Philippians 1:12-20 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. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul didn’t have to explain the beneficial effects of suffering to the Philippians like James did to his audience (James 1), or like Peter did to his (1 Peter 1). The Philippians had already embraced the reality that God, in his sovereignty, sometimes allows trouble to come into our lives – for our good and for his glory.
Paul didn’t have to explain to the Philippians that the advancement of the gospel was a higher priority than personal comfort. No, Paul knew that news of the spread of the gospel in the midst of trouble would be an incredible encouragement to the church. They would be able to see past the trouble and embrace the greater purpose. We could say, they had a mature theology of suffering.
In my experience, one of the greatest stumbling blocks to immature believers is their weak understanding of the purpose and the inevitability of trials. In my opinion, a Biblical understanding of the purpose of trials and suffering ought to be one of the first lessons a new believer learns. Why? Because with trials come strong temptations. Temptations to distrust God; temptations to doubt God’s love and care; temptations to escape from difficulties through illegitimate means, etc. Many a professing believer has seen his spiritual growth stunted because he failed to respond properly to trials.
This becomes even more damaging when we consider that others are watching on – both believers and unbelievers.
My hope and prayer are that when suffering comes into my life, I can share Paul’s attitude. Not only his attitude towards trials, but his attitude towards fellow believers. I know I’ll be tempted to become self-centered and to expect attention and sympathy. I know I’ll be tempted to scoff at the idea that I ought to serve others while I myself am suffering. I pray, by God’s grace, that I can instead show the tender, self-less care which was first modeled by Christ and later adopted by Paul.
The above is an excerpt from Pastor Rick’s study through the book of Philippians