“I want you to know, brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” – Philippians 1:12-14
Some famous people consider all publicity as good publicity. They will degrade themselves or fabricate a false circumstance to be seen and heard to remain relevant in the public eye. Other times, famous people will be scrutinized for the things they represent or the people they support in politics. The apostle Paul found himself in bad circumstances being ridiculed and persecuted by those outside the faith for who he represented. But unlike those famous people, he failed to let his circumstances be used negatively.
Paul's actions led to his circumstances, but he did not write to the Philippians to complain about them but to encourage them. In Philippians 1:12-14, Paul shows us two things that we can apply in all of our circumstances.
First, too often when people find themselves in a bad situation they focus on the negative possibilities, the past suffering, or the current painful circumstances. Paul gives the opposite example calling attention not to "the things which happened" to him, but how those events led to the spread of the Gospel which fulfilled God's purpose for Paul. He refused to focus on the negative and turned the Philippians' attention to the positive results of his circumstances.
The Philippians probably heard about his trip from Jerusalem to Rome and all the hardships he faced (cf. Acts 23-28). For Paul, those were nothing compared to the spread of the Gospel. He was glad of this progress that reached even into the palace and the guards. Like Paul, we can focus on the positive things in our circumstances, remembering that at all times we represent Christ. Trust in God to use your situation now for His future glory. Circumstances equal opportunities.
Second, Paul noticed people will watch how you act in your circumstances. Your actions could help to encourage others to do the right thing or lead them toward wrong behavior. In Paul's case, his situation and his actions caused others to become bold to spread the Gospel "without fear." When we find ourselves going through situations, we tend to forget that others are watching, but we need to ask ourselves how our examples could be followed. Will we lead in the right direction?
As representatives of Christ, we must always remember that our circumstances no matter how bad can become an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must always be mindful of our actions in those circumstances. May the Lord keep us encouraged and give us peace in every situation.