The difference between thriving and just surviving during hardship is finding purpose in your position. Could you be here for a reason? Are your current circumstances a fundamental part of a greater future? Is this a stepping stone to greater things ahead? Are you in training for the next season where your confident faith and surrendered will become crucial for the victory God has planned?
Can you find purpose in your position? Can you trust there is sense in the nonsense? Can you believe God is using this for good and one day you will step into that goodness because you journeyed through this first?
Paul found purpose in prison. An innocent man unjustly accused, his freedoms taken from him, imprisoned for crimes he did not commit, held back from the life he deserved, yet he found purpose here.
Imagine his position. I must admit my letters from a prison cell would have likely sounded a bit different from his. I would be crying someone come break me out of here. This isn’t fair. There’s been a mistake. I don’t deserve this!
But Paul’s letters from a prison cell became the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
Here in unjust captivity and harsh conditions, he wrote the scriptures we know:
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”
He still believed God could do the impossible, even while he was chained between two guards. While circumstances were not improving, he knew God was still at work.
Don’t you know God is still working here in your life? Don’t you know he is still in complete control? Won’t you remember that you are known and you are loved by the almighty, and he is moving on your behalf. Even while you still wait. Even while things seem to get worse. Even while you still don’t have an answer, God is working.
Nothing is impossible for God. He can do more than you can even begin to ask for or imagine through his power. And where is this power? IT IS AT WORK WITHIN YOU!
Yes, this unstoppable power is working within you. In you is power. In your life is power. In your current circumstances is power. And this power, God’s mighty power, will be victorious here.
Trust him in this hardship. Trust him in the details of your mess. Trust him in the delay of your dreams. His power is here working in you.
Here in prison, Paul also wrote:
Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”
As a prisoner, he considered himself blessed. It was his intentional mindset every day. I am blessed by God. His praise continued even in his problems. He wasn’t growing bitter, he was here getting better.
Can you see how blessed you are? Can you see God’s favor and provision around you, even in the disaster of ruined plans and a threatened future? Will you still praise him when you don’t know how this is all going to work out? Will you focus on what is still right, even when there’s so much wrong?
Will YOU set your mind today, or will your mind be set by circumstances? Will you see blessings, or will you see burdens? Will you praise God through your problems, or will your problems penetrate your mind, steal your peace, and overwhelm your thoughts today?
If Paul can praise God in prison, if he can find the blessing in this burden, can’t I set my mind to what is still right in my world?
Then he wrote:
Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”
With every justifiable right to be fully enraged with anger, Paul chose to end each day with peace and gratitude. You know why? When the sun goes down, there is darkness. In the darkness is where the enemy works. It’s where he prowls through your heart and mind like a hungry lion, looking to devour you and eat you up on the inside. In the darkness of night, any anger you have within you will be stirred. Truths will be twisted in this anger. The enemy’s plans will be whispered and you will partner with him in this darkness where your anger says you’re justified.
Wake up and act like a jackwagon, he deserves your attitude. Get up and stomp the floors, show you’re still angry about what was said last night. Give that cold shoulder, you’re not done with this fight.
Oh honey, you let the sun go down while you were angry. You went to bed mad and the enemy whispered all night in that darkness.
Paul knew a few things about being treated wrong while being right. He knew about being angry, but he chose even in anger to not sin. Be angry, but do not let that anger turn you into someone you’re not. And before the night, get over it. Yes, let go of your right to be angry about this.
Philippians 1: 12-14 Paul said “Now I want you to know that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord.”
Can you say this: What has happened to me has served a purpose.
Oh what power there is in this statement. I’m not a victim, I’m a vessel. God is using me. He’s using my circumstances for something good. I find purpose here.
God used Paul to change the lives of the entire prison, then beyond reaching the whole world. He was an ordinary man who trusted God with his circumstances.
Will you trust God with your circumstances? Will you refuse to be a victim here, and instead be used as a vessel?
God work through me. Work through this problem to show your power. Use me, my life, my messes, my mistakes, my seeming misfortunes and my miraculous overcomings all for your glory. Be at work here.
There is a purpose for your pain. There is a message in this mess. Within your disappointment is a destiny greater than you could imagine.
Paul didn’t stay in prison forever. Remember how he gets out? Angels come to Paul and cause an earthquake which opened the prison gates and set the captives free. Paul walked right out of that prison knowing he had been there for a purpose, and wherever God led him next would be for a purpose as well.
Wherever you are, there is purpose here. God is working here. Get better here, not bitter. And trust where God is leading you next. You are a vessel for the power of the Almighty, not a victim of your current circumstances. Remember that.