12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.Philippians 1:12-14, NLT
Paul is thankful for the struggles he had, which is odd, but in life it often works out that way, especially in hindsight. He has been beaten, flogged, put in prison, shipwrecked, and much more. Now he’s in Rome (likely) under house arrest. And he’s thankful!
Pain and struggle can do that to us. It forces us to either be thankful or we will waste away from the hurt. We can become immensely grateful for what we have (and have had) or completely cynical. And apathetic.
Paul chose the path of gratitude.
He’s not so much thankful that he’s in prison, he’s grateful for the story of Jesus that’s being shared because of the situation he currently finds himself in. He sees the bigger picture. He doesn’t wallow in the struggles but sees the impact of the story of Jesus upon others.
This is someone fully focused on the story of Jesus. He’s not worried about his own liberty or his own needs or his own security. He is concerned about the story of Jesus being told to as many people as possible.
The message spread throughout the Praetorian Guard, the protectors of the emperor in Ancient Rome, as they rotated shifts with him. Can you imaging being in the same room with Paul for hours on end, keeping him from leaving that house (or cave or trailer or whatever facility he was in while under arrest)? Can you imagine the stories he would tell? And the stories he would hear? Paul and those soldiers would have shared their life history with each other. They would have likely gotten to know each other very well.
And to some degree, for the masses of Christianity, that’s what evangelism is, isn’t it?It’s listening to the story of the other and sharing your story in Christ while seeing how God nudges them toward himself. Sometimes we get to see a person come to faith in Christ. Other times, we are partnering with God to nudge them closer to Jesus.
Indeed, a singular focus on the story of Jesus.
But it’s hard to maintain that focus in the midst of life. Between kids and spouses, work and family, bills and groceries, keeping the story of Jesus in the front of our brain and always on our mind is hard. It’s difficult.This is why we need a strong partnership in ministry. And in life, frankly.
Paul says that because of his imprisonment, and his strength and activity in it, other people have been encouraged to share the story of Jesus throughout the city. Sometimes all it takes for us to do our part is to see someone else doing theirs. Their activity inspires us. When they share the story, and we see that, it encourages us to do the same.
Christians in Rome knew of Paul’s storytelling within the highest areas of the Empire. They were inspired to do the same and to do it with confidence. So the story of Jesus was being told to more people in the city because they were challenged and inspired by Paul’s work.
We are so worried about telling the story of Jesus. Often, it’s really our fear or lack of confidence. But I really think evangelism is really about listening to the story of the other and seeing where our story in Christ can intersect their issues or pain points. But we don’t listen too well. We spend more time trying to figure out what to say than just listening. But how will they listen if we don’t hear?
And sometimes, we don’t have to say a thing. God just needs for us to listen to their story. For their sake.
And remember, no one really comes to Jesus by losing a debate.