The Apostle Paul came to Philippi during his second missionary journey (Acts 16). Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and founded the Philippian church. Paul visited them again on his third missionary journey. Hearing Paul had been imprisoned in Rome, the Philippian church sent a ministry team to support and encourage him. Paul then sent this letter to the Philippians with one of their own, Epaphroditus.
The ministry team from Philippi cared for Paul’s needs, and they also brought news from Philippi. It had been four years since the Philippians had last seen Paul. They had heard rumors of his imprisonment, and they must have been greatly concerned for his welfare. Paul encouraged them with these words early in his letter.
Philippians 1:12-14 – And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
Paul clearly had suffered, but he had not become bitter. Instead, Paul recognized the work of God in the midst of his imprisonment. Paul was continually accompanied by the palace guard in Rome. Chained to one guard during the first watch and then another during the second shift, Paul promoted Jesus Christ to each one until the whole palace guard knew about Jesus. Furthermore, the Christian believers in Rome were encouraged in their faith. Christians in Rome had heard about Paul proclaiming Christ in the midst of his bondage, and their own confidence grew until they too proclaimed Christ without fear.
What about us? Some suffer today for the sake of the kingdom. There are places where Christians are not safe. They are kidnapped or worse because of their faith. Let us certainly pray for their safety, but let us also pray for their ministry among their captors. They are likely the only Christian witness to those people. So, let us pray God will use them as He used Paul among the Roman guard. Let us also take courage from their stories. Let us proclaim Christ to our friends and neighbors with confidence and boldness and without fear. If our brothers and sisters can risk their necks for the sake of the gospel, surely you and I can put the kingdom of God ahead of our own comfort as well.
November 3 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Find out more at persecution.com.
1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.