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The Blessing of Trials – Week 31 / August 10th
“We must through many tribulations enter the
Kingdom of God.”
Paul’s Philippian letter is important because it constitutes what we call a “Prison Epistle”; meaning that he wrote it while being held in a Roman jail which was not a very blessed experience! It is remarkable because it is also called the “Joyful Epistle” because it overflows with his joy and his call to the people of God to be joyful. So, we can definitely learn a few things from it and Paul gives us some good instruction about the blessing of trials in the first chapter of the epistle. We should note the following:
1. Our trials and challenges should have no impact upon our feeling of well being and joy.
This is so because the nature of our spiritual life is not regulated by outward factors or circumstances. We can be joyful in difficult times and Paul lived this out from a Roman jail!
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
always in every prayer of mine making request for
you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel
from the first day until now.” V3-5
Let us also remember the prophet Habakkuk. (3:17-19) He faced an invasion of the Babylonians that brought death and destruction to his nation and yet he found that God could keep him by faith and that he would ascend great spiritual heights like a deer in the wilderness.
2. Our trials serve the plan of God for our lives.
“But I want you to know brethren, that the things which
happened to me have actually turned out for the
furtherance of the gospel.” V12
Paul found that his trials were contributing to the purpose of God flowing through his life. He didn’t have to understand everything but he did have to trust God. We must do the same.
3. Our trials enable us to reach people who would otherwise not be reached.
That is, our behavior in trials becomes a sermon with much power!
“…so that it has become evident to the whole palace
guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in
The Palace Guard were seasoned soldiers who had no time for suspected traitors like Paul and so there was a real love hate relationship between the guards and the average prisoner. Paul was different and reached them with the love of Christ. Consequently many of them, by virtue of his behavior, became followers of Jesus. This impacted Caesar’s household, which was the plan of God from the beginning.
4. Our trials become a catalyst to encourage others to be bold in their service of Christ.
That is, when they observe God’s faithfulness to us and deliverance in trials, they are prepared to stand up and be counted. In this way we “complete the sufferings of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24)
“…and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become
confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak
the word without fear.” V14
A living example of one man’s relationship with God under pressure is worth more than a thousand sermons. God was seen to be faithful to Paul and thus he would be faithful to the brethren outside of jail and so they became fearless preachers of the faith.
5. Our trials become God’s tool by which to conform us more fully to Christ’s image.
“…according to my earnest expectation and hope
that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all
boldness, as always, so now Christ will be magnified
in my body, whether by life or death.” V20
Our trials always have an end and happy is the person who has allowed them to accomplish their holy work. Nothing removes the fault-lines in our characters like a good “dose” of trials! James expresses this truth when he writes:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But
let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking nothing.”