When Paul wrote Philippians, he was physically bound and his ministry was severely restricted. But far from being an invitation to a pity party, the letter oozes with joy. Either Paul had been beaten up one too many times, he was lying through his teeth, or he was onto something.

Let's follow the progress of his thinking in Philippians 1:12-14: "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."

Sitting in a Roman prison, Paul didn't have the freedom to share the gospel, plant churches, and train up leaders in various places anymore. Yet he viewed his circumstances with joy. Why? The reason can be summed up by a single word in verse 12: furtherance—forward movement in spite of obstacles. Paul was saying, "None of what's happened to me has stopped the advance of the gospel. In fact, it's furthered it."

And Paul shared three ways the gospel was furthered: he was able to share the gospel with the Roman soldiers who guarded him, he was able to reach the Roman citizens who visited him, and he was able to embolden reluctant saints to reach other people he couldn't reach.

The longest period of Paul's incarceration—two whole years—was the greatest period of Paul's impact. In other words, Paul's confinement was God's assignment. He even wrote Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon from that Roman prison. It became his pulpit.

Maybe you feel chained to or imprisoned by something, whether it's a job, a relationship, or a set of responsibilities you didn't sign up for. And because of that, your joy has dried up. But you can still choose to be a happy prisoner. Not a sappy prisoner, moaning, "Woe is me; life's a bummer." Not a scrappy prisoner, where you're fighting and lashing out at others. But a happy prisoner whose passion is the gospel. It worked for Paul, and I daresay he had it far worse than most of us ever will.

So the next time you feel shackled to some life circumstance, look at it as an opportunity to get the gospel to others and bring glory and honor to the Lord.

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