We all face them – challenges, struggles, hardships, difficult times. It is a part of our lives on this earth and the result of a fallen and broken world. At times, they are the result of our own choices or actions, and at other times, they are no fault of our own but the circumstances that happen around us.
For Christ followers, the question is, what are we going to do with those struggles? How will we respond, and what will our attitude and actions reflect? Humanly, I think most of us would succumb to some level of anger, frustration, anxiety, disgust… We could continue with this list for a long time. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a greater purpose and calling for how we should respond to our hardships.
Read the example of Paul in Philippians 1:12-14 and let us identify not only his attitude towards his suffering, but also the impact that it had on the lives of the believers around him.
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14
Paul is pointing out that his hardship, specifically being under house arrest and chained to the Palace Guards, has actually served to advance the gospel. He must have been sharing the gospel with the guards throughout each of their shifts while they were chained to him, and some most likely accepted the Message.
Not only was he continuing to share the gospel in the midst of his hardships, but his actions motivated the other believers to proclaim boldly the gospel as well.
I know that I am not in the same league as Paul in my ability to utilize my hardships for God’s glory, but it is certainly a desire, and I am trying to live according to this example. For me, the passage raises two questions:
Am I advancing the gospel, regardless of whether I am going through difficulties?
Are my actions motivating others to share the gospel with boldness?
I pray that as you read this passage and ask God to grow you through its truth, you too will have a desire to use your hardships to bring glory to God. It is a difficult challenge for sure. This is not a natural response or action, but God did not save us to stay in the natural, human condition. Instead, he calls us to be living examples of the life-changing message of the gospel.