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Joy in Unwelcome Circumstances

I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.
–Philippians 1:12

The apostle Paul said a positive purpose in life has the power to provide you joy in unwelcome circumstances. In Philippians 1:12, Paul said, “I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”

You likely know people that when you ask them, “How are you doing?” they will inventory every ache, every pain, every bad feeling they’ve had. But Paul wasn’t that way. He just told the church that although his circumstances had been negative, they’d turned out for good.

If you want to know the circumstances that Paul made a passing reference to in this chapter, you have to go back to Acts 21-28. Paul traveled to Jerusalem to deliver a love gift to the saints, but while he was there he was falsely accused of desecrating the temple. So the Jews had him arrested. Then the Romans thought he was an Egyptian fugitive. So Paul became a political pawn between the Jews and the Romans. He spent two years in prison in Caesarea as they argued about what to do with him. Finally, Paul told the authorities, “I’m a Roman citizen. I need to go make my case to the emperor.” So after two years, he got permission to go to Rome.

Paul then got on a boat to sail toward Rome–but the ship wrecked in a terrible storm. He ended up stranded on the island of Malta for three months. Finally, after three months, he was able to arrive in Rome at last and make his appeal to Caesar. He was in prison for two years awaiting the verdict of his trial.

Those were Paul’s circumstances. But instead of dwelling on them or becoming bitter about all the terrible things that had happened to him, Paul told the believers in Philippi, “Hey, I just want you to know that these few negative things have happened to me, but they have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” The word translated “progress” refers to an engineer or a woodcutter who would go ahead of an advancing Roman army in order to remove the boulders or to cut down trees so that the Roman army could advance, move forward. So Paul was saying, “I want you to know that these negative things that happened to me have cleared the way for the advance of the gospel. That’s why I can rejoice in these things–because my circumstances are clearing the way for my real purpose in life: to make Jesus Christ known to as many people as possible.”


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power of a Positive Purpose” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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