The Upside of Hardship


Several years ago, people followed the story of Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian pastor imprisoned for his faith. The ripple effect of this man’s life and belief in Christ was profound, as evidenced by various countries and international organizations that demanded his release, as well as the people around the world who joined together to pray for him. In today’s passage, we see another man whose story reads much the same: a Jesus follower and teacher of The Way, imprisoned by his own government, and influencing the world around him in spite of personal suffering.

  • What do you consider to be hard circumstances in your life right now?


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. 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.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 12-14. Verses 15-18a will be covered tomorrow.)

  1. What specific thing did Paul want the Christians at Philippi to know about his imprisonment (vs. 12)?
  2. As a prisoner, Paul was guarded 24 hours a day by rotating shifts of the highest-ranking Roman soldiers. Paul, the captive, had his own captive audience in the imperial guard (vs. 13). Why was this so significant?
  3. What had happened among fellow believers in Rome because of Paul’s incarceration (vs. 14)? What did this mean for those people who did not yet know about or believe in Jesus?
  4. Although we may not be jailed for our faith like Paul, we all experience situations that are difficult and hard to endure personally. What are the circumstances in your life right now that could be part of God’s plan to actually spread the gospel message and boost others’ confidence in Jesus as well?
  5. What is an attitude of Paul’s that you need to emulate?


The apostle Paul realized his circumstances were simply a part of God’s bigger plan. His boldness in sharing his faith with those who guarded him carried the gospel message into powerful places. His example led the way for fellow Christians to share the good news in ways they hadn’t yet before. Even in the midst of trying circumstances, Paul’s focus remained steadfast: point everyone to Jesus.

  • Prayerfully place your circumstances in God’s hands today.
  • Ask God how to glorify him best in the hard places, and seek his perspective on these things.
  • Pray for the boldness needed to be a Christ-like example to others, even in the midst of difficult situations.