Philippians 1:20 I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don't expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit!
This was not Paul's final imprisonment in Rome. But he didn't know that. Awaiting trial, he knew he could either be released or executed. However, he trusted Christ to work it out for his deliverance. Paul's prayer was that when he stood trial, he would speak courageously for Christ and not be timid or ashamed. Whether he lived or died, he wanted to exalt Christ. As it turned out, he was released from this imprisonment but arrested again two or three years later. Only faith in Christ could sustain Paul in such adversity.
To those who don't believe in God, life on earth is all there is, and so it is natural for them to strive for this world's values: money, popularity, power, pleasure, and prestige. For Paul, however, to live meant to develop eternal values and to tell others about Christ, who alone could help them see life from an eternal perspective. Paul's whole purpose in life was to speak out boldly for Christ and to become more like him. Thus, Paul could confidently say that dying would be even better than living, because in death he would be removed from worldly troubles, and he would see Christ face to face. If you're not ready to die, then you're not ready to live. Make certain of your eternal destiny; then you will be free to serve-devoting your life to what really counts, without fear of death.
Paul's words that he couldn't hardly "wait to continue my course"
is so challenging to me. He was locked up, not sure whether he was going to live or die, but he was EXCITED about the next day! He was excited about the next challenge, the next struggle, the next step...WOW! That is a man who truly puts his faith, hope, trust and confidence in God. He truly had an "anchor for his soul" (Hebrews 6:19). Then he goes on to say "On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die." He is living with an eternal purpose and perspective. He knows that this world is not his home. He is on a journey to his home, and taking as many with him as possible. Because of that perspective, he declares with confidence and, I believe, excitement:
"They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! "
His struggles and battles were not going to make him sit back in self-pity or sulking while angrily questioning God. Quite the contrary, he was using his struggles as a pulpit to declare God's goodness and faithfulness.
As I read that, the question begged of me, "are you turning your troubles into a pulpit or a deep pit?" Yes we have struggles and hard times in this life. Paul had it as bad as anyone ever has, with the exception of Christ. Yet, he refused to allow his struggles to send him into a deep pit of despair, discouragement, or depression. Instead of going into a deep pit, he turned his troubles into a pulpit to declare God's faithfulness and compassion.
I have to admit that I struggle with this at times. Whenever I enter a troubling time, I spend the first few moments or hours in a deep pit wallowing in self-pity and anger. Then, as I pray, God begins to show me that He will receive glory through this struggle, and He WILL cause this thing to be turned around and fit together for my good! It is at this point that I now have to purpose in my heart to come out of the deep pit and to step behind the pulpit! I must not allow my battles to "shut my mouth!" I choose to continue to give God praise, to serve Him, to love Him and to declare His all-seeing and all-caring attention to my life. Others that I come in contact with are watching everything I do and say during my tough time, and I can with confidence use this difficulty for a pulpit to share God's great goodness!
For years I have asked God to help my spiritual vision to be 50/20! What do I mean by that? Well, everything was seemingly falling apart for Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, he was lied about, falsely accused, sent to prison for many years, and forgotten. However, years after God had restored his life, family and dreams, he stands before his brothers discussing the horrible things that had happened in his life and declares:
Genesis 50:20 Don't you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now--life for many people.
That is 50/20 vision (because of where the verse is found)...understanding that things may be meant to harm you, BUT GOD will turn it around and impact many people for Christ! It all depends upon whether I stay in the deep pit or step up behind a pulpit! It truly is our choice!
"Lord, I praise your Name this morning! You alone are worthy of my praise. I come to you today declaring that I choose to use my struggles, and battles to declare your faithfulness and goodness. Too often I have found myself in a deep pit as I walk in the midst of the battle. However, today I realize that you have allowed me to face these tough times so that I can have a pulpit to declare your work in my life. I know the enemy meant this battle for harm and to destroy me, but I am looking at this thing through 50/20 vision right now and KNOW that you will turn it around for good. Your Name will be declared and glorified. I love you Jesus, and thank you for this inspiration today. In Jesus' name, amen!"