When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was being held in a Roman prison, his feet chained to a soldier on either side. The conditions were horrible and Paul suffered great indignities, with no time alone and no freedoms.
Think about it. Here was a man who had been very active, traveling the open road and high seas to meet and fellowship with God’s people. Paul drew his greatest joy from visiting the churches he had established throughout that region of the world. But now he was chained down, literally bound to the hardest, most profane men alive.
Some of the Christians who knew Paul began to murmur that he was bringing disgrace on the gospel because of his situation. But Paul was intent on finding God’s purpose for allowing him to come to this point. Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” he decided to discover what his reaction should be. This servant of God made up his mind: “I can’t change where I am but I know my steps are ordered by the Lord. Therefore, I’m going to magnify Christ and be a testimony while I’m in these chains.”
“Now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Paul was in no way resigned or indifferent to his circumstances but he was determined that God’s Word would be validated by his reaction to his affliction. “Knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel … Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (1:17-18).
Paul’s attitude is a wonderful demonstration of how we should react to adverse circumstances. It is possible to waste all our tomorrows anxiously waiting to be delivered out of our suffering, but if that becomes our focus, we will miss the miracle and joy of being emancipated in our trial. Paul’s word to the Philippians was, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). And I say to you, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”