So Paul lands in prison. God uses it for good. It’s all about a mindset.
We experience plenty of losses—freedom, sleep, health, time, money, relationship, hope. Our loss may really be a gain. What is devastating us has not devastated God. Before you make your experience a setback, look again; God may want to turn it around. To see God make setbacks into advances, understand that…
It’s not what happens to us; it’s what happens in us. Paul writes, “I want you to know brethren that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). I read recently that God is not as concerned about where He takes us as what He makes us. Paul was confined—God was not. If we live circumstantially, our attitude will rise or fall depending upon what is going on out there.
Paul could have said, “Bummer” for the jail time and waited it out until release. Not even close. Imagine being chained to the apostle for a five-hour shift of guard duty. What does that solider talk to his buddies about later?!
Our outlook impacts others. “Most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear” (14). As Zig Ziglar says, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” Paul’s friends decided that if he could preach the gospel inside a prison, they could certainly do it outside. Your attitude affects others, for better or worse.
We can build an immunity to discouragement. “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry…What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (15,18). I have urged our young adult leaders that when discouragement knocks at the door, don’t answer.
Paul’s competitors tried to antagonize him by preaching when he couldn’t, thinking to make him jealous or annoyed. Didn’t work. His friends just upped their preaching in light of Paul’s imprisonment.
In difficulty, we exercise faith, even when tempted to choose fate: “I’ll probably be here the rest of my life.” He said, “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance” (19). This is not “whatever will be will be” theology, turning prayer into a futile exercise. Often in trials we discount the power of prayer. Not Paul.
We obey regardless. We don’t control the outcome of our obedience. Paul determined that Christ would be honored in his body “whether by life or by death” (20). Survival was not the issue; surrender was. The Bible calls death an enemy, and the last enemy to be destroyed (Rev. 20:14). And yet even death itself was converted into a gain for Paul. He wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (21). What a mindset!
We accept suffering as a gift. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine” (29). Peter and the other disciples, after being beaten, left the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name” (Acts 5:41).
Bottom line: Paul got thrown for a gain. So will you. Just watch!