I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1.12–14″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Philippians 1:12–14)
You can’t arrest the gospel. In fact, when you imprison one whose words and life boldly declare the good news of Jesus, you only help it grow and spread. You may shackle the feet of the messenger, but his message will run. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2.8–9″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>2 Timothy 2:8–9).
Affliction Joyfully Accepted
But our message will not run if we go kicking and screaming. It is not the grumblers and complainers who shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2.14–15″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Philippians 2:14–15). Rather, it is those who embrace suffering for the name of Jesus with joy.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4.13–14″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>1 Peter 4:13–14)
Christians are not a dour people, even in the darkness of a dungeon. We don’t whine and bellyache as our society lines up against us and our convictions. We plead. We grieve. But beneath it all we have untouchable strongholds of joy. Even in the worst, most inconvenient, most lonely days, we rejoice. The suffering days are good days for gospel advance. We have great cause to be optimistic about our good news, to “joyfully accept” prison and the plundering of our possessions and even our freedoms.
After all, they can take our civil liberties, garnish our wages and smear our names, but they cannot take our Treasure, who is “a better possession and an abiding one.”
So we are not surprised. We do not retreat. Instead, grounded in God’s eternal promises, armed with joy in him and assured of victory in the end, we ready ourselves for whatever opposition comes. Perhaps one day it will be said of us,
You endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one (Hebrews 10.32–34″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Hebrews 10:32–34).