Philippians 1:12–14 (ESV)
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
In our third week exploring biblical joy, Pastor Chris delves into suffering. He explains that the key to enduring it is understanding how we find godly purpose in suffering.
“What is the purpose of suffering?” Chris points to the Apostle Paul’s admission that he has endured great suffering:
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” Philippians 1:12 (ESV)
So, what happened to Paul?
“24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; ….in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” 2 Corinthians 11:23–28 (ESV)
This passage describes what Paul suffered. Pastor Chris showed us that the bible teaches about Four Sources of Suffering: 1) Self-inflicted, 2) Others’ sin, 3) Spiritual oppression, 4) Common brokenness. Knowing the source of suffering is important as far as it allows us to discover the purpose of our suffering and how we react.
What was Paul’s reaction to the suffering he experienced?
“7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (ESV)
Paul passed the test. He found contentment in the midst of suffering. It’s been often said, “There’s no testimony, without a ‘test.’” Here’s a truth about God testing His children: God tests—to prove and increase our faith. Conversely, Satan tempts—trying to undermine our faith.
Four Truths of God’s Tests in Suffering
- God is good and merciful – Exodus 34:6–7
- God knows what is best for us – Romans 8:28, James 1:2
- God will allow tests to prove and increase our faith – Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4
- Trials come for the advancement of the gospel – Genesis 50:20
God is not grumpy when allowing trials. He is full of Love, demonstrating His care by giving us a positive test that proves the authenticity of our faith. With this in mind, the Apostle Peter exhorts us to grow strong in our faith:
Four Keys to Live in Suffering – 1 Peter 5:6-14
- Humble yourself before God (5:6-7)
- Resist the devil (5:8-9)
- Trust in the Lord (5:10-11)
- Stand firm with other saints in God’s true grace (5:12-14)
Joseph’s life, from Genesis 39-47, is an eye-opening example of great suffering that displayed God’s grand purpose.
Why Did God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Joseph?
- To enable him to overcome a prideful attitude and learn humility (Proverbs 15:33).
- To teach him how to serve (Genesis 39:4, 22-23, 40:4; Matthew 20:26-28; Mark 9:33-35).
- To train him to be faithful (Genesis 39:2-6; Matthew 25:21).
- To test him in moral purity (Genesis 39:7-20; Matthew 5:11-12).
- To prepare him to comfort others (Genesis 50:21; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
- To prepare him to lead his brothers to repentance (Proverbs 16:6).
- To teach him patience (Genesis 40:1-14, 23; 1 Peter 5:10).
- To enable him to see God accomplish His purposes and fulfill His promises (Genesis 37:5-11, 41:32, 42:1-5, 45:4-7, 50:20).
- To teach him how jealousy can cause suffering (Genesis 37:3-4; 17-36).
- To save many lives (Genesis 50:20).
- To let him experience the blessing of God’s favor (Genesis 39:2-6, 21-23).
- To place him in a position to tell Pharaoh of God’s power (Genesis 41:15-16, 25, 28, 32-33).
In the end, God’s overall purpose in the suffering of His saints is the advancement of the Gospel. Being an example of the Good News of Jesus’ saving power reveals the sincerity of our faith.
- When you think about different kinds of suffering, what comes to mind?
- How might understanding the types of suffering help believers react differently?
- In light of the examples of Paul and Joseph, what do you suppose our prayers should sound like when we are suffering?
- How can we find joy in trials, as James 1:2-4 instructs?
What does that joy look like when properly lived out?
- Ask the Lord, “Has my suffering has become my identity?”
- If so, ask, “How can I replace it with my true identity in Christ Jesus?”
- Consider whether your suffering has been purposeful, or purposeless?
- Commit to the Lord to respond to suffering according to 1 Peter 5:6-14.