For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
I'm not going to look up the sermons on this passage. I'm sure they have lots of wonderful insight that I am missing, but I was overwhelmed by two ideas as I read this and I'm going to share those with you instead.
#1 - I am humbled by Paul's attitude. His attitude about his suffering makes me so ashamed that I, whose "prison" is a warm, comfortable home with three smart, funny, aggravating children to care for, a well-paid position that allows me to work only three days a week outside our home, a kind and loving husband who is now retired and can care for our children while I am at work, and Sunday School and Vacation Bible School to teach, sometimes have a grumpy attitude about what I all have to do for other people and don't have time for other things I'd like to do. Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles (including us, who have the benefit of his teaching through the Bible), calls himself the very least of all saints, and is thankful and humble about the gift of grace he's received and the revelation that was given to him, enabling him to preach to all of us the unfathomable riches of Christ. Read the passage again, out loud if you can, and listen to the language. I know it's kind of big run-on sentences, but can you hear how blessed Paul feels by the fact that he was saved? Can you hear how thrilled he is to be able to bring that message to all of us? Can you hear how excited he is that now all people, Gentiles and Jews alike, can be fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel? He's in prison, but he's still so enthusiastic about any and every opportunity he has to preach and spread the message of the Gospel.
#2 - What a God we serve. I don't know about any of you, but for me along this journey of Bible study one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is how undeserving I am of the great gifts and blessings God has bestowed upon me, how incredibly generous and forgiving our great God is to give all of us the opportunity to become pure and holy through the blood of Christ Jesus, and then not only that, but to bless us with so many other things in this life as well. Families, church families, friends, an incredibly beautiful and amazingly intricate planet to live on, intelligence, logic, creativity, and any number of other talents and abilities to use for His glory... the list goes on and on. How ungrateful am I, to begrudge the services that I can perform for others that He's put in front of me and given me the ability to do?
Paul knows that his imprisonment and everything else he's been through as been to further God's eternal purpose and His kingdom, and he is content in the knowledge that he has the hope of eternity to look forward to. Jesus said "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Lord Jesus, help us to remember that as we serve others, we serve You. May we keep the hope of eternity in mind, and thankfulness for Your mercy and grace and Your many blessings, as we go through whatever tribulations You have in store for us here on Earth, so that like Paul we can be content in all circumstances. Amen.