Suffering and Gospel Advance

Suffering and Gospel Advance

In our series through Philippians, we saw Paul follow his prayer for the church at Philippi with these words, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” 

2 Corinthians 11:25-28 gives us a glimpse of some of the things that have happened to him since his conversion:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, 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; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

And you thought you had a bad day …

When Paul says “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel”, he is expressing incredible faith in the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty promises us, even in the midst of extreme hardship, loss, and pain, that God Himself will take the seemingly broken parts of our life’s story and bring about our good and His glory.

It’s easy to say those words, but hard to live them. 

When Christians joyfully endure hardships in faith that God is working in spite of our sinful, broken world, it doesn’t just comfort us – it actually portrays the Gospel to a hurting, suffering, and angry world. Although we don’t always get to see the seeds of the Gospel that are planted as a result of our joyful suffering, we can rest in God’s promise that it brings glory to Him, and that it ministers to our fellow believers by empowering them to be bold in sharing the Gospel.

When Christians joyfully endure hardships in faith that God is working in spite of our sinful, broken world, it doesn’t just comfort us – it actually portrays the Gospel to a hurting, suffering, and angry world. Click To Tweet

All of this gives great hope and purpose to us! Many times when we are suffering, we feel useless and like a burden to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not be able to serve the body like we want to, or we may need more encouragement and counsel than we are able to give. Paul ended up spending five years in prison – undoubtedly he struggled with wanting to be out sharing the Gospel and ministering to the church instead of writing to them and speaking to hostile Roman guards. But God promises that by joyfully enduring whatever suffering has been allowed into our life, every moment-by-moment decision of faith in the sovereignty of God, rejoicing instead of complaining, and prayer instead of worry is of utmost importance to the Church and for the Gospel.

Every elderly parent or young child cared for, every death mourned, every harsh spouse loved, every exacting boss served, every doctor’s appointment attended, and every sleepless night endured because of physical brokenness becomes a chance for our faith and joy to grow and the glory of the Gospel to shine forth. 

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”, by William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform:
He planted His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mine of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take: the clouds that ye so dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

Listen to the sermon, “Rejoicing in Your Circumstances”

 

[Feature image by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash]