At the time that the Apostle Paul wrote the Philippian letter, he was imprisoned in Rome for preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not have the freedom to visit new places to spread the gospel. He could not go back to existing churches and help them grow their congregations. He was imprisoned in Rome. The last time he had journeyed to Jerusalem, he had been warned about what would happen. Acts 21:10-13 “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’’ Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Paul was imprisoned after he came to Jerusalem and then he was taken to Rome as a prisoner.
From Rome, Paul wrote the following to the Philippian church. Philippians 1:12-14 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul could see that the bad that happened to him was really good for the spread of the gospel. People in the headquarters of the Roman government heard the gospel. Other preachers were not scared to preach the gospel; instead they were emboldened to preach the gospel because Paul had shown them the way. What looked bad from the outset was really for the good.
This is often the way that it is with God and His workings on earth. God’s son Jesus was unjustly crucified upon the cross of Calvary. The disciples who watched Jesus on the cross were devastated by what was happening to Him. As Christians, we understand that His crucifixion is the means by which we have the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection assures us of the hope of our own resurrection. What looked bad from the outset was really for the good.
There is much turmoil in the world today. Radical Islamists are acting as terrorists and killing innocent people. Drug lords and other criminals are also becoming more violent. Economic hardship and governmental collapse are forecast by many. The environment is growing more polluted. The future does not look good but promises more hardship and violence and pollution. Should Christians be afraid? NO! I am convinced that what looks bad will actually turn out for the furtherance of the gospel. History shows that when times get rough, people turn to the Lord. The book of Judges in the Bible tells us how the Israelite nation repeatedly forsook God; when they did, hardships came upon them. Then they turned back to God and He sent judges to rescue them. God wants people to repent and turn to Him so He allows hardships to come.
This same principle works in individual lives. When a person doesn’t follow God’s righteousness, the results are usually problems and hardships. The consequences of sin can become so bad in that person’s life that they decide to turn to God. They become willing to repent of their sins and obey Jesus Christ. Sins such as adultery, alcohol and drug abuse, dishonesty, and stealing from an employer can result in terrible consequences that may motivate a person to turn to God. The Jews in Jesus’ time killed the Christ by asking Pilate that He be crucified. On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter convinced the Jews of the terrible thing that they had done. Acts 2:37-39 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’”
That is what you should want. You should want your country, your friends, your neighbors and your family members to repent and turn in obedience to God. Hard times in your own life may even be God’s way of drawing you back to Him. Hard times create opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel. You and I need to be ready to use hard times to proclaim the gospel to those who are open to hear it.