12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
What we believe about God dictates how we perceive our circumstances. Paul and Timothy have a tremendous view of who God is and how great He is. Paul has been imprisoned and horribly mistreated for preaching the gospel message and yet he recognizes that God’s hand has guided every trouble that Paul has suffered.
When Paul was placed in prison and was exposed to suffering, his trials served to make God’s message known. His imprisonment led to the proclamation of the gospel to imperial guards and prison officers. (c.f. Acts 16) Such is the nature of Paul’s tenacity in teaching people about the love of Jesus. He is placed in prison and takes joy in converting the guards. He is beaten and praises God that he has been counted worthy to suffer. He is cast out from society and sees it to be an opportunity for holiness. He is a man who cannot be defeated or displaced by circumstance. Why? Why is it that Paul can face every circumstance with such a perspective? It is because of his view of God. For Paul, God is actively involved in every circumstance. Things do not happen apart from God’s hand, especially for those who follow Christ. Christ sovereignly directs every step for the purpose of the gospel. So Paul recognizes that his imprisonment serves to exalt and advance the gospel message.
The imprisonment of Paul and the boldness with which he approaches his circumstances emboldens the believers around him. This is how Christian suffering ought to be. When we suffer well, we increase the zeal of our brothers. When Christians pursue holiness and righteousness they inspire fellow believers to do the same. Can you see your struggles as God’s design to advance the gospel? The bigger your picture of God, the greater your ability to endure all circumstances.
It is necessary to pause and note: Paul’s grand view of God does not necessitate happiness or comfort. In fact, his view of God gives him fortitude in the opposite circumstance. He is not resting in comfort while proclaiming God’s sovereign hand. He is chained in prison awaiting trial for simply believing truth. He is not comfortable. He is not healthy. He is not well off or financially stable. He is a prisoner with no possessions who is suffering for his beliefs. A big view of God does not come from wealth and prosperity. It comes from trusting Him in difficult circumstances and results in a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Perhaps it is this same understanding that propels the confidence in verses 15-18. As Paul is attacked from all sides by false teachers who see the gospel as an opportunity for their own advancement, he proclaims a joyful spirit over their preaching of the gospel message. What a profound example. A man who is slandered and imprisoned rejoices because even his adversaries proclaim Christ.
Cultivate a big view of God so that your heart could be so dedicated.