Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Suffering in Contentment

Temple Baptist Church - 3-14-2012

Philippians 1:12-14

A. Paul wrote the Epistle of Philippians from prison
. Throughout the Pauline Epistles, there are several references to his being in prison. I once heard the Book of Philippines called “Jailhouse Joy.”) Paul made no complaint as far as what is written in the bible is concerned but I do know that he was human and more than likely had “his moments.” No matter how spiritual we are, we do have moments of weakness where the flesh prevails. We are all familiar with this particular verse though:

Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

B. Spirituality in the midst of suffering is a thing of rare beauty. Here, we find the resignation of Paul to God’s will in his life coupled with the knowledge that his suffering was not in vain.

1. Suffering is not a sign that God has forsaken us. He will never leave nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

2. Suffering is not a sign that God does not love us. His love for His children never diminishes, no matter what happens. Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

C. Paul, in the perfect will of the Lord, was imprisoned for preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Sometimes we suffer because we are Christians. Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

2 Timothy 3:10-12 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, (11) Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. (12) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

2. Sometimes we suffer because it is common to mankind. Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. (Life is hard! We are born into sin and begin to die the day that we are conceived. Trouble is a way of life so get used to it.)

D. I know that sometimes hardship or suffering is a direct result of sin; there are times when it is simply, as the man born lame, just for the glory of God; all suffering is a direct result of the fall of man and the curse of sin upon Adam’s race but not necessarily because of personal sinfulness. Many people ask the question, “Is this trouble I am having because of something that I have done?” A good “rule of thumb” is this: if the Lord “spanks” you, then He will let you know what He “spanks” you for. I never just spanked one of my children without letting them know specifically what they were being punished for.

E. Paul recognized that his imprisonment was a result of the world’s hatred for Jesus Christ and the gospel but, regardless of the cause of suffering, there are some things that we can know that will help us when they come.

1. Every Christian experiences trials and suffering! Genesis 47:8-9 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? (9) And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. (I know that I have said this already but the first thing that people say when troubles come is, “Why me?” “I don’t understand why this had to happen to me!” Troubles and problems are a way of life and the older we get them more frequent and severe the trials. Fiery trials are spoken of in the bible.)

2. Normally, trials and tribulation are intermittent and short lived. 1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

Psalms 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (The interpretation of this verse has to do with the chastening of the Lord but, in application, weeping endures for a while but the “sun is coming up in the morning!” These problematic days that so often come can be light, medium, or very tough in nature. Thank God storms come and then they just blow away and the sun peeks through the clouds.)

3. Trials are always purposeful. 1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. (17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

a. Temporally, we are renewed in the inward man. Strengthened in our spirit.

b. Eternally, we are rewarded in the eternal man. An eternal weight of glory!

Here are some things that sufferings can accomplish:

1. Our trials are a testing of our faith. Psalms 66:10 For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

Proverbs 24:10 If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (I could give you many verses and stories along the same line as these verses but it would be a message by itself. In the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, it speaks of the 4 grounds which are an analogy of the heart of man. Verse 21 says, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” A strong faith will cause the believer to continue and come out the other side as “gold.”)

2. Our trials have a strengthening effect on our faith. Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (The more we suffer, the more we grow in faith as we see the Lord meet our needs and give the grace and comfort needed. “For I have learned” says it all: there was a time in Paul’s life when he possibly was not contend in his particular state. We are not born “super spiritual” believers as we are babes in Christ but as we experience, we learn, and we grow spiritually.)

3. Our trials help to purify our lives. Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (24) And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Heavy trials will drive the believer to their knees because God’s help is imperative. It is a shame that it takes events like these to bring us into close communion with our wonderful Lord but that is our humanity at its worst. With prayer comes soul searching because we all understand that answered prayer and a pure heart go together. When we need God the most, we seek Him with all of our hearts.)

4. Our trials can also be a means of chastisement. Psalms 6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Hebrews 12:5-13 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; (13) And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Chastisement is a loving Father’s means of bringing the wayward “sheep” home upon His shoulders. It is a sign of relationship and love. Without holiness, we cannot see the Lord and His desire is that we have a close relationship with Him.)

5. Our trials prove the sufficiency of His marvelous grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (Whatever comes our way, our Lord is with us and for us. It way may get rough but we will come out a winner either way.)

6. Our trials show us who our real friends are. Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (We could discuss all day the “comfort” that Jobs three friends gave him but the bible accurately says that they were his friends. Job was the greatest man in the East and only three men came to comfort him. A friend is born for adversity. That is why we are here! That is why we assemble together: to exhort one another and so much the more as we see the day approaching. We need the Lord and we need each other because He made it that way.)

7. Our trials enable us to help others as they travel the hard roads of life. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (4) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (Many times I have to tell someone who is grieving, “I don’t know how you feel.” The older that I get, the more that I can tell them, “I know how you feel because I have sat where you sit.” We have brothers and sisters to help us bear our burdens as they walk along beside of us.)

8. Our trials humble us. 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Trials take away our self-sufficiency and teach us to lean upon Christ. None of us like trials and tribulation but they are a way of life and can strengthen us. You can come out of a valley either better or bitter. It is up to you.)

9. Our trials make up long for our heavenly home. Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. One day, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.)

What is a believer to do when your world caves in and there seemingly is not light at the end of the “tunnel?”

1. Do not give up on the Lord
. Psalms 27:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Never give up in any situation. God is God in the valleys as well as upon the mountain tops. Proverbs 3:5-6 should be our life verses when in trouble. Trust the Lord when you cannot track Him; trust the Lord when you cannot see His workings; trust the Lord when the heavens seemingly are made of brass; trust the Lord when there seems to be no hope at all; just trust in the Lord with all of your heart.)

2. Make sure that you have a good, Christian attitude. Psalms 37:1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. (The verses that follow this one say, “Neither be thou envious … trust in the Lord … delight thyself also in the Lord … commit thy way … rest in the Lord … depart from evil … wait on the Lord!” I want to look at these things for a few minutes. We know that the Lord holds our future and He loves us; therefore, our attitude should be reflecting the faith that we hold. It is so easy to be discontent, fretful, or disgruntled. A disquieted soul becomes a reality and we become bitter against the Lord for our circumstances.)

3. Continue to do good. Psalms 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (Live for the Lord! Just continue to do right in the light of wrong doing others have done to you. Read Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s book “Do Right.” We do not fight fire with fire. I am old enough to have learned that doing right may not pay good dividends in the immediate but those who do right normally come out better than those who do wrong. I believe that the Lord rewards good.)

4. Delight in the Lord instead of indicting Him. Psalms 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Isaiah 58:14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, min, body, strength, hopes, and fears. To delight is to take pleasure in. When He seemingly does not care and supposedly will not help. He does care! “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”)

5. Commit your way unto the Lord. Psalms 37:5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (This is another very difficult task. We must learn to go with the storm instead of fighting it. When caught in a current that is too strong to swim against, you swim with the current while angling across it to escape. In Acts 27, we find the words “And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive!” Sometimes you have to “let her drive” and trust the Lord with the outcome.)

6. Learn to rest in the Lord. Psalms 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (Resting in the fact that He loves you more than you will ever know and holds your life in His hands. Nothing can touch God’s children without Him allowing. A good rule is to change what you can change in a right way and trust the Lord with what you cannot.)

7. Learn to wait upon the Lord. Psalms 37:34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. (Possibly the hardest of all when in a trial is to wait. I am the impatient, “get ‘er done” type. Waiting requires patience and only tribulation worketh it. We may get in a hurry but God does not and every effort to push Him is in vain. He is never late nor is He early and time does not affect Him as it does us. He knows the end from the beginning. Bucking in the traces will not get the job done.)

8. Rest assured that He will be there with and for you. The Lord said that He would never leave nor forsake us and His word is true. Just hang in there and, after you have suffered for a season, the trial will end—the sun come up—and things will be better.

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