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. ... Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Have you ever noticed that most people go through life as if there were a script in front of them? In every situation, they have the future plotted out. "I'll say X, and then she'll say Y," they think. "I'll do A, and then he'll do B." This applies to public life as well. Police, judges, governments—they all have their scripts, and they choose their actions based on what they believe other people will do in response.
But it doesn't always work. Take our reading for today—Paul is in jail for preaching about Jesus, and he might even be executed. The local Christians know about this, and we'd expect it to have a dampening effect on their faith. Humanly speaking, they should be thinking to themselves, "Oh dear, Paul's in jail for Jesus' sake. I think I'd better back off on my witnessing, or I'll wind up in a cell next door." But that's not what happened. As Paul says, "Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
It must have freaked out the local authorities. The Christians were going off script—instead of hiding, they were talking about Jesus more and more! Why weren't they hiding? Why weren't they afraid?
Paul knew the reason, and so did the Christians. After a lifetime of fear, the Gospel had come to them, and set them free from the fear of suffering and death. They didn't need to follow that universal human script any longer. Now they belonged to the God who Himself went off script—who chose to respond to human evil, not by rejecting and condemning us, but by saving us—at the cost of His own life. Now that was an unexpected turn! A God who would do such a thing could do anything—even rise from the dead, even adopt His enemies and make them His own children!
If that is the kind of God we have, we no longer need to be afraid of imprisonment or death. Like those first Christians, we can go off script and live like children of God in an amazed world. We can love our enemies, face our fears with trust in Jesus, putting God first instead of self. Because of Jesus, we know that God has the last word on our lives—and His word for us is mercy.
Father, help me to live in the freedom and joy of Your children. Amen.
Dr. Kari Vo
1. How do you feel when someone behaves in an unexpected way around you?Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).
2. Have you ever done anything as a Christian that confused the people around you?
3. How does this sort of confusion help others to come to faith in Jesus?
Have you ever noticed that most people go through life as if there were a script in front of them?