The Right Perspective
Thursday, August 8, 2019
When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, ‘Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.’
When Paul dreamed of going to Rome, he dreamed of planting new churches and preaching to thousands of new listeners . . . not sitting in chains under a watchful guard. Nevertheless, these two years of house arrest will prove to be two of the most fruitful years of his life.
Here, under the wary eye of a battle-hardened, armed soldier, Paul will write to Ephesian believers: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
Here, amidst an inner struggle to remain positive and content, Paul will write to Philippian believers: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Here, while considering the difficult direction God has taken him, Paul will write with humility to Philemon: “Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1:8-9).
And here, while suffering still further for the name of Christ, Paul will remind believers in Colossians: “He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).
I encourage you to pick up your Bible this week and read all four of these letters while considering the circumstances Paul faced as he wrote them. The truth is, Paul’s dreams hadn’t quite turned out the way he wanted. His expectations hadn’t been met. But he obeyed God anyway. He lost his pulpit, but he picked up his pen and used it for the glory of God. What an impact his words have had ever since!
After experiencing a diving accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote these profound words:
Can God still use me, paralyzed? Can I, paralyzed, still worship God and love Him? He has taught me that I can. Maybe God’s gift to me is my dependence on Him. I will never reach the place where I’m self-sufficient; where God is crowded out of my life. I’m fully aware of His grace to me every moment of my life.
Since that time, Joni has taught at conferences, written numerous books, and even painted beautiful scenes while holding a paintbrush between her teeth. She, like Paul before her, learned that obstacles, when embraced by faith, provide the greatest opportunities for ministry.
Will you demonstrate that same perspective today in the midst of your own obstacles? You never know how God intends to use them . . . and you.
What obstacle are you facing today that wasn’t part of your plans? What circumstances have caused you to become bitter or discouraged? Bring those feelings and struggles to God. Be honest with Him. Pray for Him to change your perspective and attitude and then ask Him to reveal to you how you can still serve Him during this time.
Of all the God-inspired words Paul wrote during this two-year period, Colossians chapter 1 is perhaps the most fitting to read after a devotional like this. In this amazing chapter, Paul teaches us why we can rejoice in the midst of trials (vss. 3-11), why Jesus is worthy of all glory (vss. 13-23), and why obstacles are a blessing (vss. 24-29). Read Paul’s words now and let the Holy Spirit convict and encourage you through them.