12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,
13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;
14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
I awoke this morning with a terrible headache, and that pain stood for me as a stark reminder of how bound I am to this “too, too solid flesh.” (Apologies to Shakespeare.) Our earthly pains remind us of our earthly chains. We are bound to this life, this place by our bodies, by our flesh, and sometimes it would seem that we will never be free of the pains of this life until we go home to the Lord. And yet there are times when I can feel the pain of this life fading into the background, when the chains of worldliness disappear against the glory of my Lord and Savior.
The apostle Paul was literally in chains in a prison in Rome when he wrote to the believers at Philippi. But in today’s verses Paul turns that notion around, pointing out that his earthly pains have actually made others more bold about speaking the word of the Lord, thus furthering the gospel.
There is an interesting play on words in verses 13 and 14. Paul says that his “chains are in Christ” and then mentions that his fellow believers have “become confident by my chains.” Get it? The Praetorium (palace guard) thought to silence Paul by placing him in iron chains, but they only strengthened Paul’s bonds to his Savior. Other believers saw that Paul’s real “chains” were to Christ, and so they were emboldened to spread the Word of God even more.
Have we set an example for others in how we react to our pain and our “chains”? Do we show a stronger reliance on God, or do we become discouraged and rebellious? Are our “chains” in Christ, or are we bound so strongly to the world that our bonds to the Lord become all but invisible?
Through Paul’s words, God is reminding us that just when we feel the most imprisoned in this flesh and bone prison, that is when we are to turn to Him more and to demonstrate for the world that no chains are greater than those which bind us to Christ Jesus our Lord.
Dear God in heaven, blessed be the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Bind me so closely to You today, Heavenly Father, that my worldly bonds seem insignificant. I wish to draw nearer to You, and to show to the world Your strength and Your sovereignty. Be glorified in my earthly chains today, O Lord. Amen.