Philippians 1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.”
Imagine that you were on the receiving end of a gift that was irreplaceable and one of a kind, but you failed to receive it! It has been reported that 58 billion dollars went unclaimed in just the last year in America alone. However, the Gift I’m referring to is even more valuable than money. It is the gift of a single day!
One day to live, one day to love, and one day to experience everything that God, in the abundance of His grace, makes accessible to you and me! Is it even possible for us to overlook such a gift? You might be surprised at how simple it is. It is possible for us to become so preoccupied with regrets about the past or anxiety about the days that lie ahead that we fail to appreciate the gift that is given to us in this very moment.
When our minds are consumed with worries about the future or feelings of guilt about the past, we miss out on the opportunity to experience the pure adventure that this day has to offer as well as everything that God may have in store for us in our lives.
That was something that the Apostle Paul could have easily allowed to take place when he arrived in Rome. Paul exclaimed, “I must go on to Rome!” (Acts 19:21), after completing three remarkable missionary journeys during which he preached the gospel, planted churches, and trained young believers to become pastors. But why Rome?
As he travelled from place to place on his missionary missions, he was able to observe the influence of Rome in every location. It became his life’s mission to bring the gospel of Jesus to the most influential and powerful people in the world. God expressed His desire for Paul to travel to that location.
Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
I can only imagine how that must have encouraged Paul! He must have envisioned what it would be like to enter Rome and preach to thousands in the Colosseum, to take the Gospel to the Emperor himself! If he could win the Roman Emperor to Christ, just think how it would transform the entire Roman world of that day! His heart must have been leaping for joy at what lay ahead!
Nevertheless, what he was unable to anticipate was the manner in which God’s promise would go about being fulfilled. He was completely unaware of the fact that he would be required to remain incarcerated in Caesarea for more than two years as he awaited his chance to travel to Rome.
After appealing his case to Caesar, he was finally carried to Rome as a prisoner. He had no way of knowing that this would happen until after he had appealed his case. On his way to Rome, he was involved in a shipwreck that occurred after a fourteen-day torrential storm that was referred to as a “northeaster.” This storm had winds that were comparable to those of a typhoon. He had no way of knowing that God would do this! During the time that he was stuck on an island following the disaster, he had no way of knowing that he would be bitten by a snake that was poisonous! Then, after waiting for a further three months, he finally arrives in Rome as a prisoner, chained to Roman guards during his arrival. I love the way Luke records the journeys end so simply in Acts 28:14 “And so we came to Rome.”
After everything that has happened, I am curious about how well prepared you would be to preach the gospel. An enormous crusade would not take place in the Colosseum, where he would deliver a sermon to thousands of people. In fact, he wouldn’t even have the freedom to start a church. For the duration of his imprisonment in the underground dungeon, which was damp, chilly, and dark, he would be shackled to Roman guards while they were on duty.
However, rather than wallow in self-pity over everything he had endured or live in constant fear of what may occur in the future, Paul recognised God at work throughout the entirety of his journey. He did not fail to recognise the value of each day! In order to share the gospel with the guards at the prison, he made the most of the occasion. The letters that we now refer to as his “prison epistles” are composed of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He diligently devoted his time penning these letters.
Philippians 1:12-18 “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. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
After everything that Paul had been through, how was it possible for him to have such a perspective? The more personal question is how we might experience the same joy and freedom that he had when we are confronted with sorrow or setbacks that we did not anticipate or that threaten to ruin everything that we believed God was planning to do for us. Never miss the gift of a new day!