A dear family friend is being held captive in the Philippines, in jail on very serious, trumped-up charges with no end in sight for his release.
I thought of him this morning as I read Philippians–which came alive to me in a new way. Funny how circumstances can shine light on something you’ve read many times, and transform it.
St. Paul was imprisoned for the gospel, as is our missionary friend Tom Randall. Tom is sick, as well as being in jail, and the anxiety I’m sure is great. But somehow his outlook is the same as Paul’s. Hear what the apostle says in chapter 1:19ff–
“Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
How can he say that? “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Tom’s wife writes this on his behalf: “The Lord is actually blessing his time in detention with so many who are eager to learn more about The Lord. One new man always asks to borrow Tom’s glasses and Bible so he can read exactly what Tom is reading, too. Tom has been able to share a little with some and much more with others. This gives some purpose to this crazy place we find ourselves.”
The Philippines are not so far away, in today’s small world. It seems unimaginable here in America to be imprisoned for one’s faith. But things are changing, and who knows how long we’ll have the freedom to practice our religion openly? I was struck by Paul’s concern: not for his own release, but that those who were free would “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:12-13). It’s worth spending some time meditating on what he says next:
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
Today I am free. How will I use my freedom? Will I shine as a light in the world?
Rejoice! Paul says. Even though I’m in prison. Rejoice always!
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7).
Please pray for Tom Randall. Think of him as you go about your day, and rejoice that the Lord works everything for good.
PS (added Feb 2): Thank you for your prayers! Tom has been freed, and all charges dropped. Still praying for truth and that God will work good in that situation.