If you could travel anywhere in the world, with anyone you love, without any financial worry, where would you go? Perhaps a cozy cabin in Canada’s Banff National Park or a reprieve in one of England’s rustic cottages?
Or imagine roving around Rome’s ancient ruins, adventuring on an African safari, or traveling through Brazil’s rainforests draped with waterfalls.
Such imaginary journeys are endless. I’ve found that time away, regardless the destination, is good for the soul, because time away often leads to contentment.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was drenched with tones of kindness, contentment, and joy. Repeatedly, Paul used words such as . . .
But Paul didn’t write the letter from some luxurious vacation villa.
He was under house arrest in Rome—his freedom limited for more than two years. No longer could Paul travel the Empire bringing the message of the gospel to a people in need.
No longer could Paul visit the home of another. He was under lock and key, with a Roman guard watching his every move.
Such history makes Paul’s message of hope and joy almost impossible to comprehend.
In one of my seminary classes, the professor offered two perspectives on the passage Paul wrote in Philippians 1:12–13.
Using modern-day language, he held Paul’s actual words against what Paul could have written. Scripture states,
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really 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 (NIV).
Paul could have said (in today’s language):
Dear Brothers, I have discovered that it really doesn’t pay to serve the Lord. Please note where I am. I am in prison, and I don’t like it one bit. To think I’ve been faithful to the Lord all these years, being persecuted, being deserted, being whipped and beaten, yeah, even left for dead, and now I end up in prison. Faith doesn’t really pay. I don’t like it, I want you to know, and I resent it. Yours Very Truly . . .
But Paul did say (in today’s language):
Dear Brothers, you ought to be here. I’m having a real ball. Do you know I have been given a captive audience? And to be sure, they can’t escape because they have been fastened to me with a chain. What do I do? I tell them about the Lord, and they think I’m insane and irrational. When they go off duty, they go and tell their colleagues and families what a nut I am. They don’t realize that in explaining the content of my nuttiness, they have become my missionaries. They are spreading the Word. I am having a wonderful time, I wish you were here. Yours Very Truly . . .
Let Me Hear From You
We all have struggles which lead to pain, anger, mistreatment, and grief.
That is universal. In the midst of our challenges, a mindful, direct focus changes everything.
Perhaps this short prayer will help you in the days ahead: Lord, my focus on you brings me assurance and hope.
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