Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ. Most of the brothers in the lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly. Philippians 1:12-14
Paul wrote those words from prison. Really, Paul?
I don’t know that I would have had the same attitude. I think if I had been writing that letter to the Philippian church, it might have gone something like this: “Please pray that I get out of this filthy place! It’s no fair that I was thrown in here when I hadn’t committed a crime. It’s cold, and I don’t have a bed, much less a pillow, and the food stinks. Would someone please go petition my case to the governor or something? Anyone have the funds to hire me a better lawyer? And would somebody at least try to smuggle me in a Snickers bar? You are coming to see me, aren’t you? You haven’t forgotten about me, have you? Because I think God may have.”
Do you see all the “I”s and “me”s in my letter? I sure do. Paul’s version, however, had a completely different perspective. “It’s actually a good thing that I’m in prison, because I’ve been able to tell my guards about Christ, and they are all talking about Him to each other. And my arrest inspired other Christians to boldly share the Good News, so that more people have heard about Jesus because I am in prison than would have if I had never been thrown in here.”
Paul understood that it wasn’t all about him and his personal comfort. God’s main goal was not to make Paul happy, and Paul was fine with that. He got it that there was a greater purpose for his existence – to glorify God in everything.
How can we apply that lesson today, in 2014?
How indeed. Everything within nags that I need attention, and everything without tells me that I am right. Silencing the demand for me seems impossible. But what is impossible on my own…
This is why Jesus said we needed the Holy Spirit. Living a God centered life isn’t natural, because it requires a shift in paradigm. The fleshly standard goes something like this: A successful life will yield the fruit of self-satisfaction. Wealth. Comfort. Fulfillment in friends and popularity. It will never be trampled on by another, never be overlooked. It will be the whole package of me-centered desires.
But the Bible paints a different picture for the God-centered life. One that bears the fruit of the Spirit living and working within. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.
So even in prison there is love. Shackled in chains; joy and peace. Left in a moment by unreliable friends, yet there is patience, kindness, goodness. Poured out by God’s providence in a way that is painful? Faithfulness. Treated with brutality; gentleness. Wrongly accused; self-control.
The answer has remained the same throughout the centuries. I live a life in which I am not the focal point. The Christian life is a God-centered life. And the paradox is this: a God-centered life is never overlooked by the creator of the universe. A God-centered life is complete.