Everyone wants to feel special. The world knows this, and businesses capitalize on it. They offer us different levels of “specialness” for doing business with them. Hotels, airlines and other services tout gold, silver and bronze levels for its participating members. The more you patronize their service, the higher level you achieve in their membership, with all sorts of discounts and rewards. They make you feel special for choosing their business.
Paul introduced the Philippians to a type of favor that God offers his people: “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart” (Philippians 1:6-7, NLT).
You might say, “Sign me up! I want the best of everything God has for me.” Yet the Lord’s favor is a lot different from the world’s, as Paul points out: “You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News” (1:7).
Paul was sent to jail — shackled and silenced. How does that make sense? He had preached to thousands and seen crowds fall to their knees crying out for salvation. He had appeared before kings and judges and received a personal revelation of Jesus. That’s what favor sounds like. So how does descending from all that to a prison cell become special favor?
Well, what Paul describes here has to be translated through a spiritual heart. He is showing us that God is likely to bring us into unlikely places when he wants to accomplish a special kingdom work in our lives.
People’s hurts are real and when their trials get worse instead of better, it can be very confusing. But God is always with his children, walking beside each one. He doesn’t look to take things away from us; he looks for ways to bless us. He is out for our good, even to restore what’s been taken away.