Suffer Well

Pastor Chad Meza
Philippians 1:12-18
04/02/2017

//  ILLUSTRATION  //

I read a story about a little boy in the hospital.

He was a little five-year-old boy who was dying of lung cancer. His mother loved the Lord Jesus with all her heart, and painful as it was to watch her little boy suffering, she was right by his bed every day.

One night while she was gone home, there began to come sounds out of the room where this little boy was. He was saying, “I hear the bells. I hear the bells. They’re ringing.” He said that through the night. And nurses thought very little of it.

Next morning the mother came, walked into the nurses’ station and asked, “How’s my boy?” They said, “Well, he’s hallucinating. He keeps talking about hearing bells. It’s probably the medication.”

She stopped and pointed her finger at the nurse and said, “Now you listen to me. He is not hallucinating. He is not out of his head. I told my boy weeks ago that when the pain got so bad he couldn’t breathe, when it got really bad, that he was going up to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus. And I said, when it got really bad, he was to look up in the corner of his room toward heaven and to listen for the bells. They’d be ringing. They’d be ringing for him.”

She swept down the hall and turned into his room and saw her little boy. She picked him up and held him in her arms and rocked him. And he talked about the bells until they were just an echo.

//  INTRODUCTION  //

What a difficult thing.

The truth is, we all face difficult circumstances. We all face hardships, we all face trials, we all face adversity, and we all face times of suffering – whether we are Christians or not.

So, the question this morning is: how do you handle it?

  • How do you handle it when you lose your job?
  • How do you handle it when a loved one dies?
  • How do you handle it when the doctors say there is no hope?
  • How do you handle it when you see your child suffer?

//  SERMON SERIES: LIVING WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL  //

This morning, we begin a new series called “Living Worthy of the Gospel”. In this series, we will be looking at portions of scripture from Philippians.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel

Philippians 1:27

Paul is saying, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Conduct yourselves, live in such a way that is deserving of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The good news that even though we have all disobeyed God in one way or another, and even though that disobedience deserves judgement and wrath, God loved us anyway. And in His love, He sent His Son Jesus to suffer the judgment and wrath that we deserve, so that if we only believe in Jesus, we will receive forgiveness for all our sin (disobedience).

The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel then is full and free deliverance from sin on the basis of simple faith in Jesus Christ.

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Philippians 3:5-9

Paul said, everything I once thought was valuable, everything that I once gave my life to, now I see that it is all garbage compared to knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus, and receiving this great gospel is of supreme worth.

Experiencing freedom from sin, freedom from guilt, freedom from shame, and inheriting eternal life, receiving forgiveness for our sins, and obtaining righteousness through Jesus… Nothing else compares.

What a great blessing, what great mercy, what great grace, what great news, now live like it.

Paul is essentially saying, you’ve been saved, washed clean of all your sins, delivered from bondages, transformed in your heart and mind, now live like it.

Live worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the course of this series, we will look at various passages from Philippians and unfold what it looks like to live worthy of the gospel.

//  SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 1:12-18  //

12 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 selfish ambition, 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

Philippians 1:12-18

//  SUFFER WELL  //

The mark of a true Christian, the mark of a mature Christian, is that they suffer well.

So this morning, as we begin this new series, the first thing we are going to look at regarding living worthy of the gospel is suffering well.

A life worthy of the gospel is a life that suffers well.

//  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SUFFER WELL?  //

What does it mean to suffer well?

Let’s look at the first verse in our passage – Philippians 1:12:

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel

Philippians 1:12

What is it that has happened to Paul? What is his circumstance that he is referring to?

Paul was in prison in Rome. You can read about this in Acts.

The charge had been brought against Paul that he taught “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.” In order to dispel this impression, he was asked to do publicly an act of homage to the law. They had four men who were under the Nazirite law, and Paul was requested to put himself under the vow with these men and to supply the cost of their offerings.

A Nazirite vow is a peculiar kind of vow to be set apart from others for the service of God – often abstaining from wine, grapes, every product of the vine, and from every kind of intoxicating drink.

When the seven days were almost ended, some Jews from Asia stirred up the people against Paul on the charge of bringing Greeks into the Temple to pollute it. The apostle was dragged out of the Temple, and the people were about to kill him. But Roman soldiers and centurions stopped it. The commander ordered Paul to be chained and sent to the barracks.

Paul was able to make a defense before the people, but they would not have it. They wanted him dead. Seeing that an uproar was imminent, the commander sent him within the barracks, ordering him to be scourged (whipped). But the apostle protected himself by mentioning his Roman citizenship.

The next day, he was taken before the Sanhedrin, a Jewish council; but no conclusion was arrived at. That night he was cheered by a vision, in which he was told to “take courage” for he must “witness at Rome also”. Then forty Jews conspired to kill him, but Paul’s nephew reported it. Therefore, Paul was sent to Caesarea to Felix, the governor of Judea.

There, Paul made a defense before the governor. After some time, a new governor, Festus, was in power, and asked if Paul wanted to be tried in Jerusalem. To this, Paul appealed to Caesar.

So Paul was given to the care of Julius, a centurion of the Augustan cohort who had charge of a convoy of prisoners. They set sail for Rome. During their trip, a violent wind and storm left them shipwrecked. They ended up on an island called Malta. The people of the island treated them kindly and were deeply impressed with Paul’s shaking off a viper from his hand – believing him to be a god. They remained on that island for three months, and Paul performed miracles of healing there.

Once they made it to Rome, the apostle was allowed to dwell in his own rented house (under the care of a soldier) and to receive visitors. He made his defense, explained his position, and shared the Gospel with all kinds of people. He was permitted to preach “the kingdom of God” and teach those things “concerning the Lord Jesus Christ”. This imprisonment lasted two years. This is how the book of Acts ends.

This is the situation Paul is referring to. This is the circumstance he is talking about. He is saying, this hardship, this imprisonment, yeah it sucks, yeah I’m hurting, yeah I’m under persecution, yeah I’m suffering, yeah it’s not the best of times, yeah it’s not the easiest thing, but God is moving. God is here. God is doing something in the midst of this.

The tendency for us is to quit. When we hit hard times, when we suffer, when our health goes south, when we lose our job, when things look hopeless, we tend to quit.

The tendency is to be silenced. The tendency is for our spirit to be quenched. The tendency is for our service to stop, for us to quit.

We stop praying, we stop reading the Bible, we stop going to church.

But here is Paul, and he’s rejoicing in his trial.

He says, “The Gospel is moving forward.” How so?

  1. Everyone here knows I’ve been imprisoned for Christ’s sake.
  2. Most of the believers have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

And he says, the gospel is being preached, and in that I rejoice.

He isn’t focusing on his problem, he isn’t focusing on his pain, he isn’t worried about tomorrow, he set his eyes on the Kingdom. He is looking at his circumstance through Kingdom lenses. He is looking at the bigger picture.

Paul chooses to see things through God’s perspective.

The mark of a mature believer is how they view their own hardships. Can you see God in your trial? Can you see how God is, or might be, moving in your times of persecution? Can you see the big picture through Kingdom lenses?

Paul teaches us what it looks like to suffer well.

Suffering well involves going through trials and hardships, and still holding on to our faith, and still worshipping God. It involves taking our eyes off our problem and pain, and focusing on Jesus and His Kingdom. It means not quitting, and not being silenced. It involves not allowing ourselves to be overcome by fear, anxiety, and worry, but to fully trust in God. It involves allowing God to transform and stretch our character and faith through our trials.

This morning, let’s examine ourselves, do we suffer well?

//  WHY DOES IT MATTER IF WE SUFFER WELL?  //

But, what’s the big deal? Why does it even matter if we suffer well or not?

Let me first say this, we all suffer.

We said this before, we all got problems. We all deal with hard times.

Here’s Paul, the great apostle, and he had hard times, he was persecuted, he was stoned, he was shipwrecked, he was imprisoned.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

As long as we are on this earth, in these bodies, there will be problems, there will be trials, there will be hard times, and there will be difficulties.

And as Christians, it matters how we handle them.

First of all, because people notice.

We can only imagine the pressure Paul was under. Here he is, this great apostle. Signs, wonders, and miracles have confirmed his ministry. He has planted churches all over the place. He has preached the Gospel to many souls. Yet, here he is, in prison. How can this be? Is he not legit? Is God not with him? Why would God allow this to happen? You can only imagine the types of questions running through people’s minds.

Best believe people noticed how he handled this situation.

When Paul writes to these churches while he is in prison, rest assured, they certainly took notice of the fact that Paul could write encouraging words to them even while he is in the midst of one of the biggest hard ships that has ever struck his life. Best believe they noticed the freedom and boldness Paul wrote and preached with, even though he was in chains. Best believe they noticed the joy that he had in the midst of his trial.

These words in Philippians 1:12-18 no doubt served as an encouragement for them, when they undergo persecution, when they are under fire, to keep their eyes on the prize, to not give up, and to see what God is doing even in the midst of their trials.

People notice how you handle trials, persecution, and hard times. Be mindful.

What are you showing people by the way you handle your tough circumstances?

What are you teaching people about God?

Cynthia’s faith in dealing with the miscarriage. So many people sent her messages saying that her faith inspired them.

It matters if we suffer well.

Secondly, God uses our trials to build us up in character and in faith.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope

Romans 5:3-4

But this only happens if we deal with our trials in the right way. If we give up, if we throw in the towel, if we refuse to walk in faith, if we choose to try and deal with things our own way, we can forfeit the opportunity for growth.

That’s why some of us have often found ourselves going through the same kinds of trials over and over again. And we ask, why God? Why does this keep happening to me? Well, maybe we didn’t deal with it in the right way yet. Maybe we didn’t learn our lesson yet. Maybe we didn’t grow in the way God wants us to yet.

That’s why it’s important to suffer well. It is important to keep our eyes on Jesus. It is important to lean on God, and trust in Him.

It matters if we suffer well.

Thirdly, God uses our trials to equip us to help others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

And sometimes, some of us face some really nasty trials. Some of us have had some very terrible things done to us. Some of us have seen pain and abuse in a way that is unimaginable.

And we may wonder, where is God in that? How can God really allow that to happen? How can God be good, and allow that to happen to me? How can God love me, and allow that to happen to me?

What good could possibly come out of this?

The fact that trials and persecutions strike our lives does not mean God is not there, or is not moving.

God can, and certainly does, work good from even our worst times.

Perhaps one of the reasons God allowed it is so that you can help someone else who is dealing with that same thing. God takes our trials, and comforts us through them, and brings healing to us in them, so that we can empathize with others going through the same thing, so that we can comfort others who are enduring the same hardship.

But we can only accept this, we can only receive that initial comfort for our own situation if we suffer well.

It matters if we suffer well.

Lastly, God is glorified through our faith.

We belong to God. We belong to Jesus.

I want God to be glorified in my life. I want His name to be magnified by the way I live, and the way I speak.

Suffering well glorifies God. When we stand in faith, even in the direst of times, even in the darkest of times, God is glorified. When we choose to worship God in our pain and in our suffering, God is glorified. When we refuse to quit, when we choose to walk in the joy of the Lord in the midst of our trials, God is glorified.

It matters if we suffer well.

//  HOW DO WE SUFFER WELL?  //

So, let’s get practical. What can we do to live this out? What are some practical things we can do to help us suffer well?

1. When our lives are hit by a trial, the first thing we need to do is worship God.

22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them

Acts 16:22-25

Cynthia being told she was going to die, but singing songs worshipping God.

1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 

13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:1-3, 13-22

When a trial strikes, the worst thing we could do is run away, the worst thing we could do is throw in the towel, the worst thing we could do is freak out. The first thing we need to do is bow down before God, and worship Him – acknowledge Him as Almighty, as all-powerful, as Sovereign, as in control of all things, and thank Him for His love, His mercy, and His Spirit.

2. When our lives are hit by a trial, we need to look at our situation from God’s perspective.

Pray that God helps us to see how He sees, and to see what He is doing in this situation.

We need to look at our circumstance through Kingdom lenses. Let’s look out for ways God wants to build us up through this – in character and in faith. Look out for ways that God might want to equip us to help others in similar circumstances.

See the bigger picture, don’t just focus in on your pain and your problem.

3. When our lives are hit by a trial, we must not quit.

When we are undergoing a trial or facing persecution, we must stand. We must be resolute.

We must have a mindset that says, I will not be quit, I will not stop pushing the Kingdom forward, and I will not be silenced.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

//  CONCLUSION  //

We all face tragedies, we all face hardships, we all face difficulties, we all face adversity.

But how do we handle them?

The tendency for us is to quit. When we hit hard times, when we suffer, when our health goes south, when we lose our job, when we lose a loved one, when things look hopeless, we tend to quit.

The tendency is to be silenced. The tendency is for our spirit to be quenched. The tendency is for our service to stop, for us to quit.

We stop praying, we stop reading the Bible, we stop going to church.

But Paul teaches us to suffer well.

Paul teaches us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and part of that is suffering well.

Suffering well involves going through trials and hardships, and still holding on to our faith, and still worshipping God. It involves taking our eyes off our problem and pain, and focusing on Jesus and His Kingdom. It means not quitting, and not being silenced. It involves not allowing ourselves to be overcome by fear, anxiety, and worry, but to fully trust in God. It involves allowing God to transform and stretch our character and faith through our trials.

I am going to close with this poem from Ruth Calkin called, “In the Morning”:

Today, Lord
I have an unshakable conviction
A positive resolute assurance
That what You have spoken
Is unalterable true.
But today, Lord
My sick body feels stronger
And the stomping pain quietly subsides.
Tomorrow…
And then tomorrow
If I must struggle again
With aching exhaustion
With twisting pain
Until I am breathless
Until I am utterly spent
Until fear eclipses the last vestige of hope
Then, Lord –
Then grant me the enabling grace
To believe without feeling
To know without seeing
To clasp Your invisible hand
And wait with invincible trust
For the morning.