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.
Follow Paul through Acts and he leaves you breathless. He’s constantly on the move, going from place to place. One moment he’s stitching tents together, then he’s bringing Eutychus back to life, and then he survives a snakebite and heals the sick on Malta. It’s almost as if you can’t imagine ever being able to keep up with him.
Surely the worst thing that could ever happen to someone like Paul is to be stuck in one house for two years. But at the conclusion of Acts, that’s exactly how we find him (Acts 28:30-31).
You can just imagine the devil’s response to Paul’s imprisonment: Now I’ve shut him down! That’ll get rid of him. He won’t be able to go anywhere for a long while. He’ll just shrivel up and die a prisoner. Not a chance! It was during Paul’s imprisonment that he penned some of his most noteworthy letters under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—letters that God is still using to transform lives 2,000 years later. And, remarkably, the gospel advanced not only despite Paul’s chains but because of them.
Paul was likely very different from other prisoners. The soldiers who guarded him would have probably said to one another, He is the most remarkable person we’ve ever had. We’re used to people constantly cussing, screaming, agitating, and complaining. But this Paul has joy and purpose, and he just preaches!
As a result of Paul’s daily ministry among these soldiers, word began to spread throughout the entire palace guard: The reason this guy is a prisoner is because of Jesus. They got the point: He’s chained to us, he says, because he’s chained to this man Jesus Christ. And it appears that some of these guards not only heard the gospel but responded to it. As they were then redeployed throughout the Roman Empire, arriving at their new posts as new men, the gospel would advance to different places through them. And so Paul’s imprisonment, which at first appeared to be diametrically opposed to the spread of the gospel, actually proved to be essential to it.
You do not need to be a prisoner, a missionary, or an apostle to be used by God in spreading the gospel, nor do you need to wait for all the circumstances in your life to line up just as you want them to before you talk about Jesus. Whether you are in prison, a hospital, an office, a field, or wherever, and whether you realize it or not, you are never far from someone who needs to hear the amazing story of God’s grace. What are the situations you face that you naturally see as obstacles to sharing the gospel, and how might they in fact be opportunities? Who are the lost and longing people that God has placed in your life today? They need your God. And they might only meet Him through your loving boldness.