Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians when he was in prison. He was confined, guarded constantly by soldiers and faced the very real possibility of being put to death for his faith.
He was in dire circumstances.
Yet, his tone in Philippians 1:12-30 shows a man who isn’t living out of fear or worry; instead, he’s focused on the impact of his suffering.
In this passage, Paul acknowledges the benefits of his imprisonment:
- It advanced the gospel (v. 12)
- All the guards tasked to watch over Paul now knew of Christ (v. 13)
- Other believers were emboldened to share the gospel more frequently (v. 14)
- He personally would be able to honor Christ (v. 20)
- He would be able to suffer for Christ (v. 29)
Suffering is often viewed as an avoid-at-all-costs life experience. But Paul places a different framework around it. He demonstrates how suffering can have positive impacts not only on others but for us as individuals.
Suffering tests us. It grows our faith by forcing us to come face-to-face with the question: Do I really trust God?
This question has been at the core of a difficult season I’ve walked through recently. God didn’t do what I thought He should do nor what I wanted Him to do. My plans and expectations came to a crumbling halt when I was faced with the question: Do I really trust God?
These moments of pain and uncertainty uncover whether or not our faith is true.
Paul’s sentiments align directly with what James said in his letter, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4
Friends, seasons of suffering shift our perspective to the eternal. They remind us that we are not of this world and there is a greater world to come when we live with Jesus in glory forever.
But in the meantime, you have the opportunity to draw nearer to the God who loves you with an incomprehensible love. He longs to shelter you from your storm and be the immovable rock you cling to when circumstances shake you.
The Bible shares the promise of hope that we can take hold of when we walk through trials. It teaches us about who God is and how He alone can sustain us in the midst of heartache.
Friend, when you hold fast to Jesus in the midst of your suffering, this is when you grow and mature in the faith. You gain wisdom you never had before, you learn more about the truths in Scripture and you can pour into others with the hope Jesus poured into you.
Suffering refines us. Your turmoil is never in vain if you are seeking the Lord in the midst of it.
And when you come out on the other side of suffering, it’s only then that you will proclaim His faithfulness, His goodness and His sovereignty with greater assurance and confidence than you ever could before.