Fruitful Labor…from Chains

Have you ever had anything happen to you, especially adversity, and, when looking back, realize God used it to further His plan? Through your circumstances the gospel was spread just as Paul writes about in Philippians 1:12-14. “Now I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become very 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 and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”

As Christians God sometimes gives us glimpses of His plan for our adversity. Especially in my own life…now that I am 53…and I have had some years to reflect….I see times when I was in “chains” and can clearly see how God used it…not just in my life, but in the lives of others…:)

I am especially encouraged when looking back at the “chains” in my parents’ lives and their example of how to live in chains. YES, it encouraged me and strengthened my walk. They demonstrated to me how to lean into Christ…keeping my eyes fixed on Him while in “chains”. I saw with my own eyes how being in chains can actually be a “Light” and encourage someone in their walk.

When I was pregnant with our first child, my dad came to see me one afternoon during the week. Highly unusual for him. He sat with me on our little back porch and he cried. Yes, I was in my mid-twenties when I saw my father cry for the first time. He began telling me about the “chains” he had been placed in.

He and his twin brother had been accused of bribing state highway officials for “favors” received while building roads in South Carolina. He was broken, shocked, bound by “invisible chains.” His accusers didn’t know my dad at all. They didn’t know he was honest, hardworking and God-loving. Nor did they know he would never take or receive anything he hadn’t worked for. They didn’t know that his “gift” to highway officials after completing a very long and hard job was a thank you for their hard work which his accusers pointed to and called it a “bribe!”

You see, if you know my dad at all, you know he is an extremely hard worker. And you know he is a very generous man. I think if you surveyed a thousand people who know my dad and asked them to describe my dad in a word or two….the words would be generous and hardworking…:) For years, through the birth of all three of our children, I watched my dad and our family live with the “chains of accusations” of bribery. There were hundreds of front page articles in the paper accusing…not to mention the ongoing defense against the “charges.”

I watched my dad and my mom closely during these years. I watched them remain thankful, generous, worshipful and remain quiet through the suffering. The court case dragged on for years. My parents’ walk through this time ENCOURAGED MY FAITH. The details are too long to write about because it went on for so long, six years. I can tell you the last day in court was a celebration when, after years, it was dismissed…but not after much pain…and suffering…and not to mention the expense.

The thing I remember most through those terrible years was watching my parents continually “forgive” their accusers….love Jesus…and remain connected to the “vine” and God’s provision. I was challenged and encouraged to “forgive”. The strength came from watching them trust God and watching God provide.

When I look back over those years, I now see a “maturing” that God had in store for me at a very young age. My sister even more. She lived and breathed it every day because she worked in our family company. When it was all over, there was an extreme maturing that not many people in their 30’s receive.

Yes, the chains which my dad and uncle and the rest of the family had wrapped around us matured and advanced the gospel in my life. It was one of the greatest prunings so far in my life. Watching the people who had raised me and nurtured me have to walk through a “fire storm” actually “blew up my faith” in Jesus and His ability to provide and care for us while in “chains.”

I look back now with a special fondness of Jesus during that time. I remember vividly when my sister and the attorneys would explain the legal terms my dad and uncle didn’t understand. You see, their knowledge never came from college or books. It came from hard work that usually started at 4 a.m. and ended around 7 p.m. Their lack of knowledge of what was legal never hindered their knowledge of their Savior and ultimate Provider.

So I encourage you with this…Jesus is the Sustainer and Provider when you find yourself in “chains”.

Leaning into HIM…
looking to HIM…
and trusting in HIM…
minute by minute..and hour by hour…can produce fruit in your own life.

It can solidify a trust and faith in Jesus in someone else’s life as well…like it did for me. People are watching when you are in “chains”. God is working. He is near. Take the attitude of Paul. “…Yes, I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” Philippians 1:18-20

“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.” ~C. S. Lewis

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