Paul was a prisoner, yet despite his circumstances, he was overflowing with joy because he knew his suffering in house arrest was serving to "advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12). Although Paul was allowed to live in a house, a member of the Praetorian guard watched him continually and he was actually handcuffed to that guard.
The Praetorian guards were palace guards hand-picked by August to protect the emperor. Due to their closeness to the Roman leadership, they exerted tremendous influence among people of all social groups. Imagine the influence Paul had on the Praetorian guard as day after day, for about two years, friends visited him at his home and Paul preached about the kingdom of God. Now imagine the influence the guard had on even the emperor himself.  I believe we can be confident that many of the guards became believers because of Paul's mention in chapter 4:22,
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.
God obviously knew the most effective strategy for advancing the gospel was Paul's imprisonment under house arrest. And then someone shares a revelation: Aren't we all metaphorically chained to someone?
This application changes everything for me. We've all heard the cliche: You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. It seems to me that we are metaphorically chained to our family. It may also be true of your spouse, co-workers, teachers, neighbors...But how do we use that influence? Or do we let it influence us?
I have to admit that I have not used my influence on family members that are difficult for me. I tend to use more of an approach of avoidance to make it through encounters. But that is far from what Paul did.
And what of the engineer? There is no greater metaphorical chain than marriage. Mostly that is good, but I seldom consider the influence I have on him. I mostly let him influence me. This has serious ramifications if he is having a bad week (as we all have). I often let his bad attitude infiltrate my demeanor and then I am not obeying the Word: "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice," (Philippians 4:4). I must be careful in all relationships to build myself on the Rock foundation of the Word and then use my Holy Spirit filled life to influence those I am metaphorically chained to.
I know this is not easy. However, recall Isaiah 55:8,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
We may not want to be "chained" to certain people in our lives, but God will always use our circumstances (who we are chained to) to do His will and bring himself glory. We can't often control who we are chained to but we can change our actions and attitudes to make them obedient to Christ. All God requires is that we be faithful and available to Him to use us where He's placed us. And no matter where that is, we are to be His ambassadors
Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trepasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
We represent God. He sometimes pursues others through us, by using us in the lives of the people to whom we are "chained."

No comments: