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Isolation through imprisonment was not a part of Paul’s plans.
At first glance, his imprisonment must have looked like a disruption to his attempts to spread the gospel through his work as a tentmaker and preacher. But Paul stated very clearly that “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
How? As Philippians 1:13 makes clear, the gospel was able to shine precisely because it gave Paul an opportunity to show that, regardless of circumstances, he was ultimately “in chains for Christ,” willingly shackled to the sovereignty of God.
That hope in the context of Paul’s circumstances must have seemed otherworldly to “the whole palace guard.” Thus, they too came to understand the hope of the gospel.
What application can we draw from this text as you and I work and live in relative isolation? We, like Paul, have unique opportunities to demonstrate the hope of the gospel, not in spite of our circumstances, but precisely because of them. How?
By showing we are concerned, but not anxious. Do we have grounds to be concerned about coronavirus? Of course. Do we have grounds to be anxious? Absolutely not, because we have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” because of Christ and his promise to redeem us and the world (Philippians 4:7). In this time of great insecurity, our ultimate security can make the gospel winsome to our co-workers, customers, and friends.
By demonstrating uncommon care for those around us. Now more than ever, Christ-followers should be the ones demonstrating extraordinary concern for the people we work with, beyond what “value” they provide to our companies or teams. This is a moment in which asking more personal questions about family and health is not only acceptable, but sensibly humane. Let us be the co-workers known for caring deeply for the “whole persons” we work with each day.
By sharing our hope explicitly. The two suggestions above can serve as hints to the gospel as our ultimate motivation to love our neighbors, but at some point, we must share the gospel with our words. Now is as good of a time as any. The people in our virtual offices and neighborhoods are craving hope more than ever before. Hope for the world. Hope for their work. Hope for themselves. As Christians, we have the spiritual vaccine that can provide that hope forever. Let us be bold enough to share it and “proclaim the gospel without fear” (Philippians 1:14)!
Philippians 1:1-30 (ESV) -
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4