As we hunker down in our homes to curb the spread of COVID-19 and comply with government orders, it may begin to feel like we’re under house arrest.
Along these lines, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Apostle Paul when he literally was under house arrest and in prison. I think we can find hope and purpose from his responses to his confinement. This is especially true for several reasons.
First, Paul truly was under arrest. He spent two full years in prison in Caesarea (Acts 24:27), then it took him roughly four months on a ship full of prisoners and wintering in Malta to reach Rome. Then he spent another two years under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30 and Philippians 1:12-14).
Also, keep in mind the kind of drive Paul had. If he were alive today, we would call him a “Type A” individual. He was entrepreneurial and a go-getter in spreading the Gospel. He was extremely passionate about helping new believers grow in their faith. And by the list of trials he suffered (2 Corinthians 11:21-33) we could add “adventurer” to describe him.
All this would naturally make it even more difficult for a man like Paul to be confined against his will. But look at how Paul responded to his confinement and see what encouragement we can glean from that:
- He stayed in contact with churches and individuals by writing to them. While incarcerated, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy. The positive, godly impact that these letters have had over the past two millennia are beyond reckoning.
Stay in contact with those you love by whatever means possible and encourage them.
- Through His relationship with Christ, he maintained a joyful, positive outlook. We often refer to Philippians as “The Letter of Joy.” And yet, he wrote it from prison! (See Philippians 1:18-20; 4:4.)
Read Philippians and take its message to heart. Ask God for His supernatural joy and strength (Philippians 4:13). Avoid complaining, grumbling, negative talk or thinking. Instead, be thankful (Colossians 3:17).
- He valued and spent time with those he loved. In each of his prison epistles, Paul talks about those who were visiting him and how much he valued their company (Colossians 4:10-15).
While we are sheltering in place with our loved ones, let’s enjoy each other and spend time together. Be creative in how you spend time together.
- He read a lot. We know this from the fact that he quoted so much from the Old Testament in his letters. Also, he urgently requested that Timothy bring his scrolls, and especially the parchments when he came (2 Timothy 4:13).
Take time to read both for pleasure and edification. Read the Bible, Christian books, novels, etc. Reread these prison epistles to see what else you can apply to your current situation.
- He kept growing in his relationship with Christ. Being in prison didn’t halt or retard Paul’s growth in Christ (see Philippians 3:7-17).
In fact, when we respond well to trials, they propel us forward in our walk with Christ. So, press into Christ as Paul did (Ephesians 3:20).
- He continued sharing the Gospel with others. Paul saw his situation as a new and unique opportunity to share Christ with people he would not have otherwise met (Philippians 1:12-18).
With the “social-distancing” mandate, we have some unique challenges in this regard. So, how can you creatively share Christ with others at this time? (Philippians 1:12)
- He prayed continually, trusting the Lord to meet ALL his needs. He talks about his prayers in all his prison letters, and in Ephesians, he even included two of his prayers for them (Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3:14-21).
Spend time in prayer daily with your loved ones. Pray what God lays on your heart. Pray for an end to the coronavirus. Pray for our government officials. Pray for those who are sick or have lost loved ones. Pray for the Lord to meet all your needs (Philippians 4:6-7, 19). Pray for spiritual awakening in our country and around the world! And pray for the Lord’s soon return!
Let me leave us with this verse from Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Amen!