Joni Eareckson Tada, who as a young woman became a quadriplegic in a swimming accident, has found the strength in her suffering for a powerful ministry. She’s written more than thirty books and hosts a nationally broadcast five-minute radio program. She has a burden for others with disabilities, only five percent of whom attend church in America. Her international outreach, Wheels for the World, provides disabled people overseas with refurbished wheelchairs.
She describes her life this way: “It’s a daily, hard-fought-for, desperate pulling down of grace from heaven. . . . I want to be used by God to remind women to take heart, your God will come; He’ll rescue you. We only have a little bit further to go, and five minutes of heaven will far outweigh the momentary afflictions of this life.”
Paul understood this perspective. Philippians was written about 61 A.D., during Paul’s first imprisonment, to a church he helped to plant in a city where he also was imprisoned (see Acts 16). Despite his house arrest in Rome, he not only patiently endured but rejoiced because through his suffering, the gospel had been advanced. Everyone could see that he was not a criminal, that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs, and that he continued to remain faithful to the Lord. His bold example encouraged others to live in the same way—the evangelistic ripple effects were tremendous. Even those who acted with less than pure motives must have been sharing the true gospel, for Paul affirmed: “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (v. 18).
Furthermore, God had revealed to Paul that he would be released. He wanted the Philippians to know, though, that his joy didn’t depend on that. His deepest motivation was this: “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (v. 20). Whether he was released to do more labor for Christ, or taken to heaven to be with Christ, it was a win-win situation. He could face the future with hope and courage, standing firm in the Christ-centered purposes of his life. We and the Philippians can do the same!