In our Sunday morning classes right now we are studying Paul's letter to the Philippians. I was reading this verse today out of chapter 1 that says, '12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.' What exactly had 'happened' to Paul? It began when the Jews illegally arrested him in Jerusalem and then through a series of trials, an attempt on his life, a really long boat ride and shipwreck, and a deadly snake bite Paul found himself awaiting a trial with Caesar in Rome under house arrest. So Paul was chained to a Roman guard (shift changes every 6 hours) awaiting his trial and sentence. Most normal people in Paul's shoes would be miserably depressed and probably asking God a lot of 'Why' questions. Paul, however, was filled with rejoicing because his circumstances were futhering the gospel. The word 'furthering' literally means to 'pioneer new territory' or to reach people in places that the gospel had never touched previously.
There are times in life where we get to 'choose' where we go, who we talk to and what we're going to do. There are other seasons in life where these things are 'chosen' for us. We have medical problems and we have no choice but to be in the hospital. We have financial struggles and we have no choice but to take on a second job. We suffer an injury and we are forced to deal with new limitations. It's in these seasons that our faith and what we hope in is really tested. What Paul teaches us is that this hospital room we're in, or this waiting room we're sitting in, or this minimum wage job we had to take on has placed us in new territory for the gospel. We are now 'forced' to be around people that otherwise we would never have crossed paths with before. As Steve Bradley preached in a message a while back, maybe we need to go from asking 'Why God?' to 'Who God?' Who are the people around us that have never experienced the love of Jesus Christ before. Maybe, God has placed me in this cirumstance for that person sitting right next to me.