Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Small Price To Pay

If I am not careful I will often read a passage or series of verses and miss some of the tidbits that can really cause me to stop and think. This almost happened this morning. I was reading in Galatians and almost read over the following passage without thinking much about it.

Galatians 4: 13 - As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.

At first glance it appears to be a small fact that Paul was sick in Galatia. No big deal, we all get sick. But I read it again and realized that it is about more than Paul being sick. It was because of this illness that he preached the gospel in Galatia. The more I read God's word the more astounded I am at his sovereignty. I am more amazed at how involved in the details he is. I think the apostle Paul realized this. Maybe not right away but some time later he probably had the proverbial light bulb go off in his head, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This may be why he wrote the following.
Philippians 1: 12 - 14 - 12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Scholars debate where Paul was imprisoned. Some think it was Rome, some say it was Ephesus, and others think it was Caesarea. Regardless of where he was, God used Paul's imprisonment to get the gospel to the people in that area.

We can look all the way back to the book of Genesis to see this same type of thing happening. Joseph was sold into slavery, wrongly accused of hitting on Potipher's wife, thrown into prison where he met the baker and cup bearer who promised to remember him before Pharaoh but he did not. We might think of it as "Getting the raw deal" or "Getting shafted". However in the end Joseph was not bitter or angry about all he went through but realized the ultimate sovereignty of God and made the following statement to his brothers.
Genesis 50:20 - You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
As I chewed on these verses I wondered if we too often want to pray and ask God to get us out of the bad situation that we find ourselves in from time to time. What if God wants to use our flat tire to minister someone at the repair shop. What if he wants to use our illness to witness to one of the nurses at the doctor's office. I am not saying don't pray for healing but maybe in addition to praying for healing maybe we need to pray that our eyes would be open to what God may want us to see through whatever "inconvenience" might come our way. Who knows, one day we might find out that our illness helped spread the gospel to a group of people that might not have heard otherwise. If we keep an eternal perspective we will probably realize that our inconvenience is a small price to pay for the possibility of advancing the gospel.

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