Yesterday during our prayer time, Lois read from Paul . . .
“ . . . I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16 ).
Remarkable. He’s writing, not from a podium before an interested crowd, but from imprisonment in Rome. He had been in Jerusalem in the temple courtyard, when Jews from Asia “stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him” (Acts 21:27). “They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple . . . [and] as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion” (Acts 21:31). Soldiers and centurions rushed to the riot. And “when [the crowd] saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested Paul and ordered him to be bound with two chains” (Acts 21:32,33).
Then came a trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Back to jail where a plot to kill Paul was discovered. He was spirited north to Caesarea for a trial before the Roman governor. Finally, as a Roman citizen, Paul made an appeal for a trial before Caesar. Waiting for that to be honored, King Agrippa tried him. Finally, Paul was herded aboard a ship for Rome. A ferocious storm wrecked the ship and survivors were stranded on the island of Malta. Three months later another ship takes Paul to Rome where he is imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar. Now, note this: since his arrest in Jerusalem three years have passed. Three years.
Despite it all, Paul writes, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel.” He’s saying, “God led me through all the suffering of the last three years to put me here, and I’m here to defend the gospel.” This man doesn’t believe in chance; he believes God is sovereign in all things. This man wrote these majestic words as he stood in awe of his Lord . . .
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:32-36).
And he believed the sovereign Lord who was the hidden director behind every thing in his life, orchestrated the days of his life for a purpose: Even this. “” . . . for the defense of the gospel.”
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12-14).
Is Paul the only Christian who can make a “put here for” claim? I would argue that the Philippians also can. They were put in Philippi to suffer for Christ’s sake . . .
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 2:9).
Suffering for Christ there is part of God’s call to them in Christ. Like Paul, they had been put there for the defense of the gospel.
Which brings me to the question: Can I say I’ve been put here? Is my primary lateral sclerosis that binds me to a wheelchair and makes me virtually useless waist-down . . . is this God-put?
I have believed it’s God-allowed–Satan on a leash, like with Job. I’ve also thought maybe it was God-sent to teach me to rely more on him and refine my faith. But God-put sheds a different light on it. Especially when coupled with “for the defense of the gospel”.
This means not only God’s intentionality, but my ministry. Not just suffering for the sake of my sanctification, but serving others for Jesus’ sake. With Lois, I intercede for others from a hurting body. I study God’s Word weekly with my grandson when I’m not functioning well. And I create this blog and write from my wheelchair to hopefully encourage readers in the faith.
I’m put here –in this particular place–for the defense of the gospel.
I wouldn’t chose this “put-here” place. Sometimes I rail against it or fall depressed over it. But, “put here for” gives this chapter of my life eternal purpose and keeps me going.
Where are you? Whatever and wherever your place, know this: you’re put there for the defense of the gospel.