Songs from the Prison Cell

Meditations in Philippians 1 by Pastor David McFarland

Song 1.  The Prisoner

These were originally written for my friends in Moira Baptist church in the first few months of my illness

I would like to share with you some of the sunbeams that have shone in through the bars of my cell in recent days. I pray they may bring some brightness in your situation, for I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. 1:6 NIV

Paul was under house arrest and almost certainly permanently chained between two soldiers. The man who once was free to roam the world preaching the gospel and ministering to the saints, was now restricted to a cell. In some measure I too am a prisoner…..

  • in a body that no longer functions as it should. The last time I was in church we sang “I do not know how many days of life are mine to spend”. I realise now how glibly I had sung such words before but with a new confidence I sing, “I know who holds the future ………”
  • in a situation that is not of my choosing. It would be easy to shake the bars on the cell window and ask “Why?” But Paul was convinced that whatever his circumstances, Christ would be magnified and the Gospel would be advanced. 1:20 & 12. Paul was behind bars but still very much “a servant of Jesus Christ”.1:1. Only his place of service was changed – not his role as a servant.
  • with no control over the future. Paul had no absolute guarantee of release and return to Philippi. He even found it difficult to decide what he would prefer to do if he had the choice. We spend our lives making choices but have to say before the Lord “whatever happens…” 1:27 NIV
  • but a prisoner of Jesus Christ. “my chains are in Christ” 1:13 NKJV He has chained me up for a purpose – to advance the Gospel. 1:12. I am not chained to weakness but to Him. It is a chain of love; I am never alone; I will never be left. I await whatever deliverance He has for me. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” 1:19 NKJV. and whatever purpose He has for you, my dear friends.

Be sure to read Phil. 1:27-30.


Song 2 .  Inside and outside


Paul was a prisoner and Timothy was free but both were the Lord’s servants.

  • We want to be nothing more than servants of Jesus Christ. “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ.” (1:1).

The highest calling of all is to serve Jesus, wherever He places us. Paul, the great Apostle gave himself the same “title” as young Timothy. Even as a prisoner, did not see himself as any less a servant than Timothy who was free to preach the Gospel in public. Whatever our circumstances or calling, remember we are in the place that God has decreed for us to serve our Saviour.

  • We are nothing less than saints in Jesus Christ.  “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” (1:1).

Paul does not put Himself on a pedestal and say, “I am a saint” or say that only Timothy or the overseers and deacons are saints. A church is a gathering of saints; every Christian is a saint. Christians are those who have Christ at the heart and core of their lives, whatever their circumstances. It is often true that when we are in “prison” we have Christ more at the centre than when we are “free”. This must not be. He must always be at the centre.

As saints, we are set apart or separated by God. We are “holy ones” for everything God uses is holy. Wherever we are – in prison or free, in church leadership or a new believer – we must separate ourselves from all that would dishonour Him who has set us apart. In every circumstance – pleasant or difficult- your faith and mine must always be clearly displayed; we must be people the Light shines through!

  • Nothing is more glorious than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”(1:2)

Paul could have succumbed to frustration and depression. How could such a man, so mightily used by God around the world, accept the prison cell? He bathed daily in the ocean of God’s grace; that amazing grace that chose him, saved him, kept him and assured him. Only when we know God’s grace, can we have His peace and serve Him, whatever our circumstances – inside or outside.