Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)
Read: Philippians 1:1-26
Consider: Suffering stirs up many emotions in people, not just when they see others suffering, but also when they are suffering themselves. Not all of these emotions are positive. Some can be quite destructive, with the person feeling a sense of injustice and even causing them to doubt God. However to the question ‘Why me?’, the answer should always be ‘Why not!’. Life can be very random at times and we will all face times when things are difficult. It is not that these things happen to us that characterises our spirituality, it is how we respond to them.
In Philippians 1 Paul talks about having suffered and what he learned through it, the effect this had on his jailers and how it affected the wider Christian community.
No-one wants to suffer. We would all rather have an easy life, but sometimes suffering can lead to a particular time of blessing that an easy life might not reveal. In Paul’s case he came to see that his being imprisoned actually had an unexpected effect. This was that through his unpleasant circumstances, the gospel actually advanced. This was apparent in two ways:
- The palace guards and others could see that he was imprisoned because of his testimony for Christ (Philippians 1:13);
- Other church members had increased confidence and boldness in sharing the gospel (1:14).
The results of suffering do not always have to be negative. Particularly for the Christian, they should seek what God is wanting to achieve through the situation, or what does he want them to learn from it. Knowing that God is ultimately in control, can give a Christian confidence that God can bring good out of what the world sees as bad. We have to be honest and admit that this is particularly difficult to do at the time, but is much easier in hindsight. So don’t think that all suffering is meaningless. Ask God to give you insight, so that you can see beyond the obvious and come to understand how he can bring good out if it.
Pray: Father, help us to look beyond our circumstances to see what you are trying to achieve when we are suffering. Most of all Lord, may you be glorified through it and may the gospel be advanced. Amen
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