We know difficult life situations, either from personal experience or from someone in our acquaintance. These are just some examples: a young man who fell under the influence of drugs and has been incarcerated; a young woman becomes pregnant and now faces an almost impossible road to the promising career. How about a 40-something woman, a good worker who falls victim to a ‘change in management’? Maybe a 50-something man, healthy his entire life, receives a life-changing diagnosis from a routine physical examination.
As we begin our new Sunday Bible classes, the Apostle Paul faced a serious legal challenge in Rome. He writes these words in Philippians 1.12 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the cause of the gospel.” As if house arrest wasn’t enough of a problem, some brothers in the church at Rome were trying to make his situation even more difficult by preaching Christ with terrible motives!
What can we learn from Paul’s example? How can we overcome bad situations?
- We look for the good even in a bad situation. To paraphrase Paul’s words, ‘because I’ve been arrested, every one of my guards has the chance to hear the gospel’. And, ‘because they see me under arrest, most of the brothers and sisters here in Rome have become more confident in the Lord.’
- We ‘keep first things first’ even in hard times. 1.18 “But what does it (my circumstance) matter? The important thing is that … Christ is preached.” In other words, Paul rose above the questionable behavior of some of his brothers in Rome because their motives were not his concern. All that Paul cared about was that Christ would be preached.
- We decide to rejoice, regardless of our situation. Paul could not have been happy that he was restricted in his daily movements. He still had big dreams to be a missionary in Spain! But every morning, even as he awoke to uncertainty in his legal case, he found joy. If his life goal (the advancement of Christ) was being pursued, then he rejoiced. The rest of v.18, “And because of this, I rejoice.”
Life can be hard, and we may not be able to change negative situations, but we have Paul’s example for how we can lean on God’s power to overcome them.