When Paul was in prison in Rome, awaiting his trial with the mad Emperor Nero, he could have given up. Cried out that his life had been a failure. He knew that Christians in the time of Nero would not be given fair trials. Nero had blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians, and enjoyed having them killed for fun and sport. Paul would eventually be killed as well.
One can imagine Paul, huddled in the cold cell, little food, nasty water, bodily waste, sweat, blood, tears, abusive guards and you get a small picture of what his life was like at this time.
How did Paul respond? He wrote letters to help others keep the faith. He testified in Phillipians 1:12-14 that "what has happened to me has actually helped spread the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ: and most of the borthers and sisters having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldnes and without fear."
He actually used his imprisonment to spread the good news, and heartily testified to others about God's love and mercy. God's Grace.
But what Paul really teaches us, me anyway, in this letter is how to be thankful and content with our circumstances in life. Here he is facing judgement and death in the barbaric court of Nero, and he teaches us that whatever happens in our lives, God is with us. All we have to do to be truly thankful and content is to reocognize God's work in our lives. He writes in Phillipians 4:4-9 that we should "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Let your gentlness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplicaiton with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and recieved and heard and seen in me, and the God of Peace will be with you."
What does all this mean? That we should take the time to always see God at work in our lives. To see what is good and uplifting and celebrate that! He is teaching us to not worry about all the hard things in our lives, or things that might or might not happen. We should celebrate all that is good in our lives, to take time to recognize God's work in our lives.
Christ teaches in Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for temorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." My mother said this to me many times growing up when we would discuss my sister Stephanie. The worry of all parents for their children is great, but it is uncertain and consuming when you have a special needs child that may never be able to fully take care of themselves. I know Tracey and I constantly worry that we are doing everything we can to help Kevin. It seems many times that we fail, and that uncertainty and worry creeps in. That is when I think of Paul in that cell facing death with joy and love knowing the Grace of God and remembering to see the great works of God everywhere around him, even in that Roman prison.
Give thanks and be content, for God is with you. If He is with you, who can be against you?
(Inspired by morning sermon of Grandpa Jordan)