I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel. ~ (Philippians 1:12)
I have been through a variety of physical illnesses and accidents on several occasions in my life, getting admitted to the hospital and having near-death experiences at times. As I reflect on my life, I realise that many times I haven’t had enough faith to overturn my moments of darkness for God’s mission. I think it is an utterly normal response to bemoan our situations when we are amidst suffering and contemplating that this event is to keep us from doing God’s ministry. But Paul’s reaction to his situations of suffering helps us to widen our understanding of what God is doing in and through our sufferings, even to the point of rejoicing about how God is working.
In Philippians 1:12–18, Paul rejoices amidst suffering. He rejoices to see that God has, in fact, used his suffering to build up the advancement of the Gospel. Regardless of his grief, Paul asserted that he will rejoice in the new ways that he sees Christ proclaimed. In prison, he was in chains. Even though this circumstance seemed to be hindering his work, in verse 13, he says, ‘For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. He converted this moment of darkness to share the good news with the guards who were chained to him. The suffering hasn’t prevented Paul from preaching the gospel. Instead, it was transformed into an opportunity he would never have had without the chains.
When suffering hit me, I ask, why me? Why again? Why is God afflicting me again and again? What mistake did I commit? But Paul, unlike me, took his suffering as an opportunity. Paul understood that God was bringing him a new context with an entirely rare opportunity in this new place where he could fulfil His commission. He performed what God intended him to do. By his response, as we read, most of the believers gained confidence and boldly spoke God’s message without fear.
One act of faith transformed the faith of many. Paul, through this, has generated a band of witnesses who were bold and were without fear. As we have the great commission entrusted before us, let us strive to make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching these new disciples to obey all the commands Jesus gives us. Just like the apostle Paul, let us try to convert our moments of suffering into opportunities of witnessing and equipping many more to witness.
Dear God, increase our faith. We have often missed opportunities to witness to your gospel because of our own anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. Help us to seek your face, looking up to the mountain from where our help comes from. Irrespective of what is happening in our lives, help us to witness the Gospel and see it advancing as Christ is proclaimed. Empower us, equip us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen!