Paul’s imprisonment was meant to shut him up and stop the spread of the Good News of Jesus, but Paul’s persistence results in the opposite of its intended effect, thanks be to God (The Message, v. 12). Would we have heard the Good News otherwise? As Joseph said so many years before, what others intended for evil, God intended for good (Gen 50:20).
We have such a great cloud of witnesses, those who have suffered and been imprisoned for working for the justice and freedom of God’s commonwealth. Countless martyrs died for their faith in the early days of Christianity, but their deaths had the opposite of their intended effect. John Bunyan was in prison for twelve years for refusing to get a preaching license from the king. His Pilgrim’s Progress is still one of the bestselling books in the world.
Harriet Tubman was beaten for her work leading enslaved people to freedom; her story was told once again in a recent film. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is still read in classrooms today. Fannie Lou Hamer and John Lewis were both beaten and imprisoned, along with many others in the Civil Rights Movement, and that truth is still marching on. Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years before the end of apartheid in South Africa. He became the president of his nation and led them in a process of Truth and Reconciliation for a peaceful transition. In all of these cases, what others intended for evil, God intended for good.
May we be inspired to know that God is still at work turning the world upside down, ensuring that what is done to hinder the Gospel has the opposite effect.
How have you seen God’s intention for good overcome what was intended for evil?
Mighty God, when the evil of this world threatens to undo us, remind us that you are our fortress. Amen.