Paul teaches us how to react “positively” to life’s twists and turns. But more importantly, gives us a new outlook on meaning and purpose.

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I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel ( Philippians 1: 12 – 14)

Disappointments hurt. Shattered dreams break your heart. You are stuck in the quicksands of anger and bitterness. You can’t move on because you can’t let go of the past.

How do you handle life’s unexpected turn? Life becomes meaningless, and you give up. But a God perspective can help us see things differently.

In the book of Philippians, Paul gives us a new outlook on life and teaches us how to react “positively” to life’s twists and turns.

Apostle Paul arrived in Rome in AD 60. Sadly, he was later imprisoned that year and was kept under house arrest for the next two years (Acts 28:30-31).

However, Paul did not give up his ministry. He continued to minister to the churches through letters.

Paul’s Roman Imprisonment

The letters written by Apostle Paul during his house arrest, are known as the “Prison Epistles”. Did you know the letter to the Philippian Church is one of the Prison letters written by Paul?

Imprisonment: A cause for concern? 

Apostle Paul and the Church in Philippi shared a strong emotional connection. Paul had a deep affection for the Church. Similarly, the church loved Paul nearly as much as he loved them. 

In ancient Rome, prisoners were not given food or a clean place to stay. Prisoners were cared for by family or friends. Therefore, Paul’s imprisonment naturally worried the Church.

They sent Epaphroditus to help Paul overcome these challenging times. Epaphroditus was Paul’s primary caregiver during his imprisonment (Philippians 2:25). 

He also brought a financial gift to assist Paul during his imprisonment. The Church’s contribution was probably to care for Paul’s immediate needs. 

Paul’s response to his imprisonment 

I want you to know brothers!  (Phil 1:12)

The letter to the Church in Philippi is Paul’s thank-you note to the Church. Paul writes his reflections on his imprisonment. Surprisingly, he seems upbeat despite the unfortunate turn of events.

Although Paul’s imprisonment may seem like a setback by the Church, Paul offers a fresh viewpoint. For Paul, this imprisonment was not a dead end. Instead, it was a means for the advancement of the Gospel.

Paul wanted to share this spiritual insight and help the Church to look at his imprisonment through spiritual eyes. We need to, therefore, share our spiritual insights and experiences with others.

Sharing faith stories can encourage young Christians to progress in their spiritual journey. This will also help them to develop a God perspective.

The turnaround 

What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel (1v12)

Who would have thought of a prison (dark dungeon) as a place for the advancement of the Gospel? But God can work in unlikely places. 

Paul’s imprisonment helped him to reach the whole imperial guards. He got ample time and opportunity to share the Gospel. Moreover, he could share his faith with a new group at every change of guard.

Paul did not see himself chained to the guards. He saw the guards chained to him. They had no other go but to listen to his faith stories. 

For Paul, his imprisonment was not a setback. He knew God could turn around any circumstance to achieve His plans and purposes. Therefore, let us remember that all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom 8:28). 

The impact

Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much bolder to speak the word without fear (1v14)

Paul’s imprisonment made a significant impact on the Palace guards. If not anything else, the guards knew that he was in prison because of the cause of Christ.

Moreover, Paul’s holy courage emboldened the faithful to share the gospel without hesitation or fear. The Church in Rome also found renewed confidence and courage to speak the Word of God.

Paul offers a new perspective on life. Remember, God can work regardless of life’s unexpected twists and turns. You can find meaning in the hard things you face. 

Ready to experience your Aha Moment?

1) Have I learnt to see disappointments from a God-perspective? How can I learn to see things from a God perspective?
2) Do I share faith stories and help others learn to see things through ‘faith eyes’?
3) I am stuck in the moment? or do I move forward with the joy of the Lord?

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.