October 13, 2009

Held up but not held back

A ninety-two-year-old woman got in her car in a parking lot after doing some shopping. A man jumped into the passenger seat and told her that unless she gave him her money, he would kill her. After saying no several times, she finally said to him, “If you kill me, I will go to heaven, but when you die, you will go to hell.”

This plucky woman then shared the gospel with the man, who began to cry. He said he needed to go home and pray about this. She told him that he didn’t need to go home because he could pray anywhere. She gave him the only money she had, $10, and he left.

After seeing this story on YouTube, I wondered if I would have the same response to danger. Would being in such a pickle bring out of me the truth that is so dear to me the rest of the time?

It did for the apostle Paul. He had been arrested and was in prison in Rome. He wrote to the church at Philippi and said this,

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. (Philippians 1:12-13)
Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord, held captive by the gospel and the grace of God. No one could lock up a freed sinner. He might have been confined to one location, but that did not stop him from sharing with others the same truth that lady shared in the parking lot with her attacker. Jesus saves sinners, and unless a person avails themselves of His offer of eternal life, they are bound for eternal destruction.

It is a powerful message. It reduced a gun-carrying would-be robber to tears. It also changed the lives of people who lived and worked in the royal palace in Rome. Paul ended his letter with this:

All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:22)
Being confined and threatened can be viewed as a fearful and terrible calamity, or it can be seen as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus. I may never go to jail or be accosted by a thug, but if it happens, I’ve at least two examples of how to conduct myself in such situations!

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