Why Suffering Helps
By Jeff Cranston
One of the surest measures of our spiritual maturity as Christ-followers is what it takes to rob us of our joy. Read Philippians 1:12-18. Paul, the writer of Philippians, was sitting in a Roman prison, chained to a guard. The things that happened to Paul—a great missionary, apostle and church planter—were very different than what he had planned. He was learning, as we must learn, that God often doesn’t operate on our time schedule and doesn’t usually accomplish things according to our plans. God does things we would never expect. I’m sure many of you can testify to that.
From Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we learn these truths:
Our response to difficult circumstances can be used by God to further the gospel!
We all will face harsh circumstances because we live in a broken world. Paul, however, directs us to what our response to hardship could and should be and why.
Put yourself in the shoes of our brothers and sisters in Philippi. The man who planted and began their church and who introduced them to Jesus Christ has now been arrested and will face Caesar. The Philippian Christians are no doubt scared—their champion is in jail. And then a letter arrives from Paul! In the letter he reminds them that Christ is still King—and Caesar is not—and what is happening to him is making that known! Paul’s greatest concern is the advancement of the gospel in the face of great hostility and horrible circumstances.
In the midst of difficult circumstances and suffering, we must rejoice and see these things as opportunities for the gospel!
How do you respond to difficult circumstances? Positively or negatively? Paul saw difficult circumstances as new opportunities for the gospel. Do you and I as well? Or are they more of an opportunity for us to complain and doubt God?
Paul actually is rejoicing that, at great expense to himself, others get to hear the gospel. He’s preaching a sermon with his life. So, the question is, in the midst of good or bad circumstances, what kind of sermon are you preaching? Am I preaching? The glories of Christ? The overcoming power of the Holy Spirit? Or a false sermon of whining and complaining that lets the people around us know we don’t really think God is in control or good to us?
Our response to difficult circumstances can be used by God to embolden other Christians to speak!
When the Christians in Rome, where Paul was imprisoned, saw his boldness even with his life in danger, his example inspired them to be more courageous as well. In Philippians 1:14, he writes, they had far more courage to speak, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. They were speaking out! Your attitude in your rough circumstances can spur others on!
Do you see your circumstances as opportunities? God will use your tough circumstances—your tough job, your tough disease, your tough relationship, your tough financial situation—for the furtherance of the gospel.
What are you waiting on? Bloom where you are planted. Even if you’re in a Roman prison you can share the Good News of Christ and in the end discover that that was your mission field all along.
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor at LowCountry Community Church, Bluffton, S.C.