Even in my chains

I marvel at how the Apostle Paul was so consistently a man with a single purpose – the proclamation of the gospel.  After meeting Christ, everything in his life seems to come back to this one goal.

In his letter to the Philippians he writes “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (V 12-13)

As he pens this letter, Paul helps the Philippian believers to see God’s perfectly unfolding plan – even in his chains.  So although his freedom has been taken from him and his circumstances are less than ideal (to say the least), it all comes back to one thing for him – preaching the gospel.  And this he can do even in his chains.  The message is not hindered, only redirected to a new, previously unreached audience.

All of life, the good and the bad, is an opportunity to proclaim Christ.  Although when life is less than perfect, and when difficult circumstances threaten our willingness to proclaim Christ, might it not be in these very difficulties that our witness may be most effective?

There is no time to be a fair weather Christian.  There are yet multitudes who have not heard the saving message of Jesus Christ.  And even if, in the midst of our sufferings, we cannot seem to find any compassion for our fellow human beings, couldn’t we still be so overwhelmed with His glorious grace that we cannot help but proclaim it? 

May the Spirit of God strengthen us all to proclaim Christ, with all of our heart and all of our strength, even in our chains.

Remember my chains

Tragedy has a way of bringing hidden things to light.  I am thinking primarily of inner things, like attitudes and motives.  It would surely be an exaggeration to categorize hurricane Gustav as a tragedy for me personally, but it was most certainly a terrible inconvenience.   Over the course of the days that followed there was a wide range of emotions that I have dealt with:  sorrow over all the damage that had been done to our city; irritation with all the inconvenience associated with daily life; and sadness because I felt that little concern was shown by people I know in other parts of the country for how I might have been affected by the storm.   This last one has been most troubling to me.

As I have pondered this issue (for it has affected me deeply), I have taken it to the Lord in prayer.  Although it may be a factual issue, I was concerned that my heart was not right in this matter and that offense was beginning to creep in.  So I cried my sorrow out to the Lord and asked Him to adjust my perspective and to help me see this situation as He did.

That night as I was finishing up the book of Colossians, I read these words written by the apostle Paul in the final verse – Remember my chains.  I felt the Lord drawing my attention to that verse, so I stopped and read it again.  Yes, this is what I want.  I want someone to remember my chains.  I have felt forgotten.  Neglected.  Somebody should remember me.

Feeling quite self satisfied, as though this Scripture justified the ugliness that was growing in my heart, I breathed a sigh of relief, certain that God was on my side and that my hurt feelings were warranted.  But so softly and more gently than I deserved at that moment, He spoke to me through that verse – “Whose chains have you remembered?”

I had no defense.  I had no excuse.  Utterly ashamed, I could only cry out “No one’s Lord!”

So, before the world (whoever may be reading this) I confess that there was a plank in my own eye while I was angry about the speck in yours.  And I pray that the Lord will help me to remember the chains of others and forget my own.