Devotional: October 26, 2020
I, Paul, am a prisoner for the sake of Christ, here with my brother Timothy. I write this letter to you, Philemon, my good friend and companion in this work—also to our sister Apphia, to Archippus, a real trooper, and to the church that meets in your house. God’s best to you! Christ’s blessings on you!
By the way, get a room ready for me. Because of your prayers, I fully expect to be your guest again.
Epaphras, my cellmate in the cause of Christ, says hello. Also my coworkers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. All the best to you from the Master, Jesus Christ!
Philemon verses 1-3, 22-25. The Message
The Apostle Paul had remarkable energy. He traveled thousands of miles on missionary journeys to plant churches, and to minister to those churches.
His enthusiasm for Christ did not diminish even when he was imprisoned for his faith. In fact, he wrote four letters from prison which made it into the New Testament canon: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and this letter, Philemon. It is certainly possible that he wrote even more letters which have been lost…
The Apostle Paul did not let his negative outward circumstances sour his attitude. Nor did he allow his imprisonment to stop him from doing what he could for the sake of Christ.
1500 years later, Martin Luther imitated the Apostle Paul’s productivity when circumstances forced him to maintain a low profile. After angering the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Luther’s life was in danger. Yet one of the German princes, Frederick the Wise, faked a highway attack on Luther and hid him in Wartburg Castle.
Luther ended up spending 300 days in hiding there. Yet Luther did waste his time at Wartburg Castle. Instead, he translated the Bible into German. While this had been done previously, the translations were not very good or easily understandable. Luther’s translation was quite good, and proved immensely popular with the German people. Some scholars believe it even influenced the development of the German language.
Both the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther made good use of circumstances which limited their freedom, and could have rendered them useless and hopeless. Instead, they made the best that any two people could have under those trying circumstances.
Although many of the most extreme pandemic rules have been lifted for us, there are still restrictions and guidelines which we are asked to adhere to. What are we doing with this time? How are we making use of the limits the pandemic has imposed upon us? This is a useful question to ask. Why? Throughout our lives, we all will face times when circumstances beyond our control (extended illness, caregiving for a loved one, etc.) force us to curtail our normal activities.
We have a choice. We can sulk and complain, or, we can adapt, and make the best of our situation at any given time. I think of it a bit like the glass half full. Are you we upset and complaining about what we don’t have? Or are we thankful for what we do have?
In all things, we are to give thanks, even when things are out of our control. We may be forced to do something we would rather not do. I hope we all are making thankful decisions. You can make those calls, take a meal to someone, and thankfully now, most of us can go to church in person (with social distancing, currently).
May we be inspired by the examples of the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther. They used their time and talents for God’s glory, even when their freedoms were severely curtailed!
We thank You, for You have given us many blessings, for which we are grateful. May we find a way to grow in, learn from, and lean upon You, even when circumstances prevent us from carrying out our normal routines. Help us to not be mentally imprisoned by our situations, but to find freedom with You. Guide us, and protect us. Show us how to be Your instruments at all times, and in all circumstances.
We pray this prayer in Your faithful name. Amen