In the face of tragedy and disappointment have you ever heard someone say, “No good can come out of this?” Here is an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ imprisoned unjustly and he says in verse 12, Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. This is certainly a situation in which one could say, “No good can come out of this.” Have you ever thought that? Paul has been in prison before. Ironically, it was in Philippi. The account in Acts 16 tells us that Paul and his companion Silas were dogged by a girl who was a soothsayer. She had masters who were making a lot of money from her. Kind of like crystal balls at fairs, and fortune tellers on the internet. Paul cast a demon out of her, and her masters dragged him before the magistrate because their income was going down the tubes. Of course they accused him of sedition against the Roman Empire. Paul and Silas were severely beaten and imprisoned and at midnight they were praying and singing Psalms to the Lord. And there was an earthquake, the prison gates opened and the guard fell on his knees and pleaded, What must I do to be saved, and Paul replied, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved and your house (family) and they were all baptized that night. So now, can good come out of evil? This is what helped to form Paul’s convictions in our text where he was imprisoned in Rome. He was looking for the silver lining. Wasn’t he? I am extremely sad for people who cannot see that the disappointments in their lives are God’s appointments designed to give ultimate blessing if they trust in the Lord.
Bad circumstances bring good news when you have understanding. This is Paul’s message. He stated it in Romans 8:28. All things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to his purpose. My wife, Dorsey, and I sat in the Living room of a family in a small town in Florida. They were interested in our Church and Bible study. As I answered their questions, it became clear that my view was the same as Paul’s in Romans 8:28. But this woman had been raped in her youth. Now she said she could not believe that God permitted this. The verse says ALL THINGS. I tried to point out to her that she only had two options. Either God couldn’t prevent it, or God had a good purpose in it. The first option is insulting to the Creator and providential governor of the universe. The second option allows that the horrific experience was part of a divine plan in her life. There are so many people that do not realize that God is using the evil in the world, and in our lives, to bring ultimate blessing. It all comes down to acknowledging who God truly is. It is stated well in Daniel 4:35 He does according to his will among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth and no one can stay his hand or say unto him what are you doing. I read the testimony of a woman who was a thousand miles from home with her Mother and Father and her Dad was stricken with severe pain that was undiagnosed. As they sat in the waiting room her mother confided that she was about to leave off her regular devotional reading and hunt for passages on comfort and healing. But then the Lord led her back to the daily reading which was about God’s sovereignty. Her response was that she was glad, because she didn’t need to understand at that moment, she needed to know who God was. We all need that!
II Unexpected Advances
Now the Devil has the good Apostle in prison. He couldn't keep Jesus in the grave, but now he has his most profitable servant in jail. He has stopped the good news from spreading, right? wrong! Paul says, in verse 13, As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. The Gospel is advancing and many including the palace guard are understanding that I am in prison for Christ and his cause. We should recall that Paul was imprisoned because of the charges brought against him by his own countrymen, the Jews. He was imprisoned in Caesarea. After appearing before various Roman officials he came before King Herod Agrippa, the second, who was a vassal of Rome. Paul preached the Gospel at every hearing and when he preached it to Herod Agrippa, the final conclusion of the king, and this is important, was, Acts 26:42, This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. Did you get it? Paul was in prison in Rome because He personally chose to be. Was this his plan? It surely was God’s plan. In the last chapter of Acts Paul is under guard in Rome and he calls the Jewish leaders in and explains the Gospel, literally he tried to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. Some believed and some did not. Paul's final words in Scripture are recorded in Acts 28:25-31 The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen! For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now Paul says in verse 14 that his experience has not only resulted in his preaching opportunities, but also in encouraging the Brothers to witness, Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. We receive inspiration from those who are suffering for their faith. We receive motivation from those who are willing to go the second mile. Go back into the history of the USA. You are accustomed to seeing pictures of old men who led our revolution and the protestant reformation. G. Washington was 43 when he crossed the Delaware and attacked the Hessians at Trenton. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the declaration of independence. John Calvin was 21 when he wrote the first draft of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.. Martin Luther was 34 when he nailed his ninety five theses on the Church door in Wittenberg. Jim Elliott was 29 when he was murdered trying to take the Gospel to the Auca Indians of Ecuador. All these young people felt an urgency to carry the message. They did not regard their life or possessions as important. Neither did Paul. If Jim Elliott had not gone he would be seventy seven this year. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who died in a Nazi concentration camp. He was not Jewish. He wrote a book called the "Cost of Discipleship." In it he talked a lot about cheap grace. We are getting a diet of cheap grace in our land. You will never find that here! I cannot improve on the words of the one and only savior. He said, If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it.