Paul is under house arrest in rented quarters; he refuses to focus on that. He is far from home, and his future is uncertain; he doesn’t let that concern him. He is bound to a Roman guard every day; no problem. Because he has made Christ the object of his life, contentment has replaced frustration. He’s taught himself to live above his circumstances. The benefits?
First, the progress of the gospel is accelerated; it’s never delayed. In his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul passionately confesses, “I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). Because of Paul’s attitude regarding his predicament, his testimony spread like a firestorm through the ranks of the Roman guard. Systematically, God’s Spirit leveled the towering pride of the Roman military.
Second, when you live above your circumstances, the edge of the message is sharpened; it’s never dulled. Paul exclaimed that his chains had become the reason the entire palace guard had come under the hearing of the gospel. That was no insignificant statistic. By Paul’s account, the message of Christ’s love permeated the ranks of the imperial guard, which some scholars suggest were as many as nine thousand. Amazingly, the revival started with one Roman soldier chained to one man—but not just any man. That forced union became a springtide of grace to the whole Praetorian Guard.
There’s a third benefit to living above your circumstances: the courage of others is strengthened, never weakened. Paul’s unlikely converts were not sheepish about their newfound faith in Christ. I take it that they didn’t hold back. Rather, they grew increasingly more courageous in their witness. I find that so exciting!
The secret to Paul’s contentment did not emerge from a manual on how to live the Christian life or from a workshop on positive thinking. He didn’t have access to a stack of self-help scrolls promising to shore up his sagging self-confidence. Paul’s secret was not found in a program, but in a Person. Christ made the difference. He taught His servant to endure all situations, every circumstance, each difficult challenge, no matter how adverse, through His power. Paul released all rights to His Master and, in turn, He released all the strength Paul needed.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.