Life is full of chains. Our chains are seldom literal. They can take the shape of many
things. Sickness, poverty, stigmas of many sorts, and each person’s chains are different from the next. God designs our situations in his sovereignty to get to the core issues of faith in our lives. However, you can let these chains stifle your life, or you can shake them to make a joyful noise. Too often we wait for the chains to be removed and our lives pass us by as we wait. We refuse to function, praying for the chains to be removed. But Look what Paul says about his chains.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 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, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of hope and comfort who gives faith to his children. Salvation costs you nothing, but faith costs you dearly. I AM the author and perfector of your faith. Only I can give you faith, but it’s testing is what makes it yours. The hope that I hold out to you in my Word by my Spirit will sustain your faith. Encourage each other’s faith in the various trials that I allow to befall you. Without these fiery trials, your faith has no value. I grant you trials to grow your faith just as I granted you the privilege to believe in the first place.
Keep your faith encouraged in me, by knowing who I AM, and encourage the faith of your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Each will have their turns suffering and will need others encouragement to continue to progress in their faith. When you remember who I am and what I have done for you; when you remember my love and plans for you, then you will be able to stand strong for all to see and be an encouragement to them as well. Consider your hardship not only as the testing ground of your faith that you must endure, but also look for the good work in it which I have prepared in advance for your to do Eph 2:10.
There are many trite sayings and stories about hardships we must endure to make us smile like: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Or like the boy who was in the room full of horse manure, he could have looked in dismay at the manure or he could look for the pony. But God’s Word has some exciting verses to give us hope and challenge us while we are in our trials. Romans 8:28,29 God is at work in all things to conform you into the image of his son; James 1:2 count it all joy when you experience diverse trials; 2 Cor 1:4 God comforts us so we can comfort others; Psalms 119:67 says before I was afflicted, I went astray. Trials are designed to keep us close to him, to remind us of the shortness of this life and thus keep our eyes focused on the bigger picture of eternity.
I hope that you find the pony in your troubles. That you see the good work which God has for you in them. Just remember that when you make the lemonade, that you would share it freely to encourage others.