say about the place that Jesus and his love had taken in Paul’s heart? Here was a man who had really let go of the world for his faith. He wasn’t worried about how his retirement savings were doing, updating the kitchens and bathrooms in his house, whether his favorite team was going to make the playoffs, or how popular he was at school. He had one great love: his Lord Jesus Christ. He had one great goal: introducing everyone he could to Jesus and his saving sacrifice. If problems, and even prison, meant progress for this gospel–if it meant more people heard that Jesus was their Savior from sin–he was ready to say, “Bring it on!”
We have our own problems happening to us. You didn’t sign up for yours, did you? If someone said to you, “Stand in this line, and when you get to the front they will give you cancer, or diabetes, or high blood pressure,” you wouldn’t be volunteering yourself for that. If you were told, “Get in line here and receive a broken home complete with petty fights, unreasonable demands, unfair blame, and cruel insults,” you aren’t a willing customer. You aren’t going to plunk your money down for the book on how to be a socially awkward. You aren’t going to respond to the ad for less than average looks, where people might still say nice things about you, but “pretty” or “good-looking” is never going to be one of them.
You and I aren’t signing up for this stuff. But they still might be our reality. Can we be content like this? Even more, can we embrace our reality if this is what God has given us?
In order to see past our problems, and embrace the life that God has given us, whatever it is, we need to see that we can trust God implicitly. We need to believe that he loved us so much that we can trust him even if we don’t understand why he lets all these problems happen.
Isn’t that exactly what we have in the gospel? Here we learn that in spite of our sin, God has never stopped loving us. He didn’t just look at our life from far away and shake his head. He came and shared it. In the person of Jesus, he transformed himself into one of us. He struggled with our problems. He experienced our temptations, even to the point of suffering with them. And he overcame. He lived a joyful life, a holy life, a giving and loving life through it all. Credit for this victory is his first gift to us.
Then he paid for the suffering we deserved. Like the Apostle Paul, he knew that the city of Jerusalem had bad things waiting for him. But Jesus embraced God’s will for his life, even if it meant suffering. He embraced the cross and death by crucifixion because this is how he rescued us from sin and hell. This is how forgiveness can come flowing from heaven in a stream so constant, so deep, and so wide that every sin we commit no matter how big or small is swallowed up and disappears under the river of God’s eternal grace. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day his new life promised us a new and perfected life to come where our problems, no matter how large they look now, aren’t even a memory anymore.
This is reason enough to trust God with the way he runs our lives.