Tonight I opened my Bible and was not excited about reading its words. I know this may seem like a terrible statement to make, especially in print, but I simply was not feeling joyous about reading God’s word. I have been very tired, and burdened with various circumstances which have caused emotional duress over the past few months. But God is so clever, because He uses takes advantage of every situation we offer to Him. He knew that I did not want to open my Bible and marinate on the words, so He took advantage of my laden heart and used my discouragement as an opportunity to teach me something about Himself.
Paul is one of the most famous characters in the New Testament, and I greatly admire his strength, courage, and driven nature. I opened my Bible to the book of Colossians, and was focusing on reading the last few chapters of the short book. The very last verse caught my attention:
“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Colossians 4:18)
I read over the verse a few times to make sure I had understood Paul correctly, he wants us to remember his chains? The phrase seemed odd, so I researched the time when the book was written. Biblical scholars estimate that the book was written between the years 62 AD and 63 AD, at exactly the time that Paul was in prison in the city of Rome, held captive because of his faith. God allowed this incredible testimony of a man to be imprisoned for following Him, and instead of being frustrated or angry with his Savior, Paul used the horrific ordeal as a platform for praise.
Paul’s chains brought great gain. His lowly time in a jail cell gave the church incredible books of the Bible, and only increased his testimony. How often do we wrap ourselves in our own chains, completely overwhelmed with the weight of our own sin or oppression by others? Paul commands the church to remember his terrible imprisonment in order to give GRACE. How radical is that idea!? Paul’s command is completely backwards to our modern day thinking, which is exactly why God allowed it to be written.
So often, I am overwhelmed with the chaos of life, and forget that God is the orchestrator of every event on the planet. Our human nature is to just throw in the towel, accept that “it is what it is” and figure out the next step. But Paul shows a very different approach to an obstacle: he accepts the present trouble, yet does everything in His power to bring glory to God in spite of his sufferings. He does not pretend that the difficulty does not exist, rather, he views difficulties as opportunities to bring him closer to Christ, and show others immense mercy. He wants the church to forgive oppressors, and understand that Jesus’ actions on the cross were about redemption and grace, so that we humans may be living examples of these two concepts.
The chains which bind you, suffocate you, unrelentingly remind you of your human shortcomings do not have to define you. The chains which hold you back can be used as instruments of God’s divine power, if you stop struggling to untangle them yourself and give Jesus the mess.
May we pray that our chains, the very burdens that weigh us down, be used to show Jesus’ might and power. May our chains be used for the Kingdom’s gain. May we remember that even the great Paul suffered on this earth, and each struggle can be used as an opportunity to give God glory. May we pray for endurance and a strong faith like the apostle Paul.