This is a great piece of text in that Paul is once again, through his life, not only proclaiming the Gospel, but also the usefulness of it. Here we have a man who is imprisoned for preaching the Good News of Jesus, yet, not only is he not downtrodden about his circumstances and lamenting all that he can't do as a result of his confinement, he is rejoicing in what God is doing as a result. How great a lesson is that? Not the plastic "I have faith and it's going to be ok. I'll just ignore the fact that my house burned down." kind of denial of reality, but real, honest to goodness "Yep, my house burned down, but look at the relationships I have built with my neighbors and as a result, Christ is evident even in these circumstances." The message here is, no affliction is too great that God can't or won't use it to further His Kingdom. Remember Joseph in Gen 50:19? God never promises that things will all be ok, in fact, just the opposite is true-check out the last verse. It is how we respond to those times of difficulty that matter.
In Phil 1:13 Paul talks about how "it" has spread through the whole palace guard and "all the rest". What is "it"? "It" is Paul's imprisonment and his attitude about it. If someone is having a rough time and whining about it, do you spend a lot of time with them? Do you want to? But if someone is going through a difficult time, and yet sees the end, and believes that strength beyond their measure, and purposes beyond their understanding are being worked out, now how do you feel about them? Do you want to know where they are getting that from?
Paul's focus was always on the Gospel. He believed that in a life yielded to the furtherance of the Gospel, nothing would be in vain. Not even manual labor. Paul's focus on the Gospel, was so intent that even those who ridiculed him, he counted as gain for the kingdom. There were those who preached not out of love for Christ and the Gospel itself, but out of jealousy and strife. Jealous of the attention and influence Paul had. True, they missed the boat looking to the man instead of the Man, but still, even though they were hoping to make things worse for Paul, he counted them on his team, just as those who preached the Gospel out of goodwill.
How many times in our own life are we looking at our chains, thinking only that if we were free of them "then I could do something of value"? How often do we look at the evil, envy and strife others place in our path-or maybe we place in theirs-and miss the big picture? When we are in the midst of trials and tribulations, should we ask God not to make it go away, but show us how we can further His message and display faith in Him in the midst of it? What are the odds we can learn to look outside ourselves and our circumstances, and trust God and His plan?