“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus, Christ-to the glory and praise of God (1)
Trials are God’s tools to chisel away pride and selfishness, so we may learn to serve others more effectively. What other means could distribute the gospel more than the inward removal of selfish desires which mature our faith? The apostle Paul challenges us to think more about suffering that will brings glory to God – the mission, that of ministering to people.
Here are three fundamental principles that resonate with me on how Paul serves people for God’s glory.
1. People matter! Although Paul was living in the tensions of life, shut up in prison, it did not stop him from dispersing God’s word. Whether in the Church or inside prison walls his ultimate concerns were for people and their eternal destination. Paul sent a letter to the church telling them his suffering had advantages. “…that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel…” (2) To those in prison he showed himself qualified, being bound in chains 24/7 while under four guards. Life wasn’t easy or comfortable but he had a captive audience, for the inmates had no where else to go. The apostle position himself in a way to fulfill his life’s purpose…solely to love and spiritually feed people. This is what we are to do – we are to use our trials as a means to share the gospel, we have opportunity to encourage and care for the welfare of people, and we can be a light in a darken world.
Why was Paul joyful when he was in a cold dirty prison?
2. Prison was the best place Paul could be in – for he was in God’s perfect will. Resting in God’s will was more important than the immediate circumstance. Furthermore, His relationship with God abounded in love that overflowed with joy. That fullness of joy was greater than the shackles that held him bound in prison. Therefore, he was propelled forward to do God’s work with passion. Paul found additional satisfaction of knowing the Philippians were growing stronger in their walk with Christ and that they joined with him in the work. It accumulated into more thankfulness for the apostle. “I thank my God every time I remember you in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel…” (3) Our trials are suitable source to find joy in God’s work.
3. Paul emulated faith and suffering. Both believing and suffering bring glory to God. Faith unto salvation exalts God. And the distinguishing mark of a Christian’s life is the experiences we share in conflicts, pain and the struggles of this life. God is glorified in these! The Scriptures affirm, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (4)
Perhaps your adversity is increased and you have nothing to give out. Then this is the season for you to be ministered to by others until you are strengthened. Use this time to heal and recover. Others can lift them up serving from a heart of thanksgiving which produces effects of well-being which ultimately brings glory to God.
Consider with me the holiday season ahead and the opportunities we may have to serve. With Christmas around the corner, will we minister to and share the Gospel of hope to those around us?
Will you live for Christ?
Lord, help me to learn how to use my trials to serve others. Teach me to be willing and ready to give preference to another. Replace my selfishness with selflessness, I surrender to You. Amen
1. Philippians 1:9-11a
2. Philippians 1:12a
3. Philippians 1:3
4. Philippians 1:30
All Scripture is taken from the niv