"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 ESV)
There's fear among believers in our nation today. They fear that our freedom of religion will be taken from us. They fear that our freedom of religion is being taken from us. And I believe that this is, in fact, happening.
There's concern about how this will affect our life here in the United States. There's concern about how this will affect our ministry as Christian believers and congregations. It's felt that the restrictions being placed upon us will hinder our ability to reach out with the gospel. It's felt that they will hinder our ability to carry out the call God has given us.
I certainly don't want my freedoms to be restricted or taken away. I thank God for the freedoms we've enjoyed up to this point. However, I've become convinced that, even if these fears are realized, it will present a unique opportunity to the church.
We see, in the above passage, that this was the case with Paul. As he wrote to the church at Philippi, he was in jail. And it seems to us that this loss of freedom would severely restrict his ministry.
No longer was Paul able to move among the people. No longer was he able to teach and to preach as he once had. And no longer was he able to move from town to town. In this way, it seems that he'd lost his ability to carry out his calling.
However, his imprisonment presented him with a unique opportunity. He says that it served to advance the gospel. He said that it was known to the whole imperial guard, along with all the rest, that he'd been imprisoned for Christ. And what a witness this was.
He also said that, because of his imprisonment, most of the brothers had grown more confident. He says that they'd been emboldened to speak the Word without fear. So, instead of one man fearlessly proclaiming God’s Word, there were now many.
None of us want to see our freedoms removed. None of us want to be jailed, or worse, for our proclamation of the gospel. But we can be assured that, even if it comes to this, God’s work will continue. It will bring to us unique opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise possess.
So don't lose heart, no matter what happens to our freedoms. Whether they remain intact or are stripped away from us, the Word of God will go forth. No matter our circumstances, God will provide us with opportunities to serve him and to bless others.