For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 9

And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:14

On Good Friday, April 12, 1963, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was arrested and placed in a Birmingham Jail for his responsibility in leading a nonviolent campaign to protest racism and racial segregation. On this same day, a local newspaper published a statement written by 8 white clergyman against King and his tactics for bringing racial justice to the forefront of the American conscience. King Jr. celebrated Easter Sunday in prison and two days later penned his most prominent writing, the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Writing his response on the edges and margins of the very newspaper designed to destroy his influence, King’s treatise on the spiritual and moral obligation to stand against racism and injustice in all of its forms became the most influential document in the sphere of social justice of the past 100 years. Historian Douglas Brinkley writes, “As an eternal statement that resonates hope in the valleys of despair, “Letter From Birmingham City Jail” is unrivaled, an American document as distinctive as the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Although many lessons can be drawn from this historical illustration, there are two key ideas that relate directly to today’s Scripture:

  1. King’s imprisonment amplified (not discredited) the importance and urgency of his message.
  2. King’s imprisonment exposed fear and empowered courage among those held captive by the terror of their “worst case scenario.”

While some of Paul’s harsher critics were embarrassed by his chains of imprisonment, many more were inspired by them. Paul’s words carried far greater weight because his courage in suffering gave credibility and urgency to his message. Paul’s imprisonment had a unique influence on “most of the brothers” who made up the early church. Instead of stomping out their fervor, it ignited a greater fire for evangelism. Why? Because Paul, by going to prison, exposed their fear of a worst case scenario and stripped that fear of its power.

Many of us are paralyzed by what may be called nebulous catastrophization. That is a fuzzy fear of an unclear worst case scenario. This fear keeps us from living, loving and leading out of a place of conviction, courage and confidence. Paul’s example; being imprisoned for the proclamation of the Gospel, empowered the other believers because it exposed the impotence of their fears and revealed the potency of their faith. King’s experience and influence from the Birmingham Jail had a similar impact on those who were unsure about how far they were willing to go for the cause of racial justice.

By facing our fears and bringing them out of the darkness and into the light, we strip them of their power over us. Sin loses its grip and death loses its sting when we begin to believe that to “live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). In Christ, death is no longer our worst case scenario, but our eternal hope. Do not hide in the shadows, unhinged by the “what ifs” of fear and doubt. Name your fear, look it square in the eye and declare victory over your dread because the victory has already been secured. Whatever this world may throw at us, we are more than conquerors –

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4

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