“You may find yourself fighting against God if you fail to realize as Paul did here that the whole of your past has had the hand of God in it . . . even with failure in the past,” said author Paul Little, speaking about the apostle Paul. “You didn’t take God by surprise when that happened. God loves you and me, and He has a purpose for good in all of the providential, sovereign working of His will in all of the details of our lives.”
From a human perspective, Paul’s imprisonment indicated failure. Here we find him in chains, at the mercy of a powerful pagan empire. He could no longer pursue his missionary and church planting work (Rom. 15:20). But from God’s perspective, Paul continued to achieve success. Why? Opposition from the world was expected and signaled that he was on the right track. In prison, he was evangelizing his prison guards, his “captive audience”! This is why he could write: “What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (v. 12).
Notice that Paul’s top prayer request was not his freedom. It was the same as always—opportunities to proclaim the gospel. The palace guard that was responsible for him probably consisted of several thousand soldiers (v. 13). They became his mission field! In addition, because of Paul’s example, other Christians grew bold about preaching the gospel (v. 14). How far did this gospel-first priority stretch? Quite far. Paul wrote that even people with sinful motives were acceptable to him, as long as the true gospel was proclaimed (vv. 15–18). He was not condoning such motivations, but rather keeping his priorities in the right order and rejoicing in the spread of the gospel.
>> Both Daniel and Paul kept their priorities in the right order. How about you? Are your priorities fully biblical? If they need clarifying, consider writing out a personal mission or vision statement. Then discuss it with a friend or family member.
Paul’s imprisonment and his ministry in jail bring to mind Today in the Word’s prison ministry. Your support helps provide this devotional to inmates in more than 600 U.S. jails. Remember these men and women in prayer today.