[3] 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—[4] that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Colossians 4:3-4

One of the biggest challenges facing Christians is our reaction to undeserved or unfair adversity. If we suffer because we have sinned, made a mistake or not obeyed God, then that’s one thing and there is no one to blame but ourselves. But when we suffer unjustly without apparent reason avoiding anger, resentment and bitterness is another thing altogether.

Listen to Peter, he hits the nail on the head!

[20] For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

1 Peter 2:20

It is what makes Paul’s request for prayer so amazing and helpful. It reveals his heart, his maturity and his trust in the sovereignty of God. Hidden in these two verses is a brief statement that can be overlooked

“I am in prison” or “on account of which I am in prison.” Paul is clearly referring to “the mystery of Christ,” which is to say, the gospel, as the reason for him being imprisoned. The apostle wasn’t in prison for drinking the communion wine or taking money out of the offering. Neither was he imprisoned for sexual sins, greed, pride or outbursts of anger. He was there for one reason, and that being, he was faithfully and fearlessly proclaiming the mystery of Christ to a lost and dying world.

If I may let my imagination run riot for a short while. He is in a dingy, dark cell, chained hand and foot, his privileges have been stripped, his reputation gone, he is not sleeping, he is amongst criminals and murderers because he loves Jesus so much he refused to keep it to himself. Paul was in prison because of his determination to proclaim the person and work of Christ to lost souls.

So what can we learn from this, and this is going to be tough as our threshold for inconvenience is very low.

Contrary to what you may have been told by some preachers God does not promise to protect us from painful and unjust experiences if we remain faithful, obedient, go to church, read our bibles, pray and share the gospel. Paul couldn’t have been more to the point: “It is precisely because I was diligent to obey the call to share about my faith that I am in prison.”

However, what God does promise us is that while we are in prison, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Look what Paul says to the church in Rome,

[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36] As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

We also need to learn from Paul’s reaction to his situation. There’s no indication here of self pity or bitterness or anger with God for having permitted this to occur. The last thing Paul says is “why me?” “where are you God?” “Satan is attacking me.”

Paul’s perspective is perhaps best seen in Philippians 1:12-18 where he again makes reference to his imprisonment for preaching the gospel. He clearly looks on his situation as Gods divine plan. The Philippians probably thought his imprisonment was a set-back, a defeat for the kingdom of God. “Oh well you win some and lose some.” Not Paul!

[12] I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Philippians 1:12-13

Look at this, it’s astonishing,

[14] 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 1:14

In Paul’s view so called human set-backs are gloriously changed into divine set-ups. We see this often in Scripture, whether in Joseph being sold into slavery or the nation of Israel being hemmed in at the Red Sea or even Jesus being nailed to a Roman cross.

Let’s be honest, few of us reading this have yet to suffer to the extent that Paul did. I do know brothers and sisters who are imprisoned for the gospels sake, but most of us here in the west are not in that position.

It may be you are excluded, defriended, bullied, mocked or made to feel stupid for the faith you have, but it’s not the same levels as Paul.

However God is the same and you can pray and ask for prayer that

God may open to you a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.

Let’s throw a curved ball out there. Have you thanked God today, as Paul no doubt did on numerous occasions, for the “gift” of suffering? “No, I haven’t have you taken leave of your senses!”

[29] For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Philippians 1:29

Suffering Paul says comes with the territory of being a Christian, you cannot separate belief from suffering . It appears in the passage in Philippians that suffering he says is as much a “gift” of God as “believing” in Christ is!

Something was obviously more important to the apostle than physical comfort and freedom of movement. Something mattered more than convenience and ease and personal peace or security. That “something” was the advance of the gospel or advance of the “mystery of Christ” (vs 3).

So, let’s close by asking ourselves a question. Have we tasted enough of the wonder of the gospel so that undeserved adversity is embraced as an opportunity rather than opposition?