Shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison. It seems that Paul could never catch a break. The letter of Philippians was actually written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. After a short greeting to the church of Philippi, Paul explains his current predicament:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.(Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul’s attitude is truly humbling. Instead of grumbling, blaming, or whining, he recognizes that all of his difficulties have “served to advance the gospel.” What a mindset to strive for! By being transparent about his sufferings, Christians at the time were encouraged to be more confident and daring, spreading the gospel without fear. I was shocked to read that the people were more encouraged by Paul’s endurance than petrified by his tribulations.
My sister once brought a box of bacon-cheddar flavored crickets to a family gathering. At first, everybody thought the crickets were an amusing joke, but nobody seriously considered eating one. After staring at the crickets for a long while, my brother-in-law finally ate one as we all goggled and gawked. Then the next person ate one, and the next person, and eventually everyone in the room had eaten a cricket. After witnessing someone else eat the cricket, it was much easier for me to eat a cricket, too. (FYI crickets don’t taste like chicken).
In the same way, early Christians adopted an “If Paul can, I can” kind of faith. Let Paul’s resilience and conviction in the face of obstacles encourage you, too, to proceed boldly in your faith. If Paul can withstand being shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison, you can be daring and bold in your faith, too.
When was the last time you took a risk for your faith? Get your hands dirty, get uncomfortable, and get moving.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21).