“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12
Suffering is often an unannounced and unwelcomed guest that sweeps into our lives. On this occasion of Paul’s imprisonment, we get a glimpse into the life of a person who is following hard after Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, Paul didn’t consider his suffering his own, but recognized it as a part of God’s greater purpose to reveal his glory, which is the greatest blessing he could bestow on his people. This oriented Paul’s eyes toward opportunities that God would lay at his feet in each difficult circumstance so that the mission of the Christ’s gospel would be advanced.
It is the immaturity in us that leads to an agenda no higher than immediate relief from pain. When we refuse to consider how our own suffering could be a part of God’s greater plan for his glory, we treat it as a nuisance to endure or a predicament to resolve. I’m not arguing for a life of asceticism or rough treatment of the body. Rather, we should consider these times of personal suffering as doorways of opportunity for the expression of God’s good and sovereign plan to manifest his glory to those who witness us in these circumstances. It was in the face of great personal suffering that Jesus refused to respond to those who challenged him to end his agony by coming down from the cross. His choice reflected his deep desire for all people to see his Father’s great love for them by suffering and dying in their place.
Ask the Holy Spirit to give you grace to see how, in your circumstance of suffering, you might advance the mission of Jesus’ gospel.
Alex Ghioni is the lead pastor of Mars Hill Sammamish.