Last Friday, the governor of our state issued an order to stay at home. Excluding healthcare workers and other jobs considered essential for our protection and economic well-being, New Yorkers are to now work from home. We are to have limited physical interaction with others, save immediate family.
Somehow, I thought, the Lord has a message here— that is, for those who are finding themselves isolated. Thankfully, with technology, even as old school as the telephone— we could still connect with others. In fact, I was remarking to someone just the other day, that I haven’t spoken on the phone this much since the 90’s! That said, what would God have us do during these times of being sequestered in our homes.
What the Lord brought to mind was the apostle Paul and his being “sequestered,” through house-arrest in Rome. It was during these two years (Acts 28:30) of limited contact that Paul wrote the four “Prison Epistles.” Think of it— though he did receive visitors, the great apostle who traveled 10,000 miles over 20+ years (Acts 13:4-28:16), was now chained to a guard 24-7 (Acts 28:16). Yet what was his attitude?
He could have taken a break and put his mission of the gospel on hold, as some would have done. “Hey, there’s not much I could do from here!” This could have been the response to his imprisonment. But that thinking was far from his mind and heart. From his place of incarceration, he wrote these words:
“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. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14
Paul knew that God was using his time of imprisonment to advance the gospel. In fact, in much harsher circumstances during his second imprisonment, he put if very plainly to his beloved Timothy: “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” 2 Timothy 2:9
Indeed, through his first imprisonment, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon; 2 Timothy from his second and final one. All this from a man with nothing but a pen and some parchment at his disposal! Think of the millions impacted over the centuries by these letters generated from Paul under these circumstances, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
There is a passage from one of these letters, Colossians, where the apostle gives us instruction, especially pertaining to our prayers as well as God’s ability to go beyond our immediate constraints:
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:2-6
The apostle urges us to keep praying with consistency, focus and thanksgiving. But note his prayer request for himself, that God would open a door to declare the Word—again, making this request from prison!
As we may be feeling isolated and almost like under house-arrest ourselves, let us pray for God to open to us a door for the Word that we may declare the mystery of Christ! While we’re bound at home, know God is always (and still) at work (John 5:17).
He will use this time for His glory as we redeem this time for His purposes!
Pastor Joe Garofalo