The book of Job in the Old Testament presents the story of a man who, despite his righteousness, is subjected to immense suffering. Job’s friends, in their misguided attempts to provide comfort, suggest that his misfortune must be due to some hidden sin. Job, in defiance, is confident that God will ultimately vindicate him, that his trials will lead to deliverance.
This ancient narrative finds a parallel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul draws on Job’s language of deliverance when he writes in 1:18-20 about the joy and confidence he derives from the support of the church and their prayers in the Spirit of Christ.
Paul’s hope for deliverance is twofold: liberation from those who preach Christ with false motives and possible physical release from his imprisonment. Regardless of the specific form his deliverance might take, he is assured of his ultimate vindication.
And so Paul is hopeful.
His attitude hasn’t been dampened because of the circumstances he finds himself in. Rather, he is aware of what has ultimate value.
He is not ashamed of being in chains, of being in prison. He is not ashamed of the sufferings and gossip of others. In fact, he expects to be given courage to face these challenges through Christ. Whether he is alive in body or not. Whatever situation he finds himself in he wishes to exalt Christ, to honour Christ, and in so doing the gospel will advance.
It is an incredible conviction to have, an incredible attitude to have.
How often might we find ourselves in hardship?
There is tremendous hardship in our world. We read about it every week. We see images of it that scar our minds. We don’t have to live long to experience it ourselves or know of others who experience trauma, grief, sadness, loneliness, brokenness, and other sufferings . We are after all sinners, saints, and sufferers.
And to be quite frank, everyone has a story.
Everyone is going through something.
Some things may cause our hearts to strain, to question the faithfulness of God, or bring to mind doubts in God’s goodness.
And often there are no easy answers to those questions and doubts.
We may be left in a place of not knowing, others times we are left to the mystery of providence.
In Philippians we see that despite the circumstances Paul the message of Christ still advances.
Christ is still exalted through such circumstances.
And for this he rejoices, he rejoices in Christ.
I wonder if we’ve ever thought that in amongst carrying that pain, brokenness, and heartache within that there is the opportunity to advance the gospel in there somewhere?
Can our pain be used in God’s power to proclaim Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that the loss of my job has really served to advance the message of Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that the cancer or chronic health issue has actually served to advance Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that our miscarriage has actually served to advance Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that my wrestle with singleness has actually served to advance Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that the car accident has actually served to advance Christ?
Would we be able to say, that what I really want you to know brothers and sisters is that the passing of a loved one has actually served to advance Christ?
I just wonder. I just wonder that in the hardship of life we not only are able to find the comfort of Christ for our grief and lament, but that we also find Christ will be exalted and the gospel advancing.
And so I wonder, despite it all, whether we can rejoice in Christ?
This post is part of an ongoing series where we dive into the themes, messages, and lessons found throughout the book of Philippians. For earlier posts please see: