December 4, 2009

A good prescription from another shut-in

Being ill and shut-in these past few days is probably the closest that I will get to identifying with the Apostle Paul when he wrote his epistle to the church at Philippi. This man was in jail.

I’ve never been in jail, not even to visit. I’ve been inside a few that were turned into museums and such, but that is not the same. A stint in jail, particularly if no crime was committed, has to be a terrible thing.

Most prisoners claim that they are innocent. Paul hadn’t broken any laws, but he didn’t seem to care about himself, only his accusers. He was under arrest without food unless it was brought by his friends (they didn’t have human rights groups back then) and didn’t have much to do. I wonder if he was warm enough? Did he have a decent bed? Did he feel abandoned? Did he have thoughts of “no change in sight” or was he always hopeful?

I relate only a little. I cannot go out. I feel shaky in my house, never mind on fresh snow over icy streets. My bed is comfy, but I’m up every couple of hours during the night. I cannot eat more than liquids and am not sure I want even them. No to-do list these days as there is little that I am able to do, much less feel like doing. I could have a pity-party, but no one would come.

Paul’s remarkable attitude and perspective to his situation rebuke even the thought of such an idea. His friends may have been pitying him, but he wrote to let them know that things were just fine in his confinement. He said, 

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. (Philippians 1:12-14)
Being in jail actually furthered Paul’s goal. All he lived for was to preach about Jesus Christ. He may have been in chains, but his spirit was free and his mouth unstoppable. The palace guards, likely assigned two at a time to keep an eye on him, heard about Jesus Christ from this joyful man (joy is mentioned over and over in this epistle). Other Christians heard about Paul preaching even while in chains and they became bolder to preach in the freedom they had. Paul made use of his situation and didn’t whine about it at all.

I’m thinking. I’ve not a lot of energy, but I could write letters, or email encouraging words, or wrap a few gifts. Even if I wimp out physically, thinking outwardly means I can pray for others, and certainly there is always need for that.

No matter the other choices I may make, Paul’s choice to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) sounds like good medicine.

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