FINDING JOY IN TRIALS
7 APR 2020
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. Philippians 1:12
Have you ever faced a difficult situation in your life? Now this can range to you driving to work and you got a flat tire to you losing a loved one because of cancer. Now it should be very apparent to us that no one is immune from suffering. As long as you are living and breathing, you will face trials and tribulations. In fact, Jesus himself has made plain and simple that in this world you will face trials and tribulations. But as believers, we have a different perspective of the trials we face because trials can grow our faith in God only if we allow it to.
The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Philippians by introducing himself as a bondservant of Christ. The whole theme of the book of Philippians that Paul is establishing is the everlasting joy that we have in Christ. By this time, we understand that Paul is actually writing from his prison cell to the Christians in Philippians about his condition, not to complain but to encourage them through his situation. Now, it should not come to us as a surprise that Paul was not living in luxury as he was writing this letter. But though physically he may be suffering, spiritually he was rejoicing. But how do we have joy in the midst of the trials of this world?
A very well educated man with all the qualifications that one can have in the world is now being persecuted by both the Jews and the Gentiles for his betrayal and his “false teachings”. And all Paul had to say about it was, “It was for the advancement of the Gospel.” It was all about the perspective in which he viewed his situation. Notice Paul is very diligent and quick in bringing his disciples to a place to focus not on what is happening to him, but what is happening through him. I love this - because Paul did not give excuses even while he was in prison, he took initiative. Paul did not say, I’m too financially unstable to give to God, I’m too busy to serve God, I’m too young or too old to reach out to my family, I’m too shy to talk to that lonely boy or girl at lunch break. A lot of times, when we are going through sufferings in life, we soak ourselves in self-pity instead of relying on God. Paul shifted the perspective of the church to the God that is working through him rather than what is happening to him. Sometimes all we need is a different perspective of our situation. When you have the right perspective of your situation, you can be chained to pain, chained to sufferings, chained to the principalities of this world and yet still walk in that situation with a smile on your face knowing that you are there for a purpose. God’s purposes were still fulfilled even through setbacks. The gospel still advanced even through his chains. Paul turns the negative that people are trying to do against him as a positive worthy of rejoicing because the Gospel is being preached. The advancement of the gospel helps us put our trials and tribulation in the right perspective in light of the suffering that Jesus endured for us. If we forget that, we forget who we are and where we’ve come from.
When Paul encountered Jesus on the way to Damascus, he had a new purpose. God gave him a new purpose. When you encounter God, you are no longer your old self for you will be made new in Him. Therefore you will have a new purpose in God upon your encounter with Him. Paul’s new purpose since that day is not to persecute but to proclaim Jesus to everyone and everywhere he goes. But at the same time, Paul knew that God’s purpose was bigger than his own problems and when you know that it was God that positioned you in the trial, you don’t fear what people might do to you. You don’t fear what will happen to you because you know if God put you there, He will preserve you for His purpose. He allowed God’s purpose to live out through his pain, through his trial, through his situation and he postured and positioned himself for God’s purpose to live out through him. Many soldiers, no doubt, became Christians as a result, and their influence began to spread throughout their entire unit, to their families, and beyond. God did not give us a new life in Him only for us to go back to our old lives because where God’s purpose is at, God’s promise will be fulfilled through you. So if you are currently suffering right now in a place where God placed you, know that it is not one without a purpose. If you are currently having a hard time coping with the stress of that new job where God sent you into, know that it is not one without cause. God always has a workaround plan for every wicked plan of the enemy. God will always turn things around for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. It is the purpose of God in us that gives us joy. Paul found joy in the purposes of God through the proclamation of gospel. Joy is rooted in the purpose of the gospel and not in our personal circumstances.
A lot of times we view persevering as moving forward. But Paul gave us a different understanding of persevering where he is saying, I will remain. Persevering doesn’t always mean moving forward, sometimes it could also mean staying put and remaining. Moving forward is glamorous. Moving forward is exciting. Moving forward is thrilling. But sometimes, persevering has more to do with remaining than moving forward. Paul is convinced that he knows that remaining is the perseverance that he needs to continue doing what he is doing for their sake so that through him, Jesus is glorified. God gives us the faith to go, but gives us the grace to stay. Is God asking you to stay at a current job and not move because He has better plans for you? Is God asking you to stay and remain and not give up on your marriage because His ways are higher? It’s hard to stay put at a job that is so toxic, so suffocating, so lonely, even when I know that God is with me. But remember this, when you are at your lowest, God still remains at the highest. What is God asking you to persevere to remain in today? As Paul chooses to persevere by remaining in God’s purpose and destiny, his focus is that Christ must be magnified in him. Our whole perspective of life changes when we understand the purposes of God for us. Then your perseverance in life would make total sense. The big picture of Paul’s perseverance is not so much for himself, but for the spiritual well-being of others. His goal is that they will have ample cause to glory in Jesus because that is what life is all about! We persevere so that we can be a blessing to others. Let’s persevere in our trials so that God’s purposes are fulfilled through me.
Trials and tribulations may come in all shapes and sizes. We can experience joy when we commit ourselves to God by gaining God’s perspective, knowing His purposes for our lives and having perseverance to weather through what life throws at us. We have the assurance and confidence that God surely has a plan and a purpose for me. But it is up to me to have the right perspective to see it the way God sees and persevere to remain in His promise for me and experience His joy.
Let us experience joy by gaining the perspective of Heaven to see God’s big purpose and persevere through every situation of our lives.