Day 3

To Live Is Christ

from the Philippians reading plan

Philippians 1:12-26, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, James 3:13-18

BY Guest Writer

Years ago, I gave a talk about fear and anxiety. About thirty women settled into a cozy room as I began sharing some of my story. Looking back on my childhood, I see a little girl who wanted to play it safe, who perpetually problem-solved worst-case scenarios, one who felt shadowed by a vague sense of fear. This stream of anxiety ran steadily throughout my life, but no one would have known. I was the kid who easily made friends, loved school, and didn’t cause much trouble. I was the strong, steady one—until I wasn’t.

In my late twenties, in the midst of young marriage and new motherhood, the stream of anxiety became a flood. Panic attacks began to torment me. For the first time, my underground anxiety burst out and threatened to take center stage. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want to admit my confusing fears, and I certainly didn’t want others to see my struggle. After all, I was supposed to be the strong, steady one.

At this point in my talk, I told the women that I had a secret. I began unbuttoning my shirt. Awkward silence filled the room. Underneath my faded, denim top I wore a white t-shirt and cold, bulky metal chains. No one had suspected that I was wearing chains, yet they were there the whole time—pinching, constraining, and weighing me down. We don’t always know the chains people are wrapped up in, do we?

The apostle and missionary Paul wore chains too. In his letter to the believers in the city of Philippi, Paul explains that he is “in chains for Christ” as he endures house arrest (Philippians 1:13 NIV). For years he has been misunderstood, criticized, slandered, and beaten, and now he is jailed in Rome.

Some could view Paul as a failure. Some could question his faith or even the power or goodness of God. Yet Paul is convinced that his current suffering is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. On the contrary, he insists that his circumstances advance the gospel message. He tells the Philippians, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:14 NIV). Even in jail, Paul rejoices that his guards are hearing about Jesus and that other believers are encouraged and empowered.

We may marvel at Paul’s perspective, but let’s not romanticize our chains. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul reveals his weakness, fear, and trembling (v.3). We all chafe and wrestle with painful circumstances, those things we would never choose for ourselves, yet God still allows.

What pinches you, constrains you, or weighs you down? Our anxieties, our fears, our sufferings are heavy and costly. But we don’t have to hide them or be ashamed. Even our struggles can deepen our dependence on Christ and point others to the one who walks us through our darkest valleys and who redeems us—chains and all.

Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.

Post Comments (65)

65 thoughts on "To Live Is Christ"

  1. Jennifer Sporin says:

    Notice that while Paul is in chains and all appearances look like God has forgotten him and not been his help and support, Paul makes no complaint about God. Paul never suggests that God has forsaken him, forgotten him, allowed this terrible circumstance; he never blames Gods nor suggests any wrong doing at all that could be attributed to God!! NOT EVEN A TINY MENTION.
    Rather he rejoices in his circumstances and wonders how it will promote the gospel.
    Amen, that our hearts would be satisfied with our burdens and that we would rejoice and praise God wondering how He will use this terrible experience in our lives to spend the gospel!

  2. K D says:

    As a teacher, so grateful for the reminder that we don’t know what chains are holding others down. I know my students are going through much that I cannot see…may I always be a reminder to them that we serve a great God who can release us from that bondage.

  3. Tahryah Wheeler says:

    I loved every bit of this ❤️

  4. Emily Wolf says:

    Thinking about Philippians 1:12

    “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…”

    This question came to my mind: when I am struggling, am I even slowing down to look beyond myself and instead looking at God and what He is doing? So many times my answer is no. I’m consumed with my struggle and asking a lot of “why’s”. How powerful it could be if my first inquiry was to pause, change my line of sight, and observe what God is doing. I may just see things like Paul does.

  5. Stacey says:

    I have a new perspective because of Paul’s help! GOD IS GOOD, no matter what our circumstances. God’s will be done always. He has a plan for me. I went to my therapist today and turned out to be my last day with her. She was so amazed at my transformation and my joy. I told her about how God has changed me. My anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation have disappeared since coming to Christ! I now have hope! Paul gives so much encouragement. I would have loved to have known him back in the day. I crave to read more of what he has to say about Jesus and God’s ways!

  6. Karen Ballinger says:

    I love this song that reminds me that God is the chain breaker

  7. Camille English Davis says:

    Christ honored and exalted no matter what…

  8. Natasha R says:

    I’ve learned so much from this devotion! Whether I’m down in the dumps, suffering and in chains, or soaring high on the wings of success, my words, behaviour and demeanour must point to God. Also, all that I am going through is for good, so I should not feel any bitterness or anger for the people who have caused me pain.

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