Sometimes, we just need to get a different perspective on things. St. Paul was chained like an animal, shackled to a Roman guard who likely as not, didn't appreciate having to be shackled to someone he considered less than human. If you weren't Roman, you were a barbarian, the very word derived from what Romans heard in the babbling of foreign tongues-'bar-bar-bar,' somewhat akin to Seinfeld's 'yada, yada, yada.'
Some of his time was undoubtedly spent in a dungeon such as he occupied in Philippi, a dark, dank, stinking hole into which were thrown society's refuse to literally rot. Other times, he was under house arrest, a bit more comfortable, where he was able to receive friends and write. But he was still a prisoner, subject to the whim of the soldier to which he was chained and to Rome itself. Such was his lot as he wrote to the Ephesian Christians.
He introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, someone sent by God himself to give them the Good News of Christ. As such, he tells them of what God has done for us in Christ, forgiving us, raising us from the death of our sins to life in him.
But in the third chapter, he identifies himself differently; Rome held him in one of its jails, claiming him as their prisoner, but Paul sees things differently. He is not a prisoner of Rome, but of Jesus Christ. Rome did not hold ultimate power over him; Jesus Christ did. His external circumstances did not define him. Jesus Christ told him who he was. Nor was he limited by his circumstances. He saw himself as the herald of something completely new: God's bringing together two groups of people, both of whom believed themselves superior to the other, and using this to demonstrate to the powers that be the greatness and glory of God's love in Jesus Christ.
So often when we pray, we bring to God a laundry list of illnesses and issues without considering what God may be up to. We beg and plead for God to rescue us, to change our circumstances, not seeing how God intends to use our trials as a testimony to the world. It all hinges on our seeing ourselves not as prisoners of our circumstances, but of Jesus Christ. When we know who we are in Christ, our circumstances are transformed from prison to praise.
Tonight I am thankful for our men's group, and for the Scriptures that shed light on life, transforming even the worst of situations into grace and glory.