Joyful in prison? Could you do it? Over and over again in the Bible, we see that Paul was imprisoned for his faith in Christ. Rather than turn his back on the Lord to save his own skin, Paul chose to be joyful. He wrote a large portion of the New Testament and ministered to the prison guards, all while under arrest.
I’ve never spent much time thinking about Paul and the time he served in prison. Well, at least not until this week. We’ve been studying the book of Acts in Sunday School. This past week, our teacher made a simple statement that has truly changed my life. He said, “have you ever considered why God allowed Paul to be imprisoned for as long as He did?” Our classroom discussion yielded the conclusion…because God had a job for Paul to do.
While that may not seem like a life changing conclusion for many, for a woman like me who is in one of life’s storms, it changed everything. While Paul was in prison he wrote. If he had not been restricted to a cell, Paul most likely would never have written all that he did. Rather, he would have been on the mission field preaching. God knew that Paul would continue to travel. He also knew that Paul was completely dedicated to the cause of Christ, and sharing the gospel with people.
God either causes or allows everything that happens in our lives. Some things He brings upon us as blessings, or for the purpose of refining our character. Experiences have to happen to take us along the path God has for us. For me, my years of emotional abuse and struggling to walk with the Lord are now used to minister to others. It allows me to have a testimony that shows how God brings us through the storms. It also shows how God cares for His children. How, even in the darkest places, God loved me and cared for me. Paul’s testimony shows the very same.
God had a plan for Paul even in the dark times. His plan was for Paul to minister to the prison guards, and to write. I think God has a similar plan for me. You see, during the time I have been recovering from my major surgery in December, and dealing with the challenges of a severe rheumatoid flare, I’ve had many people encouraging me to write a book. Each time I got stronger and didn’t need to rest as much, I found myself making excuses for why not to write. I insisted God must have other plans for me. Then I ruptured the disk in my neck and was greatly limited in activity due to pain. I began spending even more time in the Word, and seeing God’s direction. He said, pitch your tent. Listen to me, and share my Word. How can I share His Word if I’m stuck at home? Write!
No, I’m not in prison when I’m in the comfort of my own home. Yet with the limitations and chronic pain I suffer, some days I do feel imprisoned. The reality of all of this is quite simply God puts us where he needs us to bring glory to Him. Whether that means putting Paul in prison so he could write parts of the New Testament, or putting me on bed rest so I can write and glorify Him, God will get the glory!
Psalm 73:28 says it best, “…I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all Your works.”