Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Prison Epistles"

"Prison Epistles"

        "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you" (Romans 1:9:10).

     Rather than a "prosperous journey," the Apostle Paul ultimately made his way to Rome in captivity for preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 25:10-12).  He rather ventured upon "a prisoner's journey."

    Paul's incarcerations in Rome led to much opportunity to fulfill the Lord's calling to "bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15).  In that sense, the prisoner was in fact the prosperor.  Doubtless, however, it didn't look or feel that way during the Apostle's time in Rome.  Prison and prosperity do not at all seem like companions.  When Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans, he likely didn't expect that he would eventually reach Rome in chains.  It nevertheless happened that way, leading to much ministry during our brother's earthly lifetime, and also the so-called "prison epistles" (thought to be Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon).  Prison?  Yes.  Prosperity?  Yes also, but defined by God's light rather than earthly meaning.  

    What if the roads of life that seemingly led to captivity actually bring us to liberty in Christ for glories that could not be otherwise known?  What if pain, loss, hindrance, hardship, heartache and heartbreak serve as pathways to prosperity - again, as defined by God - rather than prison?  Even a cursory reading of Scripture confirms that the fragrance and beauty of the Rose of Sharon bless us along thorny ways no less and even more than easy and carefree paths.  As with Paul, it will not feel or appear this way, but as we walk with God through Christ, it will always be this way.  What epistles might we write, so to speak, because our own prosperous journeys look for all the world like the prisoner's journey?  How will people be blessed with the eternal gain of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" because we suffer temporal loss? (Ephesians 3:8).  What of God's heart will we discover in chains that free hands and feet would have hindered?   The Bible plainly reveals that prisons in our present lives offer experiences of prosperity in Christ for both others and ourselves that would be missed apart from our challenges.

   Paul longed for a prosperous journey to Rome.  He took such a trip  However, his experience of God's prosperity in Christ involved not plenty and property, but rather prison, problems, and pain.  Far more, however, the Apostle prospered by honoring his Lord in prison, and blessing others with  "the true riches" of Christ's spiritual prosperity (Luke 16:11).  The same path awaits us along the pathways of our personal journeys in Christ.  A prosperous journey may very well appear to be a prisoner's journey.  Will we see the reality for what it is?  An open Bible, a prayerful heart, and the defining of life according to God's light prepares us to join Paul in writing "prison epistles" that shine as illuminations from our liberty in Christ.

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you."
 (II Corinthians 4:8-12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.
 (I Peter 4:14)

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