“I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ;” –Philippians 1:12-13
We were on our way to Branson, MO for a family vacation. I took the wrong exit and, the next thing you know, we are almost to Arkansas. We had no intention of visiting the Natural State before we arrived in Missouri, but a wrong turn, great family conversation and a little bit of inattentiveness led us off our pre-determined path.
This trip was before GPS and iPhone that could tell us where to go. Now we were off schedule and off our printed map. It was not a great way to start our vacation. It was a set back to our schedule.
Life is full of setbacks. Some are small, like a wrong turn in Tulsa, and some are big. So often we have plans and dreams that get interrupted. The Apostle Paul knew about setbacks all too well. His goal was to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and start churches around the Mediterranean world. On many occasions he ran into many setbacks. On several occasions he had rocks thrown at him for preaching and often he we run out of town for disturbing the peace. In the book of Philippians, we find Paul under arrest, locked in chains. How could he realize his goal now? Paul did not let his arrest stop him. Even though his was cast into a Roman prison, his joyful spirit and determination to share the good news of God allowed his dream to be realized still. He simply saw his set back as a new opportunity. Now in prison Paul had a new audience. His new audience became prison guards, fellow prisoners and those who would receive his letters. Paul stayed focused on his goal, and no matter the difficulties, he was able to find a way bring his goals to life. Because he did not allow setbacks to stop him the church has been blessed for many years. The passionate, honest, outpouring of his thoughts in the book of Philippians has been encouraging people of faith for almost two thousand years.
Setbacks will happen. Our plans will get interrupted. But that does not stop us from doing great things. Setbacks are simply opportunities to do something that we were unable to foresee. When we arrived in Arkansas, we made the best of our time there. We stopped and took pictures at the Arkansas border and that picture is one of my favorites still. We even bought Arkansas t-shirts to wear during our vacation.
When we experience a setback we need look around for the new opportunities that present themselves in the moment. Like Paul in prison, if we keep our eye on our goals, we will make a difference, even when life takes of off course.
Rev. Keith King, Pastor of Worship