3 Reasons Why We Can Rejoice in Suffering

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One of the biggest distortions of Christianity in the past century has been that if we serve God, then He should keep us from experiencing tribulation.

There are those whose faith has been shipwrecked the moment they got a cancer diagnosis or had a child born with a disability; because they were somehow led to believe that serving God exempted them from trouble and tribulation.

The sad part is, that they must have never fully read the Bible.

woman in a field standing with arms stretched and eyes closed

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that by serving God we are placed in a protective bubble from this world’s troubles. In fact, Jesus promised that “in this world you will have tribulation…” John 16:33.

Joy in living the Christian life doesn’t come from a life free from tribulation, but the grace and strength to walk through tribulation with a spirit of joy and reliant faith knowing that God is with you, that it will not overcome you, and that you will come out on the other side victorious.

As we discovered in the introduction, Paul was persecuted for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He spent time in prison in Philippi, but not only that. While writing this letter to the Philippian church, he was once again in prison.

This time, he was in a Roman prison where he was on a 24-hour watch. 24 hours a day he was chained to a Roman guard in a dank, dirty, dark cell. If we were to list all the ways Paul had served and suffered for Christ; all the countless hours he spent studying the Bible, we’d be convinced that if anyone should be exempt from trouble it should be Paul!

Reasons Why We Can Rejoice in Suffering

And yet, all his service and hours spent studying God’s Word only further convinced him that not only should he not be saved from suffering, but that suffering was an honor.

1. Suffering Gives Us New Opportunities to Share the Gospel

“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have someone chained to you 24/7. When he ate, when he slept, when he used the bathroom; he was never alone even for one second. But rather than allowing this to be an annoyance to him, he saw it as a new opportunity to share the gospel.

He had a captive audience. Literally. His audience was ordered to be chained to him and was not allowed to leave. So, one by one, he shared the gospel with each guard until, as the Word says, “the whole palace guard” had heard about Christ.

Perhaps these were men who would never have heard the gospel otherwise; but because of Paul’s suffering, the seed of the gospel was planted in their heart.

There are times when God will allow suffering in our lives to open doors to share the gospel that we might not otherwise have; and to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who might not otherwise have an opportunity hear the gospel.

Recognizing this opportunity that we might not otherwise have requires seeing our suffering in a whole new way; choosing to look at it as an opportunity, not a setback. And it is a choice. When we make the choice to reject the temptation to engage in bitterness and self-pity and embrace God’s grace to view our suffering as an opportunity to spread the gospel to a whole new captive audience, we will find new wells of joy we never knew existed.

2. God Is Magnified Through Our Suffering

“For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21

There are those who view suffering as a psychopathic God inflicting torture on his followers for sick pleasure. Or at the very least, a disinterested God who has no clue what’s happening to people here on earth.

Neither of these are true; in fact, they are gross distortions of God by Satan to embitter God’s people against Him and cause them to turn their back on the truth because he knows the truth will only cause the kingdom of Heaven to advance even more on earth.

 There is nothing more beautiful, more amazing and wonderful, than to see a child of God walking through suffering with a meek spirit and a heart at perfect peace. Have you ever sat by the bed of someone who has been diagnosed with end-stage cancer, whose body is wracked with excruciating pain, and you know that it is only a matter of minutes before they are dancing at the throne of Jesus; and instead of hurling insults and accusations at God, they spend those painful hours in prayer and meditation on God’s Word?

I have, and I can tell you that I have never felt Heaven nearer and the presence of God so strong as I have in that room, holding that frail hand, feeling the drips of body fluid from their bedsores fall on my lap and my own tears slide down my cheek realizing that I was on holy ground. I was witnessing a most holy moment.

I remember standing by the bedside of a man with terminal lung cancer, there was no chance of survival and his mother stood weeping, holding his hand while he – the one dying – comforted her with the greatest joy on his face saying, “Mama, don’t cry for me. I am not afraid!” And truly he wasn’t.

The road that lay ahead for him was horrific. The pain he would experience, that no amount of morphine could even begin to touch, was unimaginable. In his final moments, every breath he took kept him in delirium between the excruciating pain and the pointless drugs he was given, that did nothing for him, and yet, he spent his last moments crying out to God until he passed from this life into glory.

All who shared a room with him, all the staff in the hospital, and as Paul said in Philippians 1:13 “and all the rest” knew that Mladen’s chains were in Christ. He was suffering, but his suffering wasn’t his captivity. Christ was his captivity, and what a glorious captivity it was! And He was truly glorified through Mladen’s suffering!

3. We Are Invited to Fellowship in Christ’s Suffering

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29

The first part of this verse almost reads like an advertisement. “You have been given the opportunity of a lifetime on behalf of Jesus Christ!”

And truly we have.

This opportunity of a lifetime is the opportunity to suffer for Christ!

And this is the part where we hear the record scratch!

Wait! Rewind! What? What kind of a so-called opportunity is that??

Paul understood something that is very foreign to our western way of thinking. We’ve grown up in the greatest wealth and prosperity in human history. Medical advancements have allowed us to live longer and healthier than ever before.

We have enjoyed religious freedom for hundreds of years, without any meaningful persecution – what we would term persecution would make the apostles roll their eyes. They knew persecution: Being torn in two alive, being tarred and set on fire as a human torch….while still alive. Being crucified, being torn to shreds by wild animals for sport.

We have never come close to experiencing any of this; and yet this was an everyday reality in Paul’s day; and he called it an opportunity. They had been granted this opportunity on behalf of Christ.

It was considered an opportunity because they understood Jesus’ words. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:18-21

If Jesus is our Master, and our Master suffered, should we live above our own Master?

Our suffering is an invitation fellowship with Christ in this very special way; whether it’s through genuine persecution or through other suffering.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Recognizing that our suffering is an opportunity to fellowship with Christ gives our suffering greater purpose and strengthens our spirit, our faith, and our joy as we walk through it; remembering God’s precious promises that in walking through the flood and the flame that it will not overcome us. Rather, we will overcome!

Reasons Why We Can Rejoice in Suffering

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